Another ‘Historian’ Poll: Bush Will Rank at Bottom in Presidential History

-By Warner Todd Huston

Here we go again with another pointless Bush bashing presidential rating story filled with quotes from partisan, hack “historians.” In this report, Bush doesn’t have “many achievements” and will finish “mired in an unpopular war” unless, of course, that war mysteriously happens to “unexpectedly” turn out all right and he is “destined for the failed presidents’ club.” Forget the fact that what a president does in office will not be assessable for at least 10 years after he leaves office, forget that these historians change their ideas on who is a good president every decade, forget that these “historians” are part of the far left University system we are saddled with. These “ranking” stories are always full of partisan left nonsense and this one is no different.

After recounting how Harry S Truman supposedly “came back from the political abyss” to become a highly ranked president, McClatchy news finds no reason to expect Bush to make that transformation.

Will history really give Bush the Truman bounce? Several historians doubt it, noting that no other president other than the former haberdasher from Independence, Mo., has received such a 180-degree revision to the benefit of his legacy.

McClatchy apparently is unaware that Truman has only gotten that “bounce” in the last few years. In fact, while president, he went through some pretty tough times as the newspapers and radio reporters raked him over the coals repeatedly. He almost lost his bid for a full term of his own with former vice president Henry Wallace running on a third party ticket.

In any case, McClatchy’s partisan “historian” is sure Bush is cooked, even as his presidency isn’t yet over.

“I don’t think any president has had as significant a re-evaluation as Truman,” said Columbia University historian Alan Brinkley. “(Dwight) Eisenhower has risen in historical evaluation quite a lot, but not to the same degree. (James) Polk was once ranked much higher than he now usually is. I suspect (Ronald) Reagan will fluctuate a good deal over time.”

He suspects Reagan will “fluctuate”? Most likely that is because he hopes Reagan’s new found high ranking for winning the Cold War is forgotten, that’s for sure. This Brinkley fellow reveals his political point of view with his last comment about how he feels, in true Harry Reid, cut-and-run fashion, that the Iraq war is already lost.

Bush, Brinkley said, “does not seem to me to have many achievements that would earn him a high ranking — again, unless the Iraq war turns out, unexpectedly, to be successful in the long term.”

The war could only go well “unexpectedly” according to this fellow who is obviously not paying any attention to current events.

Every time we see these ridiculous stories, I hark back to the fact that from the 1820’s until about the 1920s Andrew Jackson was considered one of the most famous presidents we ever had. How many “Jackson” towns, counties, schools, streets, and other such named municipal buildings do we have across America? “Historians” thought Jackson the best president ever until the PC idea that his owning slaves and fighting Indians made him persona non grata. Now, no matter what he did as president, his name is anathema to these so-called historians all his work forgotten, shunned even, despite the fact that his name is so ubiquitous across the country –now with no one even knowing why thanks to these “historians.”

These Charles Beard/Anthony Zini influenced America haters have no standing by which to be believed. They are almost universally uneducated enough to assess economic history and this makes them completely useless in assessing any president after Andrew Jackson destroyed the Second Bank of the US. Worse, few if any of them have the slightest clue about Constitutional history and interpretation. The proof of this is the fact that these so-called historians continue to rank Franklin Roosevelt as one of our presidential “greats.”

Roosevelt was a socialist in everything but name. He destroyed our Constitution, ruined the economy, made the Great Depression last a decade longer than it had to, he did nothing about Civil Rights, and lied our way into WWII. His “legacy” is high taxes, welfare, a broken and unconstitutional social security system and a Supreme Court run amuck. But to the extreme leftists in our Universities he is a great president despite all the harm he did to our nation.

So, when we see these ridiculous presidential ranking stories, we can dismiss them as so much pointless fluff filled with mere partisan positions because the so-called historians they come to for their rankings are unqualified to make such a determination.

In closing, though, I’d like to praise this story in one aspect. They quote the great Forrest McDonald in their story. McDonald is a true historian, so the McClatchy newspapers did find one real historian to quote in their story. In keeping with his excellence, his opinion was the only one in the story that made any sense.

“It’s going to take two generations before anyone can make judgment on the success or failure of his presidency,” recalled Forrest McDonald, a professor emeritus from the University of Alabama, a conservative and a highly regarded presidential historian, who attended the meeting. “You figure that it usually takes one generation, 20 years. He says it’s going to take 40. It was a strange stance to me.”

Bush has publicly stated on several occasions that the true history of his presidency will be written long after he is dead.

McDonald said the jury is still out on the Bush presidency, that it “could go either way between favorable and unfavorable.”

Just so, Mr. McDonald and an attaboy to McClatchy for finding at least one reputable and brilliant historian to quote in their otherwise useless story. Naturally, this bit is buried at the end of the story with most that precedes it being a Bush-bashing extravaganza, predictable so, I suppose.

The sad thing is, that we get these foolish stories every so often presenting these so-called “historians” as if the “history” they present is a scientific venture. But the entire concept of asking historians about their opinions on current events is such that you end up with just that: opinions, not fact.

These stories all too often present these historians as if they have no personal agendas and no mere uninformed or partisan opinions that might affect their thoughts on current events. Nothing, however, could be farther from the truth. Even more to the point, asking an historian about current events does not even take advantage of his profession. An historian makes his living by reviewing past events, analyzing the letters diaries and records of the era in question, and gathering the disparate results created from an historical event or personality into a coherent description of the past. All this requires all events and materials to be far enough in the past for that analysis to approach full measure.

Current events, however, cannot necessarily be analyzed using the historian’s capabilities. So, to ask an historian about current events does not necessarily result in a measured analysis of that event, but can more often be a mere opinion as opposed to fact. In the end, one cannot necessarily trust an historian’s opinion about current events any more than anyone else’s.

Yet, over and over again we get these stories presented as if the opinions of historians is an outright, incontrovertible fact. And all too often a gullible public assumes that it is.
Warner Todd Huston’s thoughtful commentary, sometimes irreverent often historically based, is featured on many websites such as,, men’ and among many, many others. Additionally, he has been a guest on several radio programs to discuss his opinion editorials and current events. He has also written for several history magazines and appears in the new book “Americans on Politics, Policy and Pop Culture” which can be purchased on He is also the owner and operator of Feel free to contact him with any comments or questions : EMAIL Warner Todd Huston

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