Hey, I Guess They All Read Rolling Stone

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The pollsters at Quinnipiac University find that a third of Americans pronounce George W. Bush the Worst President… Ever.

Strong Democratic sentiment pushes President George W. Bush to the top of the list when American voters pick the worst U.S. President in the last 61 years. Bush is named by 34 percent of voters, followed by Richard Nixon at 17 percent and Bill Clinton at 16 percent, according to a Quinnipiac University national poll released today. Leading the list for best President since 1945 is Ronald Reagan with 28 percent, and Clinton with 25 percent.

Amazingly, some people are surprised or thrilled by this. They shouldn't be. Most presidents are hated until they're gone. The best expression of this was probably spoke by the fictionalized Richard Nixon, speaking to 18-year old president-elect Prez Rickard in issue 54 of Neil Gaiman's The Sandman.

Nothing you do in the White House matters. You know why not? Because as far as the mass of voting morons is concerned, while you're in office, you'll be the worst single president they've ever had. Until you stop. Then it's some other poor bastard's turn. And even that doesn't matter, because ten, twenty years later, they'll look back on you, and wonder why they didn't appreciate you when they had you. In hindsight even Warren Gamaliel Harding looks good. You, uh, following me?

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  1. Oh, c’mon. Bush worse than Carter?

  2. Ronald Reagan looks better in hindsight. Even Nixon looks a lot better in hindsight … opening China and all that.

    But W … I just don’t think he’s going to look any better in 20 years.

  3. Lack of historical knowledge leads many in the 25-35 generation to place JFK in the top three of GOAT. Same with Ronnie and FDR. *shudder*

  4. I dunno. I can think of a very few good things that have happened on GWB’s watch (like the expiration of the assault weapons ban). Carter was a bit before my time, but didn’t he make airline travel cheap enough for us peasants? Maybe those two things are a wash and they both suck.

  5. Yeah, being president when the Taliban and the Hussein resume were demolished– you honestly believe history is gonna look unkindly on that? You’re nuts if you think that history will look poorly on that.

    Even as a clueless little kid I knew something was wrong with Carter when we had a bunch of kids kidnapped in Tehran and there was no real attempt to rescue them.

    Also, check out the recent economic stats. Another feather in Bush’s cap, though in reality a Prez has only limited control in economic matters.

  6. Yeah, being president when the Taliban and the Hussein resume were demolished– you honestly believe history is gonna look unkindly on that? You’re nuts if you think that history will look poorly on that.

    Even as a clueless little kid I knew something was wrong with Carter when we had a bunch of kids kidnapped in Tehran and there was no real attempt to rescue them.

    Also, check out the recent economic stats. Another feather in Bush’s cap, though in reality a Prez has only limited control in economic matters.

  7. Oh, c’mon. Bush worse than Carter?

    I don’t know Clean Hands… Federal spending is up much more under Bush than Carter, drug crime prosecution and the intensity of the WoD is much greater under Bush than Carter. Carter deregulated the airlines, legalized home brewing(!), pardoned draft resisters and certainly vetoed many more bills than Bush. Not to say I think Carter was great (and nobody has ever accused me of being a Carter fan!), but really, by my scorecard, one could do a lot worse, and Bush is. Even Carter’s foreign policy and military mistakes, such as with Iran and the failed hostage rescue attempt, or the inept and impotent boycotting of the Olympics, seem rather quaint by Bush foreign policy standards.

  8. As always for my whole fucking life, I didn’t hear from this pollster either. I’m starting to think that maybe they’re just making this shit up.

    I’m trying to imagine how incredibly freaked out a poll-creature like Clinton would have been if he’d seen numbers like this.

  9. >>Even Carter’s foreign policy and military mistakes, such as with Iran and the failed hostage rescue attempt, or the inept and impotent boycotting of the Olympics, seem rather quaint by Bush foreign policy standards.>>

    These type of statement needs a laugh track. Carter’s For. Policy greatly helped to put us in this mess we are today.

    Carter coddled terrorists. Bush has ousted them. See the difference?

  10. >>Carter deregulated the airlines, legalized home brewing(!), pardoned draft resisters.

  11. SORRY, I meant to write:

    To hell with a low unemployment rate, low taxes, A LOT OF DEAD terrorists and a fine economy (which we have now).

  12. Carter coddled terrorists. Bush has ousted them. See the difference?

    oust
    v.
    1: remove from a position or office; “The chairman was ousted after he misappropriated funds” 2: remove and replace; “The word processor has ousted the typewriter”

    In this administration’s case, I’m leaning toward definition #2.

    By the way, “coddled terrorists” is the main ingredient of my favorite casserole.

  13. Given that historians tend to favor presidents that amass power in the executive branch and lead us off to one war or another, I’m betting W will acutally be portrayed quite sympathetically in the long run as long as he manages to avoid impeachment. Recall some of the awful shit Wilson or Jackson did and yet they always end up near the top of historians’ lists.

  14. Carter coddled terrorists. Bush has ousted them. See the difference?

    I applaud his ousting of the Taliban and its terrorist training camps. But his incompetently and tragically inept handling of Iraq and the human toll that has resulted more than counters whatever good he may have done. Speaking of Carter helping to put us in the mess we’re in today (which I don’t necessarily disagree with) – let’s just wait and see the mess Bush has helped put us in tomorrow – and at a cost of many thousands of lives.

  15. Don’t you, uh, well, find it silly and ironic that you credit Carter for pardoning draft resisters, yet you criticize the way he dealt with Tehran. Do you see the inconsistency?

    No. The draft is immoral – the idea of the government enlisting you as a slave to its ends against your will should be abhorrent to any libertarian. Even if you support the ends, doing so by enslaving those who do not is utterly immoral. You shouldn’t be punished for breaking an immoral law so pardoning them was the right thing to do.

  16. also – just think of how many people were ready to declare Dubyah the “worst ever” right after he won back in 2000.

    etc. etc. etc.

  17. I think the jury’s still out on whether Bush has ousted more terrorists or created more terrorists, but my money’s on “created.”

    Carter was a pretty poor manager, and couldn’t keep control of his own administration, but it’s hard for me to think of a single thing Bush has done that I like. If he had been the one to legalize home brewing, at least that would be something.

  18. Carter coddled terrorists. Bush has ousted them. See the difference?

    From where have they been ousted? They still rule over growing sections of Afghanistan. There are more terrorists and more acts of terrorism in Iraq now than before 9/11.

  19. TPG,

    I’m in the same boat as you as far as JFK being classified as one of the greatest presidents. He didn’t really accomplish anything in office, and a lot of bad stuff happened during his term (Bay of Pigs, escalation in Nam, Berlin Wall).

    I think it has a lot to do with the fact that Boomer historians/journalists/etc were at an impressionable age when he took office and uttered his optimistic rhetoric, and even more importantly, when he was assassinated. I remember hearing somewhere that a poll in 1964 found that 70% of the people who said they’d voted in 1960’s election claimed to have voted for him, when of course he barely won the popular vote.

    As far as the younguns go, they’re probably just impressed with the fact that he has all those streets, airports, schools, etc named after him, so he must have been good!

  20. Wow, with a top 3 like that, how can Carter not be the regarded as the best president ever… EVER! I mean, home brewing legalized! To hell with a low unemployment rate, low taxes, terrorists and a fine economy (which we have now). You wanna compare Bush’s economic track record with that of Carter’s?

    You’re making more of that than I did to be sure. The beer thing was more facetious, but it was at least a positive thing. I give Reagan the credit for lowering taxes and the resulting strong economy that has been with us more or less since. Tax rates under Carter were abysmal and the economy sucked – no doubt. Like I said I’m not a Carter fan in general – but the rampant spending under Bush wipes out any credit I give him for some small tax cuts. I certainly wouldn’t give Bush much credit for the economy today – besides those small tax cuts, what has he done to expand free markets?

  21. This just shows that a third of the country has completely lost their minds. It is not the end of the world. The corrisponding other third of tin foil hatters on the right I am sure would have said that Bill Clinton was the worst President ever circa 1998.

    History will look kindly on getting rid of the Taliban and Huissain as well as getting the economy through the tech bubble bursting and 9-11. History will not look so kindly on the prescription drug benifit, no child left behind, allowing the Congress to turn pork barrel spending into an art form of previously unknown proportions, and being completely asleep at the switch at the Southern Border.

  22. Brian Courts – yeah, without mentioning the huge increase in discretionary spending while saying the Bush II somehow is responisble for our strong economy is disingeneous, to say the least.

    I was never much interested in politics until recently, so I can’t really speak on worst pres ever – even when I’ve been of voting age (since ’91 roughly), I’ve voted libertarian, except maybe the ’92 elections where I might have voted for Clinton (I honestly don’t remember). (That’s a lot of mights and maybes, which shows how little I really paid attention.)

    Anyway, there hasn’t been a damn thing Bush II has done that I like – even his tax cuts have been largely window-dressing…although I did like getting a check a few years ago.

  23. It’s pretty easy for y’all to throw stones from the sidelines, but I’d like to see any one of you try to actually do this job. It ain’t all skittles and wine, if you follow me.

  24. I’m not crazy about Bush, but he’s nowhere near worst ever. My pick would be James Buchanan.

  25. I’m somewhat pleased at Bush’s Supreme Court choices. (Setting aside that Miers debacle… )

    Roberts is young enough that he’ll be shaping SCOTUS decisions for decades, and both he and Alito seem to have respect for the Constitution, which is at least a start.

    Clinton gave us Ginsburg and Breyer, neither of whom seem to be able to read the plain words of the Constitution.

    Carter, at least, didn’t get any Supreme Court appointments… one shudders to think who he might have placed there.

  26. “even his tax cuts have been largely window-dressing.”

    That is just not true. Getting rid of the tax on dividends was the best and most important tax cuts since Reagan indexed the tax brackets. Look no further than the surge in revenue and the growth rate to know that the Bush tax cuts were more than just window dressing.

  27. Worst ever? God, so many to choose from…

    In the final analysis, though, FDR did the most damage to the Republic, I think. He single-handedly turned gov’t into a combination sugar daddy and nagging mama.

  28. Yeah, being president when the Taliban and the Hussein resume were demolished– you honestly believe history is gonna look unkindly on that? You’re nuts if you think that history will look poorly on that.

    Carry On,

    I’ll bite. Why will historians smile on Bush’s Iraq invasion and ousting of Hussein? (not to mention his resume) Does history like interventionists? I’ll have to check, but I think that they fall below even the isolationists on the historians’ smiley scale. Intervention seems to inevitably lead to defeat or imperialism. Our defense department was created to defend our nation, not wander the world sowing the seeds of democracy by killing people. Could we have done more to assist Iraqi people to free themselves? Would they have been happier that way? Would fewer people hate the US? (Sorry, but I do worry if the rest of the world hates us, because I worry about my children’s futures.) Why do you think that historians will not ask these questions?

  29. I can’t believe how Eisenhower got screwed in that poll. I’d put him definitely in the top 3 since 1945.

  30. It’s pretty easy for y’all to throw stones from the sidelines, but I’d like to see any one of you try to actually do this job. It ain’t all skittles and wine, if you follow me.

    G.W. Bush

    Skittles & wine? Eeewwwwww!
    Try Jelly Bellys and root beer!

  31. Greatest president of all time? Andrew Jackson.

  32. Worst president? What exactly does that mean? Worst dresser? Worst hair? Worst poker face? Worst family pet?

    C’mon, do you think that partisans will _ever_ think the “other guy” is a good president?

    But Dubya, sorry, but he blows donkey chunks as a leader. Yeah, he’s done a couple of good things, I won’t fault him for tax cuts, but on balance he’s in the red. I honestly don’t know if we would have been worse off with Kerry.

    OK George, today’s word is VETO. It’s a presidential power. No really, it is! Look it up. Say it with me now, V-E-T-O….no, not vetah, ve-TOE….

  33. No contest on best Pres –

    For having the shortest presidency in American history, and therefore screwing the American people the least, William Henry Harrison.

    Having caught pneumonia for giving a two hour inagural address during a very cold winter, he died 30 days into office (wiki stuff).

  34. Medicare Part D was the straw that broke my back and put W at the top of my worst ever list. Seeing as how FDR and Honest Abe top most every ‘best ever’ list (LBJ gets tarred for Vietnam, but exalted for the Great Society), I suspect history will be revised for GWB as well.

  35. I’m in the same boat as you as far as JFK being classified as one of the greatest presidents. He didn’t really accomplish anything in office, and a lot of bad stuff happened during his term (Bay of Pigs, escalation in Nam, Berlin Wall).

    Exactly. He’s just lucky that the combined clusterfuck of the next 30 years followed him.


    I think it has a lot to do with the fact that Boomer historians/journalists/etc were at an impressionable age when he took office and uttered his optimistic rhetoric, and even more importantly, when he was assassinated. I remember hearing somewhere that a poll in 1964 found that 70% of the people who said they’d voted in 1960’s election claimed to have voted for him, when of course he barely won the popular vote.

    DING! Spot on here.


    As far as the younguns go, they’re probably just impressed with the fact that he has all those streets, airports, schools, etc named after him, so he must have been good!

    Kids are morons.

  36. I’m not crazy about Bush, but he’s nowhere near worst ever. My pick would be James Buchanan.

    Either Johnson.

    I can’t believe how Eisenhower got screwed in that poll. I’d put him definitely in the top 3 since 1945.

    That’s not high praise. He was a disaster.

  37. TPG:

    I didn’t say it was high praise, I just think Eisenhower was woefully underrated by the poll. However, I wouldn’t go so far as to say he was a disaster, but I’d be curious as to your reasoning why he was.

  38. Is Bush the worst ever? I dunno. He has a lot of competition. I still lean toward FDR as being worse. I’d say Bush is running neck-and-neck with LBJ.

    As to Kennedy, being shot is the best thing that ever happened to him. Otherwise he’d be blamed for the clusterfuck that was Vietnam.

  39. TPG, I was wondering when someone was going to mention LBJ. His only real pass in my book was the voting rights act, and (losing libertarian cred, but keeping geek cred) keeping Apollo going. Otherwise, he’s got a lot of Bush’s problems. Massive entitlement increases, destructive foreign adventures… sound familiar?

  40. Time will tell, but W has so many irons in the worst ever decision fire… I always put his dad high on the worst list… but the son outdoes the dad at least.

  41. It is the lack of respect for the impact of their use of power that is the Bush flaw…
    Hubris

  42. “Don’t you, uh, well, find it silly and ironic that you credit Carter for pardoning draft resisters, yet you criticize the way he dealt with Tehran….”

    “No. The draft is immoral….”

    Carter gave us Selective Service. (Glad I’m not a guy, or at least not one applying for financial aid.)

    Almost decrimmed weed though. Missed it by thatmuch!

  43. Time will tell, but W has so many irons in the worst ever decision fire… I always put his dad high on the worst list… but the son outdoes the dad at least.

    Comment by: MainstreamMan at June 1, 2006 11:12 PM

    Agree totally with you MSM.

    I never liked GHB at the time of his presidency but now……….Jr makes him look wonderful. I look back and think what was I bitching about?
    Reagan looks better in this light too. Breaking up unions is better than breaking up entire countries.

  44. The beer thing was more facetious, but it was at least a positive thing. I give Reagan the credit for lowering taxes and the resulting strong economy that has been with us more or less since. Tax rates under Carter were abysmal and the economy sucked – no doubt.

    Maybe his taxing and spending didn’t help the situation, but keep in mind Carter inherited a mess going back several presidents. And he did appoint Volcker (ok, I was 10 at the time, but from what I’ve read…).

    And the beer thing *is* important!

  45. That is just not true. Getting rid of the tax on dividends was the best and most important tax cuts since Reagan indexed the tax brackets. Look no further than the surge in revenue and the growth rate to know that the Bush tax cuts were more than just window dressing.

    By that logic John, GHW Bush’s and Clinton’s tax increases were even better. Look how gang-busters the economy and tax reciepts were after that. Though I do think that the dividend tax cut was great. No need to support it with specious reasoning.

    I will say that naming Volcker Fed chief was a huge plus in Carter’s column. Volcker was Greenspan before it was cool.

    I personally think GHWB was one of the most underrated presidents. I despised him growing up (the atheists are not patriots thing made me livid), but he did a lot of good things and set the economy up for a solid recovery. Despite his raising taxes, it did a great deal to take care of the huge deficit we had.

    Nixon on the other hand doesn’t get credit for a lot of his awful policies. No one ever brings up wage controls as one of the reasons he was a terrible president. It’s always Watergate and, for some people, China.

    For all of you blaming Kennedy’s popularity on the Boomers, notice that the age cohort that gave him the most #1 votes is the over 65 group.

  46. Mo,

    I agree with you about the first Bush. The biggest thing he did was fix the banking crisis. It was painful and expensive but it had to be done. Japan had the same problem that the U.S. and didn’t deal with it and had a decade of anemic growth in the 1990s as a result.

    The first Bush set the groundwork, but he recovery in 1992 and 1993 was not that strong. It wasn’t until the Republican Congress cut the captial gains tax in 1995 that the economy really took off. Cutting taxes that encourage savings and investment work everytime. They worked for Kennedy, the worked for Reagan, they worked for Clinton and they worked for Bush this time. had Bush not cut taxes the way he did and agressively as he did, the economy would have been in a lot of trouble after 9-11 and the tech bubble bursting. Bush deserves credit for that. Those tax cuts were not just window dressing.

  47. Greatest president of all time? Andrew Jackson.

    Yes, I am so thankful to be rid of the Cherokee.

  48. Truman
    Clinton
    Reagan
    Ford
    Bush Senior
    Eisenhower
    Kennedy (would likely have been the best)
    Carter
    Johnson
    Nixon

    At this point, I’d put Bush Junior about tied with Nixon, but it’s way too early to judge responsibly. It’s probably too early to judge Clinton, for that matter.

  49. “History will look kindly on getting rid of the Taliban and Huissain”

    I think that’s going to depend on how things turn out, John. In 1968, your Democratic equivalent was saying, “History will look kindly on getting rid of poverty.”

    It’s not enough for a president to want to do things, or even try to do things. It’s the bottom line.

  50. “Given that historians tend to favor presidents that amass power in the executive branch and lead us off to one war or another…”

    I don’t know, Matt XIV. Historians, who of course are all liberals who wuv the 70s-era welfare state, haven’t been too kind to Johnson.

  51. Most presidents are hated until they’re gone.

    Whatever you think of FDR, I think saying that he was “hated” in 1945 is not exactly accurate.

  52. FDR deserves a lot of credit for WW2. A Republican president in 1940 would have been disastrous.

    I’ll play:

    Truman
    Reagan
    Clinton
    Eisenhower
    Carter
    Bush 41
    Kennedy
    Ford
    Johnson
    Nixon

  53. joe,

    While he may not end up in the top quartile (that’s reserved for presidents who won their wars), LBJ routinely ends up in the top 20 in polls of historians and trounces presidents who didn’t have any great accomplishments but didn’t have any spetacular failures either, like Arthur and Coolidge. My money would be on W ending up in the 2nd or 3rd quartile.

  54. Kennedy is a tough call. He did very well during his limited time – his handling of the Cuban missile crisis demonstrated a combination of strength, craftiness, and humanity that is rarely found in politicians – but his time was so very limited.

    Iennedy wouldn’t have stepped into the Vietnam quagmire because, as his refusal to start a war during the missile crisis demonstrates, he had the confidence and backbone to refuse the advice of the military elite in a way that Johnson did not. And while Kennedy surrounded himself with the same Harvard “best and brightest” that Johnson did, he wasn’t as deferential to them, because as one of them, he knew when they were likely to be full of it.

    The Bay of Pigs was Ike’s deal, that Kennedy went along with against his better judgement. That was certainly a mistake, but it is one that he learned from (see above comment about telling the military brass to stuff it). Good presidents learn from their mistakes. Like Reagan fixing his disasterous tax cuts before the economy went over a cliff. Or Truman keeping his hands off industry.

  55. History never looks kindly upon leaders that start unprovoked wars designed to overthrow rival governments and expand empires that result in the deaths of untold numbers of innocent people and brutal actions by the soldiers engaged in the war. I believe that historians will view Bush with the same regard they have for Milosevic, Aidid, Tojo, Hitler and countless other war crazed despots.

  56. The worst? No contest: the overeducated, racist, elitist academic who entangled us in the first Great War and bungled the armistice (setting the stage for the next Great War and the cold war that followed), all while running roughshod over civil liberties on the homefront.

    Woodrow Goddamn Wilson: Worst! President! Ever!

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