Bush Was the Worst President of the Last 50 Years

On Thursday President Obama and the four living former presidents will travel to Dallas to dedicate the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum at Southern Methodist University. Everyone will no doubt say kind things about the 43rd president, who left office four years ago.

And a new Washington Post-ABC News poll showed a big improvement in his approval rating, from 33% when he left office to 47% now, while his negative ratings have shrunk from 66% then to 50% now. His approval rating, by the way, is equal to President Obama’s.

Yet I believe historians will view President Bush as the worst president of the last 50 years. This is a tough one for me, as I think President Nixon was a criminal who tried to trash the Constitution. But Nixon had some real accomplishments (the opening to China, the creation of the EPA), as opposed to President Bush, who barely had any.

Among those accomplishments:  His efforts to combat AIDS in Africa saved millions of lives. He supported efforts by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson to rescue the financial system in the midst of the 2008 crisis (though he did little to prevent it).

And he did keep the US safe from another terrorist incident after 9/11, although quite frankly, his Administration had ample warnings that one was coming in the months before the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

But the negative side of the balance sheet weighs far more heavily:

  • The Iraq War was a catastrophe. Yes, Saddam Hussein was deposed, but the Bush Administration handled it so badly it wound up being a huge blow to U.S. prestige. Iraq is now a mess, with bloody sectarian warfare, and is a reliable ally of Iran. And, oh yes, there were no weapons of mass destruction.
  • His administration’s obsession with Iraq caused him to take his eye off the ball in Afghanistan, where the small number of US troops war kept us from catching Osama bin Laden or crippling the Taliban early on. Twelve years later, we face another long-term defeat in that benighted country.


Former President George W. Bush spoke at a conference in New York in April 2013. Photo: Howard R. Gold/The Independent Agenda.

Former President George W. Bush spoke at a conference in New York in April 2013. Photo: Howard R. Gold/The Independent Agenda.

  • In the name of the War on Terror, the Bush Administration authorized warrantless wiretapping, renditions to secret prisons overseas, detention without due process, and torture, severely eroding the Constitution and violating international law.
  • The president also promoted the Medicare prescription drug plan, which had no source of funding. The cost to taxpayers so far: $300 billion and counting.
  • And then there was Katrina. The president’s confused, delayed response to the disaster shocked the nation and his backing of an incompetent like FEMA director Michael “Heck of a Job” Brown paralleled his support for the even more dangerously inept Donald Rumsfeld and Iraq administrator Paul Bremer.

I could go on—the Terry Schiavo fiasco, the failed effort to push through partial Social Security privatization just before the stock market crashed, etc., etc.

But why bother? Anybody looking at President Bush’s record objectively must come to a similar conclusion: He was simply the worst president of the last 50 years.

If they want to win again, Republicans will have to renounce his legacy just as they needed to exorcise the ghost of Herbert Hoover.


4 Responses to Bush Was the Worst President of the Last 50 Years

  1. Eduardo April 26, 2013 at 1:44 pm #

    I voted for him in 2000, but don’t disagree with you, except I would add that he had to preside over the most traumatic event for the U.S. in the last 50 years, the 9/11 attack. I think that day changed the presidency, the neocons took over the foreign policy agenda, and the Fed and Treasury opened at full blast the liquidity hose; both with catastrophic consequences.

    Another factor rarely mentioned is that he took over very soon after the implosion of the dot.com bubble fomented by the Clinton administration, so he was already dealing with a weak economy even prior to 9/11. I think G.W. Bush would have been an inconsequential 4-year President if not for 9/11. What 9/11 did, was to expose his limitations. He just doesn’t have the intellectual capacity to make decisions at that extremely high level, yet we put him in charge, so at the end of the day, as always, it’s on us.

    • HowardRGold April 26, 2013 at 4:48 pm #


      Well said and I agree, he was out of his depth and was badly manipulated by the tag team of Cheney and Rumsfeld.

      As for whether \”we\” put him in, remember, he lost the popular vote and won the Electoral College by the grace of the Supreme Court, then governed as if he had a bigger mandate than Ronald Reagan.

      All in all, a disaster for our country from which we haven\’t yet recovered.

      Thanks for reading us and taking the time to comment,

      • ebrandt April 29, 2013 at 8:19 pm #

        Yes, I agree with your point. Thanks for the blog, very informative and well researched, I know you have other commitments, I have no idea how you find the time.

        • HowardRGold April 30, 2013 at 4:04 pm #

          Thanks for your kind words. TIA is a labor of love, so I make the time.

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