Worst President Ever

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In a History News Network poll, 61 percent of historians say that George W. Bush has been the worst president ever. It's very hard to know what to make of these kind of questions. How can you possibly try to evaluate someone like, say, Andrew Jackson in contemporary terms?

At any rate, it will surprise no one to learn that I think Bush has been a very bad president. More interestingly, I also take the view that Bush is probably correct to think that history will remember him kindly. American presidents associated with big dramatic events tend to wind up with good reputations whether they deserve them or not. One possible Bush analogy would be to Woodrow Wilson, who did all kinds of things with regard to civil liberties that look indefensible today and whose foreign policy ended as a giant failure, but who was associated with both big events and with big ideas that were influential down the road. Someday, I bet there will be democracies in the Middle East and some future Republican president will figure out a way to put meat on the bones of "compassionate conservatism" and Bush 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.

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Matthew Yglesias is a former writer and editor at The Atlantic.

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