Yes, of Course: George W. Bush Was the Worst President Ever

If you want to start a great, um, “conversation” with someone on the right, just say something that is brutally obvious and honest like…  

George W Bush was the worst president in United States history. 

That’s just my opinion, of course, and there may be a few historians who disagree with me, because there were a few pretty bad presidents. But I lived through the Bush years, and I can’t imagine anyone that incompetent surviving the political system in any other era. A case could be made for Hoover, because he did virtually nothing for 3½ years after the economy bottomed out, and we dove deep into the Great Depression. Nixon was pretty awful, too, as I’ll point out in a bit. And Reagan and Bush were also among the worst presidents ever. But it’s almost impossible to beat the awfulness of George W. Bush.

Bush, Jr. presided over the worst and most easily preventable terrorist attack in history – one that killed 3,000 people. He started two wars, and then completely bungled both of them. He financed them off the books with borrowed money, and used that money to line the pockets of his largest donors. He oversaw two recessions in less than eight years, the second one being the worst since the Hoover Depression. This, despite the fact that Bush had the benefit of a number of tools that were unavailable to Hoover, such as the SEC and financial regulations designed to prevent bubbles and market manipulations. The only one he didn’t have was Glass-Steagall, which Republicans managed to repeal before Bush became president.

Bush’s incompetence was pure, and what’s worse is, he seemed to have no desire to gain any level of competence. He seemed to simply not care about doing the job right, or even doing it at all. His last year, and especially the last few months, were notable in that, even as the economy was collapsing around him, and we were headed for another Great Depression, he seemed content to leave everything for the “next guy” to clean up his mess.

Yet, whenever someone says something against Bush, invariably a Republican will bring up Carter, Obama and/or LBJ. Sometimes, they’ll throw in Nixon to make themselves seem open-minded. But really, it’s not possible to place Bush in the company of the other four, although he comes close with regard to Nixon. He was actually more overtly corrupt than Nixon and the other three presidents were actually quite competent. Obama’s easy. I’ve been compiling a list of his accomplishments for quite some time. Go read those and compare them with Bush’s record. Obama’s miles above Bush. He’s cleaned up most of the mess Bush made, fixed the economy, and got health insurance reform through. 

Carter was also far more competent than Bush, Jr. Carter is the most under-appreciated president in history. I wouldn’t put him in the top 10, but he’s certainly not in the bottom 10. Carter hired Paul Volcker, not Saint Reagan, and between them they curbed the double-digit inflation that was killing the US economy even before Reagan took office. This was a problem that had vexed both Nixon and Ford. Carter was the one who championed reasonable deregulation, and started removing unnecessary regulations from the books. In fact, only three administrations in the post-war era have overseen an actual reduction in the number of regulations, and they were Kennedy, Carter and Clinton. Note that Nixon, Reagan and both Bushes are NOT on that list. The unemployment rate during most of the Carter Administration was at or below 6%. When Reagan was elected, the unemployment rate was 7.5%. While that’s quite high, it would get higher, and it wouldn’t go that low again until 1986. It wouldn’t get back to the average rate during the Carter Administration until 1987. (Source)

Carter was also very aggressive about energy. He established standards that, had they not been killed by Republicans, would have resulted in far less energy usage and lower energy bills by now. If we had followed Carter’s lead on energy, there’s an excellent chance we wouldn’t be looking at $4 a gallon gas prices as something of a norm now, and even if we were, it wouldn’t hurt as much, because we’d be getting 80 miles per gallon instead of 25. The amount we spend on gas every month would be two-thirds lower. We’d also have a strong renewable energy infrastructure by now, we’d be less dependent upon unstable countries for our energy needs, and there’d be no need for fracking or drilling a mile below the surface of the ocean.

Foreign policy was a little rougher under Carter, although he brokered successful peace talks between Egypt and Israel, he never outed a CIA operative and would never even have considered torture as a solution to a problem. The United States was regarded as a humanitarian state when Carter was president, a reputation that suffered dearly under George W Bush. 

So, there’s no way Carter was worse than Bush, when going by history and facts. What about Richard Nixon?

Nixon WAS a crook, and he trampled the Constitution during 5½ years in office, but Bush did so for 8 years. The only difference is, the Republicans in office during Bush’s term were far more corrupt, and let him get away with more. Nixon did refuse to cooperate fully in the investigations of his misdeeds, but he never commuted the sentences of those who participated in his crimes. I’d like to say Nixon didn’t start an illegal war, but he did invade Laos and Cambodia, and kept the Vietnam war going, in a vain attempt to create something he called “peace with honor.”  In all, the two are about equal, with Nixon’s Republican Party less willing to put up with outright corruption. The only edge I’ll give Nixon on foreign policy is that he opened up China and started speaking to the Soviet Union. Otherwise, there was the morally bankrupt Henry Kissinger, who never saw a country he wouldn’t bomb if he had the chance.

Another thing Bush and Nixon shared in common was an absolute ineptitude when it came to the economy and domestic issues. Just as Clinton handed Bush a strong, growing, vibrant economy, as well as a balanced budget, Lyndon Johnson handed Nixon an even stronger economy, which was on a 25-year roll, and a balanced budget. Yet both managed to blow up the economy within a few years. Nixon took the country off the gold standard, which was ultimately a good thing, but he didn’t plan for its effect on monetary policy, and we ended up with a decade or so of double-digit inflation. When that started, Nixon responded with the asinine 90-day wage-price freeze, which did nothing more than exacerbate the problem. It’s not possible to order the economy to not raise prices; that takes stimulus and incentives. Then there was Nixon’s asinine “banking program,” which gave oil companies subsidies and tax incentives for keeping the price of gasoline below $1, but only for five years. Keeping the price artificially low had the effect of making Americans relax and think the price of gas would always stay low, and kept them from taking steps to cut usage. And when the program expired in 1979, it had the effect of doubling gas prices and creating the second oil shortage in six years, and created an even greater economic problem, as gas prices doubled in the space of a few months.

While there are many similarities between Nixon and Bush, at least Nixon didn’t oversee two recessions and he didn’t watch the economy implode in front of him while telling everyone nothing was wrong, and he didn’t demand nearly $1 trillion in bailouts with a 3-page agreement containing no promise to pay it back.

As for Lyndon Johnson, (LBJ), that’s easy. In his 5-plus years, he did escalate the Vietnam war, but he also oversaw passage of the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, and Medicare. During his tenure, the unemployment rate never went above 6%, and from December 1965 to the end of his term in January 1969, it topped out at or below 4%. That marked the last time the unemployment rate went below 4% until Clinton’s second term. Not only that, but he left Nixon with a balanced budget, even though the country was investing huge amounts of money on infrastructure

It’s hard to make a case that Bush isn’t the worst president in U.S. history, and you most certainly can’t find anyone worse in recent history. Nixon and Reagan comes close, and Bush’s father was pretty bad, but the sheer volume of crap that was produced during the Dubya years is unprecedented. The last president who even came close to the disaster that was the Bush Administration was the Hoover Administration. and for all of his fault, Hoover never failed to respond to a natural disaster that led to the deaths of tens of thousands of people and the near-destruction of a major American city.

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  1. There were a few who might be considered worse, Buchanan (pretty much set the stage for the Civil War) and Harding (massively corrupt and incompetent) spring to mind, but Bush ranks right up there with them. Hoover was one of those people who was ideologically rigid, which meant that he was absolutely out of his depth as president. It’s been said of him that he would have been considered one of the great Americans, if he hadn’t been President.

    Side note about Carter, from someone who was around during his term (first President I voted for, in fact), and still has a functioning memory. When the purity Left these days wax nostalgic about him, and sing his praises, they (conveniently) forgot that back then their predecessors hated Carter with a passion.

    1. Yeah, I worked on both Carter campaigns, once from Maryland and once from Arizona and Maryland. In 1980, progressives did nothing but trash Carter every chance they got, because they wanted Kennedy to win, and after Kennedy lost, they had a hissy fit and switched to Anderson. It’s the same thing they did in 1988, 2000 and 2004. It’s getting a bit old.

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