Ross Douthat blasts the historians who recently rated Bush as the worst President ever:
Remarking on this, er, finding, Matt takes the contrarian view that “Bush is probably correct to think that history will remember him kindly.” I wouldn’t go nearly that far (and nor would Matt, I suspect, if you really pressed him), but I will say, as someone who judges the Bush Administration more or less a failure, that it’s very easy for me to imagine a possible future in which Bush’s policies are widely judged to have been vindicated by events. (I have a piece on just this possibility forthcoming in the June issue of the Atlantic.)***
And yes, it’s also easy to imagine a future in which Bush ends up judged not only a failure, but a worse chief executive than James Buchanan and Herbert Hoover – though for this to happen, I would submit, the worst Bush-created disasters would have to still be ahead of us, since neither the occupation of Iraq nor anything else our current POTUS has been involved in rivals the Civil War or the Great Depression for sheer destructive impact.
All of which is to say that sixty-one percent of the historians’ sample are ax-grinding fools whose nitwittery dishonors their profession. Judge Bush a failure by all means, but the fact that his legacy is only beginning its long unspooling ought to give anyone with even a glancing knowledge of history’s cunning passages – let alone a so-called “professional” – pause before pronouncing his administration the worst in American history.
While I tend to agree with both Douthat’s assessment regarding Bush (although I would not hedge my language and simply stick to “failure,” and have, on occasion, noted he is the worst President of my lifetime) and his assessment that Bush’s true impact on history should best be judged by future historians who will have more of a long view, I do find his full-throated attack on the 61% who found Bush to be the worst a little harsh. After all, when you boil down Ross’s argument, what he is in essence stating is that “Sure, Bush is a failure, and we need to wait to determine if he is Civil War bad or merely Great Depression bad.”
That can’t be the legacy Bush and Rove set out to create.