Eric Foner in the Washington Post:
One other president bears comparison to Bush: James K. Polk. Some historians admire him, in part because he made their job easier by keeping a detailed diary during his administration, which spanned the years of the Mexican-American War. But Polk should be remembered primarily for launching that unprovoked attack on Mexico and seizing one-third of its territory for the United States.The Party of Lincoln should spend less time bragging about being the 'Party of Lincoln' and
Lincoln, then a member of Congress from Illinois, condemned Polk for misleading Congress and the public about the cause of the war -- an alleged Mexican incursion into the United States. Accepting the president's right to attack another country "whenever he shall deem it necessary," Lincoln observed, would make it impossible to "fix any limit" to his power to make war. Today, one wishes that the country had heeded Lincoln's warning.
Historians are loath to predict the future. It is impossible to say with certainty how Bush will be ranked in, say, 2050. But somehow, in his first six years in office he has managed to combine the lapses of leadership, misguided policies and abuse of power of his failed predecessors. I think there is no alternative but to rank him as the worst president in U.S. history.
start acting like the man they claim to admire.
The other Presidents with which Foner compared Bush were Richard Nixon (disregard for the Constitution, thirst for unbridled power, abuse of Presidential power), Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge (corruption, being in bed with big business) and Franklin Pierce and James Buchanan (facing a national crisis and failing).
Not exactly the kind of company an administration likes to keep.
No mention of Washington, Franklin D. Roosevelt (though Theodore would be a big step up too) or Lincoln - the Presidents almost universally regarded as 'Great.' Even Presidents like Truman, Wilson, Kennedy and Eisenhower (the 'Near Greats') are conspicuously absent when comparing George W. Bush to those that came before him.
Perhaps the most damning characteristic of Bush (and his administration) is his inability to change anything in the face of failure.
One could argue that facing midterm elections, 'stay the course' was politically imperative. Now that those elections have come and gone, neither party has an interest in maintaining a failed policy in Iraq and protracting an unpopular and unsuccessful war.
Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld (before he was kicked out of the administration) acknowledged this in a classified Pentagon report calling for "major adjustment" in Iraq. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice admitted mistakes in Iraq on Al Arabia TV. American News Organizations wonder aloud why Bush continues to blame al Queda. Gen. Michael D. Maples, the Defense Intelligence Agency director has told congress that 'terrorist groups' are responsible for only a tiny fraction of the violence in Iraq. The Baker Commission is expected to call for troop reductions when it releases its report on Tuesday - an option that the President himself seemed to discount in a speech last week. The Bush Administration will soon be faced with a hostile congress in which many of the new Committee Chairs didn't even vote for the war in the first place.
But George W. Bush won't even change the way he talks about the War in Iraq, let alone his strategy.
More than the shrinking and struggling middle class, the growing relationship between government and big business, the corruption, Constitutional infringements, the torture, lies, stolen elections and new rancorous and bitterly partisan political environment, it's Bush stubbornness that will doom him to the lower third in future Presidential Rankings.
Of course that alone is nothing.
There will be thousands of American soldiers that gave their lives, many thousands more who gave their limbs, their sanity, their health, yet will not find themselves 'ranked' in any way by future historians. Millions of Iraqis will have been killed, wounded, or displaced yet will be nothing more than a supporting 'cast of thousands' for the Tragedy of Bush that historians will write.
America's greatness and its standing in the world community have been sacrificed on the altar of stubbornness and lust for power.
George W. Bush Worst President Ever Eric Foner