Historians Rate W the Worst President Ever

Worst President in HistoryIn a survey of professional historians, President George W. Bush’s presidency was considered a massive failure with 98 percent of the historians saying it’s a failure and a full 61 percent calling W “the worst president ever.”

The survey was conducted by Professor Robert McElvaine of Millsaps College for the History News Netork and is a follow up to a 2004 survey where only 81 percent of historians viewed Bush’s presidency a failure. No doubt, Professor McElvaine will draw the ire of Sean Hannity and David Horowitz for criticizing the commander-in-chief during a time of war.    
In the good ol’ OC, I’d like our Republican friends to reconsider their support in 2004 for this president and ask them “would John Kerry really have been that much worse?” It would be really swell for Scot Baugh, Mike Schroder, Jon Flieschman and Matt Cunningham to cowboy up and admit this Republican president has caused more harm than good. But don’t take my word for it; here are some random comments from historians who responded to the survey:

“No individual president can compare to the second Bush,” wrote one. “Glib, contemptuous, ignorant, incurious, a dupe of anyone who humors his deluded belief in his heroic self, he has bankrupted the country with his disastrous war and his tax breaks for the rich, trampled on the Bill of Rights, appointed foxes in every henhouse, compounded the terrorist threat, turned a blind eye to torture and corruption and a looming ecological disaster, and squandered the rest of the world’s goodwill. In short, no other president’s faults have had so deleterious an effect on not only the country but the world at large.”

“With his unprovoked and disastrous war of aggression in Iraq and his monstrous deficits, Bush has set this country on a course that will take decades to correct,” said another historian. “When future historians look back to identify the moment at which the United States began to lose its position of world leadership, they will point—rightly—to the Bush presidency. Thanks to his policies, it is now easy to see America losing out to its competitors in any number of area: China is rapidly becoming the manufacturing powerhouse of the next century, India the high tech and services leader, and Europe the region with the best quality of life.”

One historian indicated that his reason for rating Bush as worst is that the current president combines traits of some of his failed predecessors: “the paranoia of Nixon, the ethics of Harding and the good sense of Herbert Hoover. . . . . God willing, this will go down as the nadir of American politics.” Another classified Bush as “an ideologue who got the nation into a totally unnecessary war, and has broken the Constitution more often than even Nixon. He is not a conservative, nor a Christian, just an immoral man . . . .” Still another remarked that Bush’s “denial of any personal responsibility can only be described as silly.”

“It would be difficult to identify a President who, facing major international and domestic crises, has failed in both as clearly as President Bush,” concluded one respondent. “His domestic policies,” another noted, “have had the cumulative effect of shoring up a semi-permanent aristocracy of capital that dwarfs the aristocracy of land against which the founding fathers rebelled; of encouraging a mindless retreat from science and rationalism; and of crippling the nation’s economic base.”

“George Bush has combined mediocrity with malevolent policies and has thus seriously damaged the welfare and standing of the United States,” wrote one of the historians, echoing the assessments of many of his professional colleagues. “Bush does only two things well,” said one of the most distinguished historians. “He knows how to make the very rich very much richer, and he has an amazing talent for f**king up everything else he even approaches. His administration has been the most reckless, dangerous, irresponsible, mendacious, arrogant, self-righteous, incompetent, and deeply corrupt one in all of American history.”

  20 comments for “Historians Rate W the Worst President Ever

  1. April 4, 2008 at 10:19 am


    Whether one likes or dislikes W, whether one is a Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative, asking historians to rate a president before he even leaves office doesn’t even rise to the level of premature.

    How historians view a president at the time they are in office (or even immediately afterward) can change dramatically in the enusing years.

    For example, historians considered Harry Truman to be a disastrous president when he left office. Compare that with the laudatory way historians now view him.

    Eisenhower underwent a similar revision over time, as as Reagan.

  2. Dan Chmielewski
    April 4, 2008 at 10:27 am

    Sorry, I still think Reagan wasn’t all that great. I was in college when he was president and he was no friend to the middle class. But he was an optimistic man.

    I don’t think Bush will ever recover from the damage he has done to this country on so many fronts.

  3. RHackett
    April 4, 2008 at 10:42 am

    It is possible that posterity will be equally kind to Mr. Bush. But if you’re going to compare yourself to Mr. Truman, it helps to have your own equivalent of the Marshall Plan, the containment policy against Russia, the formation of NATO, the defense of South Korea and desegregation of the armed forces on your resume. What in the Bush legacy even comes close?”

    And that doesn’t even include the addition of over $4T to the national debt.

  4. April 4, 2008 at 11:10 am


    I’m not comparing any president’s record to anyone else.

    I’m not going to recite my comment over again, but I’ll point out that historians were aware of the Marshall Plan, containment, NATO, the Korean War and armed forces desegregation in 1953 — and still had a low opinion of Truman. It wasn’t until many years later their evaluation of him rose dramatically.

    To say today that historians will have a low opinion of W years from now is premature in the extreme.

  5. RHackett
    April 4, 2008 at 11:25 am


    Can you point to one thing in Bush’s tenure that even remotely compares to Truman’s accomplishments?

  6. April 4, 2008 at 11:44 am


    I typo-ed my name.

    Let me repeat what I said in my previous comment so you’ll be sure to understand:

    “I’m not comparing any president’s record to anyone else.”

    That is to say, I’m not comparing any president’s record to any other presidents record.

    In other words, I’m not comparing any president’s record to that of any other president.

    I made a very simple, non-political observation: historians’ evaluations of presidents can change dramatically as the passage of time permits greater perspective on the lasting impacts — for good or ill — of a president’s actions.

    I used Truman, Eisenhower and Reagan as examples.

    Consequently, any rating today of W by historians is exceedingly premature and could very well change in the years to come.

  7. just...asking?
    April 4, 2008 at 11:47 am


    Revisionist look at Truman’s years through todays eye’s and phsyce.

    Today we readily accept that all races should be treated equally. We accept our role as a worldwide leader in support of democracy. Finally, we understand the Korean conflict and were not the instigators of that war, but did not stand idly by and allow the South Koreans to be ravaged.

    When Truman left office the racial divide was great, protectionism was rampant and many did not want to come to the aid of the Koreans. That is what changed the viewpoints.

    Do you really think that at any time in history we’ll look back and say, isolating the US from the rest of the world is good?

    …that the Iraq war and the loss of life and over a trillion + dollars was justified?

    …that the collapse of our economy and housing markets is a good thing?

    …that our leadership in science was lost because our leaders don’t “believe” in it? Think thats not “a crisis in faith”!

    …that this has been the most inept federal government (see Katrina, Iraq, invasion of our privacy, suspension of rights, incredible deficits from a surplus)?

    After thinking about these things, I think the historians comments are pretty kind on W.

  8. April 4, 2008 at 11:52 am

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but what you and RHackett are claiming is there is no possibility historians will ever view Bush more favorably.

    And I’m certain there were political observers who made the same claims about Truman in the 1950s.

  9. Dan Chmielewski
    April 4, 2008 at 11:58 am

    what has Bush done right?

  10. Dan Chmielewski
    April 4, 2008 at 12:07 pm

    Matt —
    This report is a study by leading historians assessing the Bush presidency. They did the survey in 2004, and his numbers were better, not much, but better. Frankly, the more I learn about Ronald Reagan’s second term, I view him even more negatively.

    Using your own standard here about how historians views will change over time, Bill Clinton should be elevated to Sainthood given his impressive economic achievements, low crime, relative peace in the world and allies all around. He’ll always be admonished for Monica and for being impeached, but unlike Truman, we don’t have to wait decades to know that the attempt to remove him from office was grounded in pure politics.

    I would argue that Bill Clinton’s impeachment was the start of the Republican effort to win at all cost; if you can’t win at the ballot box, use whatever means necessary. Gray Davis’s recall is fully justified, but the recall effort against Jeff Dunham is a dirty political trick.

  11. April 4, 2008 at 12:17 pm

    Using your own standard here about how historians views will change over time, Bill Clinton should be elevated to Sainthood given his impressive economic achievements, low crime, relative peace in the world and allies all around.

    That’s not my standard. I didn’t say presidential reputations inevitably improve with time. I cited some cases where they have — dramatically. Sometimes they don’t change — look at Jimmy Carter.

    In 20 years, historians may still rank Bush poorly. Then again, they may not. I’m not arguing whether or not they should.

    I made very simple, straightforward point that everyone seems to be missing or avoiding addressing, and that is these kinds of surveys are very premature.

  12. RHackett
    April 4, 2008 at 12:50 pm

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but what you and RHackett are claiming is there is no possibility historians will ever view Bush more favorably.

    I probably won’t be around in 30 years. But to answer your question, yes, I believe there is no possibility historians will view Bush favorably. I’ll go one step further and state this presidency will be viewed as one of the worst in the last hundred years. And that includes Harding and Hoover.

  13. Dan Chmielewski
    April 4, 2008 at 1:10 pm

    what is more likely to happen Matt, is that Americans will equate George W. Bush’s presidency with that of U.S. Grant’s (which in my opinion wasa pretty bad); they won’t know a heck of a lot about it.

  14. Steven Greenhut
    April 4, 2008 at 3:59 pm

    I think George W. Bush is a horrendous president, especially if one believes in limited, constitutional government. That said, these historian ratings always have a strong political bias. Furthermore, historians tend to rank highly those presidents who expanded government or waged big wars rather than those, such as Grover Cleveland, who had a more traditional view of the federal government’s role.

  15. just...asking?
    April 4, 2008 at 4:18 pm


    These types of historical evaluations are based on point in time snapshots that can be changed as our viewpoints evolve, but as I typed before I don’t think Bush’s will change much.

    The reason is the actions of this administration are not defensible. In fact the further we get from the critical decisions of the Bush administration they appear worse. I would never say never, but short of a true miracle don’t see how his reputation could improve.

    We’ve had presidents who have performed poorly, but I can only think of Harrison who has made a less positive impact. But he died only a few weeks after innaguration. Maybe Andrew Johnson accomplished less as he completed Lincolns term under impeachment proceedings. But for a president that was elected, then re-elected, Bush II must certainly be the worse!

    Don’t think time or future historians will be any kinder to W.

  16. Dan Chmielewski
    April 4, 2008 at 4:22 pm

    I like Grover Cleveland; an upstate NY guy like me and he used to skinny dip in creeks and ponds around Greater Syracuse; imagine Hillary or McCain doing that!!!

  17. just...asking?
    April 4, 2008 at 4:26 pm


    There was nothing “skinny” about Grover Cleveland!

  18. Robin Marcario
    April 4, 2008 at 8:19 pm

    I concur with the majority opinion that President Bush, is the worst. The “W” is an appropriate acronym for Worst. Steve Greenhut states, “historians tend to rank highly those presidents who expanded government or waged big wars.” Certainly not is this case! He expanded spending and wasted money on two wars. One must ask, for whose benefit? Our worldwide reputation has been ruined as has our economy with the recordbreaking national debt.

  19. Bladerunner
    April 5, 2008 at 12:06 am

    Jubal–Of course any evaluation of a President before their term(s) is up is premature. but the evaluation can be accurate as to that point in time, somewhat like an opinion poll can be an accurate snapshot in time of opinon a specific topic. An evaluation of a President’s first term can be done at the end of the first term or 20 years later and may reach the same conclusion.

    I’m not sure why historians evaluate a president before their term is up–no matter how good or how bad the term has been, its seems academically sloppy to jump the gun and evaluate before finishing. A president may accomplish great things in their final year, or drag the country down that last year in a myriad of ways.

    I agree that the historical assessment of Bush II may change in years to come. Its possible but I would submit highly improbable. How the Iraq War is viewed 20 years from now is the only possible way to shift what I anticipate will be almost universal assignment of this president to the inner rings of presidential hell occupied by the the Hardings, Buchanans and Grant.

  20. Dan Chmielewski
    April 5, 2008 at 4:32 pm

    Robert Wuhl has a wonderful thread about awful presidents in his HBO special, “Assume the Position 201” good stuff for liberals and conservatives alike.

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