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Worst President in America History Is Trying to Spin His Nightmare Legacy
Are you ready for the George W. Bush comeback tour?
April 24, 2013 | Salon / By Joan Walsh
Americans are a forgiving and forgetting people. That’s all that can explain the rise in George W. Bush’s approval ratings since he left office in 2009. Back then, he had the lowest approval rating of any departing president since Richard Nixon (who departed in a helicopter after resigning in disgrace) with a 33 percent overall approval rating. Only 24 percent of Americans approved of his handling of the recession-bound economy. As recently as last November’s election, more voters blamed Bush than President Obama for the country’s ongoing economic woes.
Now, on the eve of the opening of his presidential library and an apparent Bush-rehabilitation tour, starting with a Diane Sawyer interview Wednesday night, Bush faces a kinder, gentler American public. According to a new ABC News/Washington Post poll, Americans are now split on the former president, with 47 percent approving of his performance and 50 percent disapproving. He’s still underwater, as the pollsters say, but that’s not a bad jump in four years. He’s even climbed on the economy, with 43 percent now approving of the job he did, while 57 percent stayed tethered to the reality-based community, and still disapprove.
Bush has even climbed among Democrats: 25 percent approve of the job he did, up from only 6 percent when he left office. (Who says Democrats are haters?)
What’s going on? And will Bush’s comeback tour bump his numbers up even more, which would be some rare good news for the broken, embattled Republican Party?
50 Reasons You Despised George W. Bush's Presidency: A Reminder on the Day of His Presidential Library Dedication, He's one of the worst presidents ever.
April 24, 2013 |
On Thursday, President Obama and all four living ex-presidents will attend the dedication of the $500 million George W. Bush Presidential Library at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. Many progressives will remember Bush as a contender for the "worst president ever," saying he more aptly deserves a multi-million-dollar prison cell for a litany of war crimes.
Amazingly, the Bush library seeks to ask visitors "What would you have done?" if you were in this president’s shoes. The ex-president’s defenders are betting that the public will reconsider their judgments after a hefty dose of historical amnesia. Bush has been absent from political debates in recent years, instead making millions in private speeches. Today, his popularity is even with Obama's; both have 47 percent approval rating.
Let’s look at 50 reasons, some large and some small, why W. inspired so much anger.
1. He stole the presidency in 2000. People may forget that Republicans in Florida purged more than 50,000 African-American voters before Election Day, and then went to the Supreme Court where the GOP-appointed majority stopped a recount...
2. Bush’s lies started in that race.
3. He covered up his past. He was a party boy...
4. He loved the death penalty.
5. He was a corporate shill from Day 1.
6. He gutted global political progress.
7. He embraced global isolationism. He withdrew from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, over Russia’s protest, taking the U.S. in a direction not seen since World War I.
8. He ignored warnings about Osama bin Laden.
9. Ramped up war on drugs, not terrorists.
10. “My Pet Goat.” He kept reading a picture book to grade-schoolers for seven minutes after his top aides told him that the World Trade Centers had been attacked in 9/11. Then Air Force One flew away from Washington, D.C., vanishing for hours after the attack.
11. Squandered global goodwill after 9/11.
12. Bush turned to Iraq not Afghanistan.
13. Attacked United Nation weapons inspectors.
14. He flat-out lied about Iraq’s weapons.
15. He ignored the U.N. and launched a war.
16. Abandoned international Criminal Court.
17. Colin Powell’s false evidence at U.N.
18. He launched a war on CIA whistleblowers.
19. Bush pardoned the Plame affair leaker.
20. Bush launched the second Iraq War.
21. Baghdad looted except for oil ministry. The Pentagon failure to plan for a military occupation...
22. The war did not make the U.S. safer.
23. U.S. troops were given unsafe gear. From inadequate vests...
24. Meanwhile, the war propaganda continued. From landing on an aircraft carrier...
25. He never attended soldiers' funerals.
26. Meanwhile, war profiteering surged.
27. Bush ignored international ban on torture.
28. Created the blackhole at Gitmo and renditions.
29. Bush violated U.S. Constitution as well.
30. Iraq war created federal debt crisis. The total costs of the Iraq and Afghan wars will reach between $4 trillion and $6 trillion...
31. He cut veterans’ healthcare funding. At the height of the Iraq war...
32. Then Bush decided to cut income taxes... disproportionately benefited the wealthy...
33. Assault on reproductive rights.
34. Cut Pell Grant loans for poor students.
35. Turned corporations loose on environment. Bush’s environmental record was truly appalling...
36. Said evolution was a theory—like intelligent design.
37. Misguided school reform effort. Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” initiative...
38. Appointed flank of right-wing judges. Bush’s two Supreme Court picks—Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justice Samuel Alito...
39. Gutted the DOJ’s voting rights section. Bush’s Justice Department appointees led a multi-year effort to prosecute so-called voter fraud, including firing seven U.S. attorneys who did not pursue overtly political cases because of lack of evidence.
40. Meanwhile average household incomes fell.
41. And millions more fell below the poverty line.
42. Poverty among children also exploded.
43. Millions more lacked access to healthcare.
44. Bush let black New Orleans drown. Hurricane Katrina exposed Bush’s attitude toward the poor...
45. Yet pandered to religious right.
46. Set record for fewest press conferences.
47. But took the most vacation time. Reporters analyzing Bush’s record found that he took off 1,020 days...
48. Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld. Not since Richard Nixon’s...
49. He’s escaped accountability for his actions. From Iraq...
50. He may have stolen the 2004 election as well. The closest Bush came to a public referendum on his presidency...
Any bright spots? Conservatives will lambaste lists like this for finding nothing good about a president like W. So, yes, he created the largest ocean preserve offshore from Hawaii in his second term. And in his final year in office, his initiative to fight AIDS across Africa has been credited with saving many thousands of lives. But on balance, George W. Bush was more than eight years of missed opportunities for America and the world. He was a disaster, leaving much of America and the world in much worse shape than when he took the oath of office in 2001. His reputation should not be resurrected or restored or seen as anything other than what it was.
Steven Rosenfeld covers democracy issues for AlterNet and is the author of "Count My Vote: A Citizen's Guide to Voting" (AlterNet Books, 2008).