And 61% say that he is the worst president ever, according to the History News Network. Matt Yglesias points out that somewhere down the line Bush’s terrible legacy will be rewritten, or written over, and he “will be looked upon as a far-sighted figure who made some mistakes in a difficult period of time. Will he deserve a good reputation? No. Will he get one? I’d say yes.”
A few weeks ago during my Spring Break I went to the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library in West Branch, IA, where I received a personal tour of the museum and the archives. (Why? Because that’s the kind of stuff I like to do over Spring Break.) The archivist whom I was speaking with discussed Hoover’s business career, his humanitarian aid to Europe during World War I, and his commitment to world peace. In the very brief discussion of the Great Depression, the archivist told me that some of Hoover’s social policies created an important foundation for FDR’s New Deal. I didn’t (and still don’t) know enough about Hoover to really disagree.
My point is this: People will undoubtedly try to whitewash the Bush presidency. There will be attempts to highlight his strengths (though I don’t know what they are) and downplay his weaknesses (of which there are many). This is the work of apologists and revisionists. But a few hacks at the Hoover Library haven’t succeeded in turning around Hoover’s name. It’s hard to imagine that they could do the same for Bush.
Of course, there are differences between Hoover and Bush. I think that 9/11 will necessarily color our collective recollection of George W. and his administration, possibly lending him a degree of sympathy for the hardship that he faced. Nonetheless, the overall effects of the Bush Administration have been superlatively terrible for America and the world. I don’t expect people to forget that too quickly.