George W Bush
Owen Dudley Edwards
The question "who is the worst US president" is something I have thought long and hard about and the answer is very simple: it is the incumbent president. I had previously thought that Nixon was the worst and there were other candidates such as Warren Harding - but they all pale in comparison to Bush. He has displaced all his predecessors. Nobody has beenquite asappalling. Immediately after 9/ 11, he went running like a rat. Every other president would have behaved differently. Theodore Roosevelt had several bullets shot into him in 1912 but he insisted on speaking. Ronald Reagan made jokes after he was shot in an assassination attempt. The whole point of a president is that it is his duty to rally the country in times of adversity. But Bush went into hiding. Then there was Osama bin Laden, who had actually been on the payroll of the CIA. What the situation needed was the clearest statement in relation to why this was the case and when they stopped payments and how this would never happen again.
In terms of the war, this demonstrated the very worst morality. There was an ongoing investigation under the United Nations at the time he went into Iraq. This didn't stop the US - he went in while Hans Blix, the UN's chief weapons inspector, was still investigating.
That war was illegal and anyone attempting to defend him must recognise this. He has not redeemed himself in any way since. His statements are intellectually contemptible and morally banal. And as a Christian, I find it intolerable that he constantly prostitutes Christianity. Even most recently, in order to prove he was not a fool, he proclaimed himself a liar. What kind of a president is that? The office has never been lowered to such levels of disrepute.
Bush has shown himself to be a hypocrite and a coward. He has undone a great deal of good work for US inhabitants. He has shown himself to be a man who is more anxious with the profit of his power than the long-term benefits to his people. After an excellent record from US presidents comes this wretched man. These are the lowest depths to which the presidency has plunged.
The amazing thing about America is how many presidents have been good, not how many have been terrible. Never underestimate America or its leaders.
Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan were all dismissed at the time - but all made huge contributions to the West's security, and above all Europe. To dismiss George Bush as the worst is as absurd as it is fashionable. Afghanistan is still fragile but it is a far better place for the majority of its people than it was under the Taliban, whom Bush (and Blair) ousted.
Bush had the courage, which always failed Bill Clinton, to deal with Saddam Hussein. If that had happened in the early Nineties, Iraq and the world would have been a better place. Clinton himself, a president who had great potential which he never realised, declared in 1998 that the West must confront Saddam then. But he still failed to do it.
Of course there have been dire mistakes made since the overthrow of Saddam in 2003. Perhaps above all we underestimated the vicious, nihilistic brutality of Islamist rage.
But, notwithstanding the present horror, Iraqis I know say they still have a chance to build a decent future for their children, which they never had under Saddam and his vicious, psychopath sons. If Bush can persevere and enable Iraqis to defeat Islamist totalitarianism, he will be remembered as a great president.
Jimmy Carter was probably the most disappointing post-war president, but probably Calvin Coolidge has even less to show for his time.
William Shawcross is a historian and author of Allies - Why the West had to remove Saddam
George W Bush
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