Ranking Presidents

Every few years the Sienna College Research Institute conducts a survey of historians to rank the US presidents. they just finished the latest round since 2002. Anyone who follows politics in the US even a little will probably have heard Bush or his supporters saying how history will judge his legacy kindly. Well, history has a long way to go:

Worst Ever: A. Johnson, Buchanan, Harding, Pierce and G.W. Bush

Bush was ranked 5th worst of all time.

Now that alone is pretty bad... but frankly if I was surprised by anything it was that he managed to come in that high. So I decided to figure out why. It's just... sad.

The rankings were conducted based on 20 independent criteria... these were Bush's rankings in each (out of 43):

Now, there are 3 categories he did uncharacteristically well on relative to his general performance... and 2 he did somewhat better on. Let's take them in order.

Bush's Great Presidential Strength
Criteria # 7. Bush's top score out of all 20 criteria evaluated. He ranked 18th out of 43 on this one. It was....


I shit you not.

Now I'm not sure which to be more dumbfounded about... that this criteria was used at all, or that this ended up being Bush's strong point. How exactly is "luckiness" a defining quality of how good a president is at their job? Do people think if you're good you somehow create luck? And how in the world were the historians surveyed supposed to evaluate how "lucky" the presidents were anyway? "Well... the midwest wasn't struck by a rogue asteroid during Reagan's administration, gosh that's pretty lucky..."??? And that aside... BUSH... LUCKY? Lucky to what... get elected to a second term? What the hell else "lucky" happened to the guy? Lucky 9/11 happened on his watch? Lucky the WMDs weren't actually there? Lucky he never stumbled across Osama? Lucky the financial sector imploded before he managed to leave office? Lucky that hurricane hit New Orleans and gave him the opportunity to showcase his adminstration's mad emergency management skills? WHAT was he lucky about?

Ok... 18th isn't exactly saying he's history's luckiest president or anything, but still... you have got to be kidding me.

Bush's Other Great Strength

Criteria # 9. This one was right behind luck, Bush came in at 19th out of 43 on this one. And it was...

Willing To Take Risks

Oh for the love of...

Ok, let me explain something to the people making this poll. "Risk taking" CAN be a good thing. But it's just a little tiny bit dependent on some other factors. For example, you probably don't want to take STUPID risks. Being willing to take STUPID risks is bad, not good. So sure, give me a highly intelligent risk taker who knows when to roll the dice. Oh look! One of the criteria was "Intelligence"! Let's see, criteria #18, well let's just see how Bush sco... ugh...

FORTY SECOND. Out of 43 freaking presidents. Somehow Harding managed to beat him to the bottom of the list on this one.

Well ok... you say he's dumb as a brick but he's lucky! Remember? He'll just fluke into avoiding the rally big critical mistakes when he takes all these risks! So this will totally pay off! Wait... what? "Ability To Avoid Critical Errors" was a category too? Great! Criteria # 19... we'll just go look at how he scored there and....

THIRTY EIGHTH. Thirty eighth out of forty three presidents. This guy never met a crucial mistake he didn't want to get to know better.

Ok, so the mentally challenged guy who can't avoid making crucial mistakes is willing to take risks... who thinks this should be considered a strength?

Moving on...

Bush's 3rd and-4th Greatest Presidential Strengths

Criteria #2: Party Leadership: 23/43
Criteria #4: Relationship With Congress:  32/43

This just keeps getting worse.

Ok.. .so now we have the second least intelligent president in history who couldn;t avoid making a critical error to save his life but is totally willing to take risks... who has some moderate skill at convincing his party and the Congress to follow him over the cliff.

Wow. And these are his relative STRENGTHS. These pulled his average UP.

The only other criteria Bush scored out of the bottom 6 on... and that just barely, was criteria #1. Background (Education, experience, etc...). Lot of good that did us. 

The bottom line is that I have difficulty imagining a more disastrous combination of factors then the ones we just saw listed here. If the nation had had an error prone moron who at least KNEW that and avoided taking risks it probably would have muddled through only mildly traumatized. Or if the country had an error prone moron who was clueless about that but who was also completely incompetent at persuading Congress to go along with his idiocy the damage might have been contained.

But no... the U.S. got Bush. The walking disaster idiot savant.


  1. Thanks for coming over and commenting.

    Not to worry, W will go even lower as time goes on.
    His crimes, and folly have not been totally revealed to the sheeple yet. All in good time my friend. All in good time.
    His administration set this planet back for decades.
    Now Obama is continuing the race to the bottom.

  2. While I'm far from entirely satisfied with Obama's conduct since taking office I don't think characterizing it as continuing Bush's trajectory is a rational evaluation of what is occuring.

    I'd prefer the Iraq withdrawal was on the original schedule... but it is at least progressing.

    I would have preferred a stimulus measure focused on infrastructure spending instead of wasting half of it on tax cuts as a sop to the Republicans who refused to vote for the thing anyway... but at least we got a stimulus (as opposed to "spending freeze" McCain who would have plunged us into massive depression)

    Single Payer Health Care would have been immeasurably superior to the "reform" that actually ended up passing... but what was passed *was* better than nothing.

    US international relations still need work but are immeasurably improved from what they were 2 years ago.


  3. Is there any thing "rational" about his Afghan policy?
    The Iraqi withdrawal will not be a complete withdrawal. We will have any where from 20 to 50K troops there. Unless the Iraqi's tell us that all of them have to leave. Which is what Al Sadr is advocating.
    The Obama Bamkster reform and Health Care reform was written by and for the Corps.
    They have done NOTHING for Main St.
    Obama's foreign policy is a "irrational" .
    He still allows Israel to lead us around by the nose.
    An American citizen was murdered [execution style] on the Freedom Flotilla for Gaza. And the O Team said nothing.
    China and the Arab world are separating themselves from this Administration.
    If one takes the Obama administration on it's own merit. And does not compare it to what Mc Cain would have or would not have done.
    Then that would be "rational".
    The "rational" conclusion then would be that Obama has failed on all fronts.

    He has not closed Gitmo as promised.
    Single payer was never on the table as far as they were concerned.
    He did not bring up comprehensive immigration reform in his first year as promised.
    He was against offshore oil drilling during the campaign.
    As president he was for offshore drilling.
    Their idea of being "rational" is compromising with the far right and the Corps.

  4. I'm not a particular fan of his Afghan policy, the resources being committed there are wildly out of proportion to any possible benefit to be realized. On the other hand he has also set withdrawal goals for that conflict as well, which is moving in the right direction at least. No?

    The Iraq withdrawal may or may not end up being complete eventually. I have little doubt there will be many troops lingering on for a long time to come. But again, ratcheting down the troop levels and pulling resources out of the area is the right direction to be moving in. No?

    Saying the bank and health care reform was written "for the Corps" is wildly over-reacting to not getting everything you wanted out of it. Hyperbole can sometimes be useful as political propaganda but please try to be objective. It falls ridiculously short of what I would like to have seen accomplished but banning rescission, banning pre-existing coverage exclusions, etc... is not exactly pandering to the health insurance industry. And I'm not sure exactly how you come to the conclusion that the financial reform bill was written for the banksters.

    As for doing "NOTHING" for main street... several hundred billion dollars in infrastructure spending, benefits extensions, state transfer payments to keep public sector layoffs under control, etc... is a very very long way from "nothing".

    Yes, US policy with respect to Isreal continues to be ridiculous. No argument there. However Isreal is hardly the extent of the international foreign policy arena and to argue that Obama's foreign policy in general has continued in Bush's shoes is an indefensible position.


    I find that a great many people on the left have a tendency to divide politians into "You give me everything I want" and "YOU ARE A TOTAL FAILURE/THE ENEMY." There is space between those two positions. Overall Obama has pushed policy in a progressive direction. No, not in every instance. And no, not to the extent real progressives want... but you have to try and differentiate between magnitude and direction of vectors. Changes not being the magnitude you want doesn't mean we're going the wrong way.

  5. Obama is not a liberal, or a progressive. He is far from it.
    He throws the democrat base a bone, and they go licking their chops.

    We will be in Afghanistan longer than we will be in Iraq. July 2011 will never come. And you are kidding yourself if you believe that we will withdraw then.
    They are working the news cycle to the hilt. Knowing that the voter has no memory span.
    It is not me. It was his rhetoric of Hope and Change that he flip flopped on.
    I admit that I am a RADICAL progressive. Change does not come by compromising with the enemy of NO. It comes from leadership and a vision for the future.

    What infrastructure has he started on? This country is falling apart. He had a couple of shovel ready photo ops jobs prepared for the press. That is all.
    The lag time is what is killing this country. The stimulus should have been much higher.
    The jobs bill was a joke. I think it was 18 billion. OMG we spill more than that in Afghanistan in one month.
    The Banksters are still not lending. Their bonuses continue. Their casino agenda continues.
    The dems in charge have shoved nothing through with out first appeasing the rethugs, and getting a nod from the Corps. They are giving the Federal Reserve even more power than before. If that is even possible.
    Obama is now a war president of choice. He is standing in the shadows of LBJ.

  6. W's shoes are easily defensible.
    Obama did not keep Gates once, he kept him TWICE.
    He kept Patreus and then gave him all of Afghanistan.
    Hillary is a war hawk.
    Biden is a self proclaimed Zionist.
    Obama is giving the Defense [Offense] Dept. More funds than W did. Unilateral Iran sanctions are under way. He did not turn over the forces in S/Korea as promised. Using the Cheonan incident as an excuse.

    Where do you see that Obama is less of a hawk than W/Cheney?

  7. Dude, slow down. You're just throwing out lists of items any one of which would take an entire comment-section-sized post to even begin to properly discuss.

    How about we take this one item at a time...

    First: Afghanistan.

    As I said, I am not a fan of his Afghanistan policy. The commitment of resources is completely indefensible given there is absolutely no plausible potential benefit that even remotely is worth the cost.

    I also find it entirely likely that the withdrawal will not happen on schedule. They pretty much never do. The point is to have a goal to work towards so you at least make some progress.

    THAT SAID... he has set a withdrawal goal. And he is working towards it, whether he's actually going to *hit* it or not. Do you deny either of those points?

    And is laying the groundwork for withdrawal not the proper direction to be moving? As opposed to the GOP "we have to stay until we 'WIN'!!!!" idiocy?

  8. I am obsessed with Afghanistan, and the endless wars without borders agenda that America has placed upon us. This "withdrawal goal" that you refer to is not a goal. It is lip service. They wanted the 30K troop surge. Obama has added over 50K troops since he has been in office. He called Afghanistan a "justified war". Justified because he says so?
    Most of the articles that I post concern Af/Pak or the M/E/. Have you read this one?
    I am 60 y/o. I think part of our debate centers around our age difference. I am sure you are more book educated than I am. I only graduated from high school.
    But I have no faith at all in any of our politicians because I think they are all the same. They all bow to the same pay masters. And the American people are not their pay masters. Do not be surprised if we OVERTLY enter combat troops in Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, or the Stans.

  9. Yes, Obama added troops after he came into office. He campaigned on adding troops, he said a thousand times if he was elected he would add troops, and he added troops.

    Now he's saying we're giving the "surge" some time to have some effect (or not, I'm leaning towards not) then we're getting out.

    I'm not sure what our educational backgrounds have to do with the issue... and as for the question of life experience, if the argument you are really making is "well, Obama isn't really doing what he seems to be doing because I've learned you can't trust politicians" I really don't know how I'm supposed to be expected to respond to that.