George W. Bush is among the five least accomplished U.S. presidents, according to a new survey by the U.S.’s top 238 leading presidential scholars. They have been polled by the Siena College Research Institute’s (SRI) annually for the last 28 years. While president Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who led the country from 1933 until his death in 1945, ranked first in overall accomplishments, former President Bush ranked worst among modern presidents –and the fifth worst in history.
According to the Survey of U.S. Presidents the top five, including Franklin D. Roosevelt, are Theodore Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.
The presidential scholars ranked the U.S. Presidents on six personal attributes (background, imagination, integrity, intelligence, luck and willingness to take risks); five forms of ability (compromising, executive, leadership, communication and overall abilities); and eight areas of accomplishment including domestic affairs, economic, working with Congress and their party, appointing supreme court justices and members of the executive branch, avoiding mistakes and foreign policy.
If one analyzes just the Bush administration approach to foreign policy, health care and human rights one may consider among the biggest foreign policy blunders the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The Bush administration blatantly ignored the advice from Gen. Eric Shinseki, who had estimated that several hundred thousand troops would be required to secure Iraq. Even more seriously, the war against Iraq was based, from the beginning, on false premises.
Vice President Dick Cheney repeatedly stated that Iraq was “the geographic base of the terrorists who have had us under assault for many years, but most especially on 9/11,” in spite of the fact that there was no evidence for such assertion. The bipartisan 9/11 Commission itself found that Iraq had no involvement in the 9/11 attacks and no collaborative operational relationship with Al Qaeda.
Compounding the wrongness of the approach towards Iraq is the right to initiate a preemptive war, flaunting international law. The 2006 updated National Security Strategy of the United States had established that, “….The greater the threat, the greater is the risk of inaction –and the more compelling the case for taking anticipatory action to defend ourselves, even if uncertainty remains as to the time and place of the enemy’s attack. There are few greater threats than a terrorist attack with WMD.”
As was clearly demonstrated not only did the government of Iraq not have any WMD, but at no point it could have been considered a threat to the United States, given the obvious difference in military capability between both countries. This was no impediment for former President Bush and his closest associates to continue using that rationale for the war against that country. That war and the justification for engaging in preemptive wars are among the most serious and damaging foreign policy decisions of the Bush administration.
If one analyzes the Bush presidency regarding its approach to health care one can find a policy of disregard for people’s health and support for corporate interests, which is, after all, only a reflection of the Bush administration decisions on almost all economic matters.
The Bush administration blocked efforts to allow Medicare to negotiate cheaper prescription drugs for seniors thus negatively affecting their health and quality of life, while simultaneously depriving American taxpayers of savings from the very marketplace competition touted by White House economists. The administration also went to court to block lawsuits by patients who had been injured by defective prescription drugs and medical devices. In addition, the General Accounting Office conducted a study that concluded that the Bush administration created illegal, covert propaganda to promote its industry-supported Medicare bill.
The Bush administration record on human rights is dismal. Who can forget the photos of prisoners’ abuse in Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq carried out by the U.S. Army and other U.S. governmental agencies and that have tainted forever the image of the U.S. as a defender of human rights? To compound the magnitude of the abuse, Janis Karpinsky, a commander at Abu Ghraib estimated later that 90% of the detainees in the prison were innocent.
Recently Physicians for Human Rights has uncovered evidence that indicates the Bush administration conducted illegal and unethical human experiments and carried out research on detainees in CIA custody. In addition, medical personnel engaged not only in torture of prisoners but also in the crime of illegal experimentation, activities in clear violation of the Nuremberg Code.
It would be naïve to think that all negative aspects of the Bush administration are the responsibility of former President Bush himself. He obviously is the face for members of his administration and others who were influencing policy decisions. But the ultimate responsibility falls on him. And he is the one that will have to respond to history for his actions.