Right Wing Nut House



Filed under: Financial Crisis, Government, History, Middle East, Politics — Rick Moran @ 12:31 pm

Can you identify this president?

“…a good man who didn’t understand his own shortcomings. He was genuinely religious, loved his wife and reshaped himself so that he could adapt to her ways and show her true affection. He was one of the most popular men in [his state], polite and thoughtful, easy and good at the political game, charming and fine and handsome. However, he has been criticized as timid and unable to cope with a changing America.”

Nope. Not Bush. It’s Franklin Pierce, the 14th President of the United States. This is the guy (among a half dozen others) that contemporary historians deliberately forget in order to be able to say that George Bush is the worst president in American history.

It was America’s bad luck to have a run of bad presidents at the most inopportune time. The decade preceding the Civil War saw some of our worst chief executives - all more incompetent and more wrong headed than Bush #43. We had 4 presidents between 1850 and 1860 and each one a bust to varying degrees. It is no accident that also during that decade, the nation moved slowly and inexorably toward splitting in two.

Elected in 1848 and dying suddenly on July 9, 1850, Zachary Taylor proved the adage that generals usually make terrible politicians. The Whig party, in its death throes, put “Old Rough and Ready” up, expecting to reap the spoils of having their man in the White House. But Taylor wasn’t much of a Whig and didn’t think much of Whiggery in general. His singular achievement was creating the Department of the Interior for which Native Americans will always be grateful, I’m sure. Indifferent to foreign affairs, he managed to anger the south, the north, and all points in between with his tepid policies toward slavery.

His successor was, if possible, even more incompetent. Millard Fillmore is, to this day, a national joke, a punchline of a president. Historians try to be kind to the guy but Fillmore’s rabid enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Act (a product of the last great compromise by the Great Compromiser Henry Clay) meant that hundreds of freed slaves or slaves who had been living free in the north became targets of bounty hunters and slave owners with dubious claims on their person. Many freed blacks fled to Canada rather than take a chance with Fillmore’s federal marshals who enforced the act, working cheek to jowl with the bounty hunters. The legislation was part of the Compromise of 1850 that lasted less than 4 years when the Kansas-Nebraska Act repealed the seminal Missouri Compromise of 1820 and made the 1850 legislation moot. Even the Whigs refused to nominate him for a full term in 1852. He ended up running for president in 1856 on both the Whig and Know Nothing Party tickets. Considering that there was no such party as the Whigs except as it existed in the drawing rooms and salons of a few rich men, Fillmore’s greatest claim to fame may be that he was the last major figure to run for president on the Whig party ticket.

He was succeeded by the above referenced Mr. Pierce - a drunk “dough face” Democrat who managed to make people forget how bad a president Fillmore had been. Pierce was the darkest of dark horse candidates at the convention. He was desperation choice, receiving the nod on the 49th ballot. And the only reason he won the general election was that the Whigs had been self destructing since the Mexican War, splitting the party in two while the issue of slavery in the territories acquired in that conflict finished the Whigs off and cleared the way for a new party. The Whigs put up muttonchops Winfield Scott, another Mexican War general. This time, the military hero ploy failed as Scott managed to win only 4 states.

Pierce’s greatest success was in swindling Mexico out of a couple of million acres of land for $10 million. The Gadsen Purchase was ostensibly to be used for part of the transcontinental railroad. It never came close but they did find billions of dollars in precious metals. He is perhaps best remembered for signing the Kansas-Nebraska Act which led directly to Bleeding Kansas, John Brown, and disunion. The New Hampshirite inexplicably took the southern side when two rival constitutions were presented to Congress when Kansas petitioned to become a state. This was the last nail in the coffin of the union and paved the way for James Buchanan’s election in 1856 - my choice for worst president in history.

Buchanan plainly froze. With the nation disintegrating around him, he did nothing to stop it. Perhaps by then it was too late. We wll never know because when South Carolina seceded from the union, he failed to act. He failed to hold on to federal forts and customs houses in the south as the rebels seized them one after another. He failed to resupply Fort Sumter. State after southern state voted themselves out of the union and he basically kicked the can down the road.

James Buchanan makes the presidency of George Bush look like a smashing success.

None of those presidents placed their mark on history the way that Bush has. For good or ill, George Bush will be remembered as a consequential president whose footprint will affect presidents’ policies far into the future. Witness Barack Obama keeping many of his foreign policies - even ones he criticized during the campaign. Right or wrong, those policies cannot be easily tossed aside or, even more surprisingly, Obama found upon being briefed that the policies were sound and correct after all. This is true to a large extent of Iraq. Our withdrawal under Obama will differ only at the margins from Bush’s plan.

As for domestic policies, Bush has changed the education debate forever as he brought the idea of judging teachers for their effectiveness into the mix. Many will argue that No Child Left Behind is a horrible piece of legislation and it certainly has its critics. But no one can argue that NCLB isn’t a starting point for any further educational reform and that testing, charter schools, and perhaps some form of vouchers will be staples of the debate over the federal role in education.

Superannuated fools like Buchanan or incompetent drunks like Pierce didn’t come close to having that kind of impact on the future.

Bush certainly made it necessary for disaster relief to be a top priority of the federal government - a job previously (and best) left to local communities and the states. For good or for ill, every earthquake, hurricane, or tsunami will now be judged by how much better the response will be than Katrina. The Democrats, having politicized disaster relief, will now reap their own whirlwind.

There is one other aspect of the Bush legacy that has had an impact on the future and that will mark him as an important president; he will be held up as an example of conservative governance despite the fact that he has not governed as a conservative nor does he hold much in the way of conservative principles or any influence at all in the conservative movement.

This last may be the most consequential aspect of the Bush legacy. Democrats will successfully be able to portray Bush as a conservative largely as a result of his religious beliefs which endeared him to the social conservatives of the Republican party and his decidedly neo-conservative views on foreign policy which reflected few traditional conservative ideas but at the same time, was embraced by many conservatives following 9/11. Besides those exceptions, his policies were almost universally center right or even center left (prescription drug bill, anyone?).

This will easily affect the next 3 or 4 presidential elections - just as the presidency of Jimmy Carter was held up as an example of liberal excess by Republicans despite the fact that, even though a man of the far left now, Carter governed from the center. Many forget that he substantially raised defense spending, tried some modest entitlement reforms, and advocated a mostly free market energy solution. His social policies were decidedly liberal as was his failed foreign policy. But Carter’s judgement was always anchored in centrist politics.

Does this mean that Bush will be remembered as a “great” president? I hardly think so. Presidents who practice the worst kind of cronyism are not remembered as great. Presidents who politicize the government are not remembered as great. Presidents who stick the veto pen in their pocket while the federal deficit spirals out of control will not be remembered as great. Presidents who go to war without a plan for the aftermath and end up losing billions of dollars to corruption and graft will not be remembered as great. Presidents who create an entirely new federal department to deal with Homeland Security and then duplicate jobs that were already being done by other agencies and departments will not be remembered as great. Presidents who acquiesce and approve what the international community defines as torture will not be remembered as great.

There’s more but I want to go to lunch.

(Note: For some fun in the comments, insert your reasons why George Bush will not be remembered as a great president.)

George Bush - for effectiveness, for sound policies and judgment, and for competence in running the government - will not be remembered as a great president. He will almost certainly be ranked in the bottom fifth in any listing of our chief executives. But he is far from the worst presisdent we’ve ever had and his mark on history is assured. Might he be seen in a different light years from now? His stock may rise a bit if Iraq continues to improve. But any success in Iraq is offset by the empowerment of Iran in the region and the role Bush’s policies played in that development.

In fact, the rise of Iran brings up something very important about these last 8 years and highlights one of Bush’s biggest failings; he didn’t understand that the world and America were changing (with or without 9/11) and because of that, we are behind the curve and trying to catch up. Iran’s rise, like China’s and India’s, was inevitable. It would have taken Saddam Hussein a decade to rebuild his military to act as a counterweight to Shia fundamentalism. Knocking him out was inconsequential to the march of Islamic extremism across the Arab and Muslim world. Witness the rise of al-Qaeda allied groups in Indonesia, Philippines, Singapore, and elsewhere in Asia. Our invasion of Iraq had little to do with those movements which are homegrown and have their own beefs with non-Muslims in that part of the world.

Iran, with half its population under the age of 25, was funding Hezbullah and Hamas long before Bush came into office. Only now are those seeds they planted bearing fruit in Lebanon and Gaza. They are using asymmetrical warfare to garner influence throughout the Muslim world. No Bush, no rise of Iran? If you believe that, you haven’t been paying much attention to what’s been happening in the world over the last 2 plus decades.

Still, the changes overseas and the changes at home were never anticipated by the Bushies nor was any attempt made to map out a long term strategy to counter. This may be the most critical part of the Bush legacy unless President Obama can act quickly and intelligently to get us back in the game; find a way to checkmate Iran, block Hezbullah from gaining power in Lebanon, develop a true strategic partnership with India, block Chinese ambitions in east Asia, ditto Russian designs everywhere, and shore up our friendships in Latin America. Bush did not react well to many of these changes which is why the train has left the station and Obama is running to catch up.

At home, the 8 years that Bush has been in office has seen the country slide back toward the center while demanding more from government. Obama successfully captured a yearning among citizens for an end to partisan sniping. They don’t care that the Democrats have spent the last 8 years in perpetual derangement over the Bush presidency. They want a new spirit in Washington and so far, Obama is delivering.

Talk to me 6 months from now and we’ll see if that spirit is still with us. But whatever happens, it won’t reflect the fact that Americans clearly wanted change when they pulled the lever for Obama. And that change is from perhaps the most tumultuous and consequential 8 years in several generations.


  1. I’ll give you one: A president who promised to get Osama Bin Laden “dead or alive” and failed does not go down in history as a great president. Bin Laden, Zawahiri and Mullah Omar are all still alive.

    Tora Bora, Don Rumsfeld, Terri Schiavo, Abu Ghraib, Katrina, Alberto Gonzalez, Fannie and Freddie, stem cells, a nipple-obsessed FCC, Dick Cheney and Scooter Libby, Iraq reconstruction, Afghan reconstruction . . . we could do this all day.

    But say what you will, he didn’t sit around with his thumb up his ass while we stumbled into civil war. So there’s that.

    Comment by michael reynolds — 1/15/2009 @ 12:52 pm

  2. America and Americans were changing and longing for change? Well actually, thanks to unrestricted, mass immigration both legal and illegal, the US has changed into a more “minority” driven (soon to be majority), ethnic, “community organizing” street mentality, ala, Banana Republics south of the border (border? what border?).

    As someone at The Corner said last week, if the population demographics were the same today as they were in 1988, McLame would have defeated Barry Dunham quite easily. Hmm, gee I wonder if Barry and the Dems have any intention of slowing down the human freeway at our southern border? Nah, that wouldn’t be nice and in keeping with Barry’s favorite theme - “social justice”.

    Bottom line: non-caucasian immigrants vote liberal-democrat in large percentages. The era of the USA as a constitutional republic is just about over. A simple majority rule, social democracy is our future, accent on the “socialist” with our God-like Redistributer in Chief now in charge. Majority rule with fixed and crooked voter registration and voting. If anyone protests, call them racist and not willing to go along with “unity” (shades of Chairman Mao).

    Comment by nessus — 1/15/2009 @ 1:03 pm

  3. Much better analysis than Rick’s RINO drivel……

    Sometimes, Failure Is Good
    Posted by Shawn Mallow
    Published: January 15, 2009 - 10:37 AM
    I don’t want Obama to succeed.

    There. I said it.

    I didn’t vote for him. I don’t like him, who his mentors were, his political ideals, his policy ideas, his Clintonite picks, his views on Guantanamo, his views on abortion, or his pseudo-socialist-spread-the-wealth-trickle-up, tax-the-corporations-out-of-the-country economic ideas, or most anything else he campaigned on.

    Does that mean I want another terrorist attack? Or I wish him harm? Or I want the country to fail?

    No, it doesn’t. It also doesn’t mean that I hate him like all the BDS freaks do Bush.

    The left’s hatred for George W. Bush started even before he was inaugurated in 2000. Not because of what he stood for, but, because of their determination that he stole the election. That hatred grew to levels never before seen in modern political history (not even Nixon), and will continue long after he’s gone.

    Obama supporters say to just “give him a chance”. And I say “To hell with that!”

    I hope he fails miserably in his overall “ambitions” for this country. I do not believe that success for a President always means success for the country.

    I believe in Conservative principles. I believe those principles are what’s best for this country. Why, then, would I want Obama to “succeed” at things with which I profoundly disagree?

    I do not believe in compromise when it comes to ideology. When you compromise your core beliefs just to get something done, you give up some part of those beliefs. I don’t want to compromise with a radical, leftist ideology. I want to beat the hell out of it, because I believe it is a wrong and dangerous road to pursue.

    Some, many of the leftists on this site, proclaim Conservatism to be “dead”. They would do well to remember that 20 of the last 28 years we’ve had a Republican in the Presidency. And from 1994 to 2006, Republicans controlled congress.

    That said, Republicans screwed themselves for the last 8 years. They’ve become so entrenched in their positions, turning a tin ear to their constituents, that they have forgotten how to view things through the Conservative prism which helped them to get there in the first place. Painful lessons, indeed. But, hopefully learned, never the less.

    Under the “leadership” of the San Francisco Creep and the Mortician, the Democratic congress, thankfully, hasn’t gotten much of their deviant agenda passed for the last two years. And with Congressional approval ratings in the single digits, that majority isn’t going to be around much longer.

    Obama’s made many promises. He’s already backpedaling on some. The left expects some payback. He’ll have to come through on those promises, or the curtain will quickly be pulled back on this modern-day Wizard of Oz. If he doesn’t, it may be a very short 4 years.

    For the country’s sake, I hope it is.

    Comment by JPP — 1/15/2009 @ 1:10 pm

  4. I’d say that Bush’s strategy of promoting and pursuing democracy in the middle east IS a long term strategy aimed at steming the tide of Islamic Fundamentalism.

    I would agree - if he was still pursuing that policy. Since Rice took over at state, I don’t think you can point to much democracy promotion - even in Iraq.


    Comment by headhunt23 — 1/15/2009 @ 1:23 pm

  5. President Bush will be remembered not just as a great president but one of our greatest presidents for these reasons (see explanations here: http://jonswift.blogspot.com/2009/01/president-bushs-legacy-one-of-our.html):

    * After Hurricane Katrina President Bush kept our cities safe.
    * After the October 2008 stock market correction there have been no Great Depressions.
    * After Iraq and Afghanistan took a turn for the worse, President Bush kept us from losing any wars.
    * After the District Attorney firing scandal, the outing of Valerie Plame and other scandals, President Bush restored integrity to government.
    * After divisive elections President Bush united our country.
    * After Abu Ghraib, President Bush reaffirmed America’s adherence to the Geneva Conventions and against torture.
    * After 9/11 Preesident Bush kept America safe from terrorist attacks on American soil.

    Comment by Jon Swift — 1/15/2009 @ 1:46 pm

  6. Much better analysis than Rick’s RINO drivel……

    True conservatives aren’t rude assholes who post entire screeds into another blog. They provide links, dumbass. What’s “JPP” stand for, “Just Ph*cking Pathetic?”

    Comment by John Howard — 1/15/2009 @ 1:52 pm

  7. Please note that Rick encourages comments why President Bush will NOT be remembered as a great president.

    Is that to discourage any comments from readers who disagree with him?

    My guess is that if Rick had lost a number of friends to a terrorist attack in St. Louis, he would be saying the same liberal drivel he is now presenting us.

    And it is sooooo nice to know that there is at least one blogger who has the ability to determine what future historians will have to say about President Bush.

    Perhaps I should ask Rick to handle my stocks.

    Comment by retire05 — 1/15/2009 @ 2:17 pm

  8. I agree to a large degree with what you wrote. I disagree with the implication that Bush has left the door open for the election of liberals to the White House for the next three or four cycles. I’ll even go out on a limb and predict Obama isn’t re-elected because his policies won’t work and the Democratic Congress not only is composed of asshats but will be perceived as asshats in short order. More on that last point later

    They will blame any Obama failure on Bush - and people will accept it.


    Comment by jackson1234 — 1/15/2009 @ 3:05 pm

  9. I agree with this: “He will almost certainly be ranked in the bottom fifth in any listing of our chief executives.”

    But this is a flat-out lie: “…the Democrats have spent the last 8 years in perpetual derangement over the Bush presidency.”

    C’mon Rick… the bottom fifth means that the guy was a lousy President. Perhaps some of that “derangement” was justified??

    I sum him up this way: Incurious and decisive.

    Always a bad combination in a manager.

    Oh Jesus! Are you kidding? DON’T YOU READ FUCKING LIBERAL BLOGS?? They had George Bush responsible for EARTHQUAKEs for God’s sake! The paranoid conspiracy mongering among democrats was unbelievable for the last 8 years. Obviously you are just as paranoid, just as deranged as any Democrat which makes your comment idiotic on its face.


    Comment by Postagoras — 1/15/2009 @ 3:20 pm

  10. Rick - Rice was at State when Bush gave his 2005 inaguration calling for the expansion of democracy.

    The problem isn’t a lack of strategy, but rather the lack of will and ability to implement it.

    Comment by headhunt23 — 1/15/2009 @ 3:43 pm

  11. But Rick, you did not write “The liberal blogosphere has spent the last 8 years in perpetual derangement over the Bush presidency.”

    You said it was “The Democrats”. And the liberal blogosphere does not equal the Democrats… especially now, when George W. Bush has converted so many Republicans and Independents to Democrats.

    Comment by Postagoras — 1/15/2009 @ 3:48 pm

  12. They will blame any Obama failure on Bush – and people will accept it.

    We’ll see, first, in two years. Given our nation’s short memories and even shorter attention spans, I bet I’ll be proved right, particularly when the economic stimulus boondoggle fizzles, fails to produce more jobs, and explodes the deficit.

    What I didn’t post above, and meant to post, is that like the one-term lightweights that marked the pre-Civil War and pre-Reagan eras, I expect a series of one-term presidents starting with Obama and continuing until things either improve or someone actually does improve the economy and foreign policy in his or her first term. We are in that type of cycle, and it is aggravated by the need for instant gratification. The Bloody Shirt of George W. Bush will last about six months.

    Comment by jackson1234 — 1/15/2009 @ 5:05 pm

  13. “Pierce’s greatest success was in swindling Mexico out of a couple of million acres of land for $10 million. The Gadsen Purchase was ostensibly to be used for part of the transcontinental railroad.”

    If you check into the history a bit more you will see that our Southern border with Mexico (west of El Paso) needed better definition. This being the case the Gadsden Purchase marked a closing point to the Mexican American War. Let’s give him and members of Congress some recognition for that.

    You are correct. I was just dumping on Pierce because everyone else does.


    Comment by Bill McIntosh — 1/15/2009 @ 6:24 pm

  14. Bottom fifth? Hardly. We can’t be sure exactly where, but that is a stretch.

    Bush’s legacy will be judged by how the next president responds to our next domestic terror attack. If it happens on Obama’s watch (or that of the next president or the next) and he (or she)does poorly in comparison with Bush’s response to 9/11, the current president’s stock will rise and the successor couldn’t improve their fortunes if they learned to heal the blind. If, on the other hand, the next time a terrorist attacks on domestic soil and the president acts comparably or exceeds the Bush response to 9/11, Bush will be seen as a lightweight although hardly as low as you place him.

    This is the brutal reality. Bush’s legacy will be determined by how a future president responds to the next attack on the homeland. I’m certain the president takes perverse pleasure from that irony.

    Comment by obamathered — 1/15/2009 @ 7:09 pm

  15. Sure, the “Obama ‘12 - It is STILL Bush’s fault” t-shirts will be out in full bloom in the summer and fall of ‘11. But Jackson is right; when jobs are still being out sourced due to the Democrat thinking that you can tax companies into poverty and still create jobs, when the Bush tax cuts have been allowed to expire and EVERYONE is paying higher taxes, except those who don’t pay taxes to begin with, when the stock market is still under 10,000 and the national deficit is double what it is now, Nancy Pelosi is taking ANOTHER stimulus package and Obama has not fullfilled the far left’s wet dreams of a free ride for those who voted for him, and troops are still in Iraq working with the Iraqi government (remember, The One promised TOTAL withdrawal on Jan. 21st) there will be fewer to think that all he has to do is smile down on them and they will be healed.

    And when we are attacked again (is there any doubt we will be?) will the left still apply the 7 month, 22 day rule as they did with Bush or will they blame Obama?

    Comment by retire05 — 1/15/2009 @ 7:22 pm

  16. That’s it. Last straw. Tired of Bushbashing, nuanced righties. I remember Truman quite well. He was derided by the elites everywhere. He was stupid, an inelegant speaker, not nuanced, terrible approval ratings and so on. Years later he’s considered a “near-great” president by historians–top ten anyway–for thngs like some Doctrine or other, and sucessfully ending a war or was tht 2 wars and rebuilding Europe into democracies…you get the idea.

    Your entitled to your reality and I’m allowed to delete you from my Favorites.

    Comment by The Count — 1/15/2009 @ 9:36 pm

  17. In protest against the policies and legislation proposed by the congress and PE Obama, citizens are being asked to fly their flags upside down on January 20th.

    Our country is in grave distress!

    Comment by twocents — 1/16/2009 @ 2:45 am

  18. In response to JPP Said: OMG. You read my mind. I don’t want him to succeed. The question is: Succeed at what? Driving in the last nail of a nazi style United Sates Socialist Republic? At our Bible study this week we were encouraged to pray for barack hussein (caps purposely omitted). I incontrollably let out a big guffaw. I am at loss at what type of prayer to raise up to the Lord regarding this man. At this point, I am only asking for protection. You are right, he needs to fail, and the truth is that he will. Will the walking dead even notice?

    Comment by Elizabeth Croslee — 1/16/2009 @ 7:15 am

  19. If B-Hobie ends up being the kind of Chief Executive I expect, Bush’s place in history will be augmented considerably. I hope he does well, but I agree with the previous poster who told us to expect a series of one-term Presidents until the country recovers economically. I have a felling it’s going to take several years.

    Comment by Sirius — 1/16/2009 @ 11:22 am

  20. Obama will be re-elected off of the backs of future generations. He’ll spend what ever it takes to get re-elected - spend money that will be paid via lower living standards for the generations that follow.

    This approach - making the current economy strong without regard for the future - isn’t an Obama or a Democratic one. It’s a political approach that Bush succumbed to too(compassionate conservatism is one part compassion and three parts cynicism - the voters will kick you out if you can’t match the ‘goodies’ the other side is providing). The worm has turned (more people benefit from government spending than pay into the spending pool) and while we’ll always be rich from a historical perspective we’re going to see European levels of growth going forward. Doing better than your Dad did will be increasingly rare. Who you know will be more important than what you know.

    But I think the American experiment will not die and will isntead be re-ignited elsewhere. Where, I can’t say, but there is a power in the words of Friedman, Hayek and others that will continue to inspire.

    Comment by East Bay Jim — 1/16/2009 @ 2:23 pm

  21. History will prove Bush to be a better than average president. Presidents are made not by their policies, but rather by the flow of history and the character of the man. Lincoln is viewed as a great president, but if Lee would have won at Gettysbury he would have went down as a failure. Again the flow of history. Obama, as I see it, is a timid and weak individual. This is a flaw in a man and a disaster in a president. Bush on the other hand is stong and decisive.

    Comment by Ron Russell — 1/17/2009 @ 5:55 am

  22. Don’t forget Kyoto. By threatening his veto, Bush bought us 8 years to prove that all those multi-million dollar government sponsored computer models were, to put it lightly, wrong. The planet has stopped warming, and is by all appearances, cooling.

    Bush’s refusal to drink this populist AGW koolaid has left us with some hope that our power generation infrastructure will survive the coming Democrat onslaught on reality.

    Comment by KennyB — 1/18/2009 @ 3:12 am

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Powered by WordPress