A Republican West Virginia officeholder told us privately that it's great to have a highly intelligent president like Barack Obama, after the disappointing intellect of his GOP predecessor.
George W. Bush's legacy is in the spotlight, with Thursday's dedication of his $250 million presidential library in Texas, and it's time to assess his standing in history.
We think he was the worst failure within current lifetimes, because he willfully launched the unnecessary Iraq War on untrue pretexts, killing 4,500 young Americans and costing taxpayers $1 trillion. He also tried to privatize Social Security -- and undercut worldwide birth control efforts -- and authorized torture -- and hobbled stem cell research because of fundamentalist objections -- and refused to join world pollution control plans -- and championed executions -- and deregulated the financial industry, triggering the Great Recession in 2007 -- etc., etc.
West Virginia's late Sen. Robert C. Byrd fought fiercely against Bush's craving for an Iraq invasion. Almost alone, Byrd gave fiery Senate floor speeches calling the White House warmongering a terrible mistake. Byrd's warnings spread by email around the world and were compiled into a book, Losing America: Confronting a Reckless and Arrogant Presidency.
As the Bush term progressed, many historians and national experts were sickened. Princeton University historian Sean Wilentz wrote that "George W. Bush's presidency appears headed for colossal historical disgrace." Columbia University historian Eric Foner proclaimed Bush "the worst president in U.S. history" because of "cronyism, corruption and pro-business bias."
Historian Douglas Brinkley wrote that "Bush will be forever handcuffed to the bottom rungs of the presidential ladder." In 2010, a survey of 238 presidential scholars ranked him 39th out of 43.
This week, a Washington Post column by Jonathan Bernstein was titled "History will not be kind to George W. Bush." It concluded that "he was overmatched by the job."
At Bush's gleaming Texas library, Iraq is included as part of the "global war on terror" -- but that's simply untrue. Iraq had no connection to terrorism. So the library continues to mislead Americans.Since leaving office, the 43rd president has been almost invisible, not even attending GOP national conventions. He's staying silent -- which probably is his wisest course.