According to recent public opinion polls, only one third or fewer of those surveyed approve of President Bush's overall job performance. More startlingly, about one quarter consider George W. Bush to be the worst president in U.S. history. If these respondents took the time to look closer at other U.S. presidents, however, they might well rank them even lower than they rank Bush, as Independent Institute Senior Fellow Ivan Eland suggests in his latest op-ed.
Eland offers a litany of costly mistakes, bad precedents, and unconstitutional abuses by previous U.S. presidents. James Polk, for example, lied to get Congress to declare a war to grab land from Mexico. William McKinley permanently expanded the president's power at the expense of Founder's vision of the balance of power between the three branches of the federal government, and he also turned the anti-colonial United States into a colonizer in the Philippines and in other lands formerly occupied by Spain. Woodrow Wilson plunged the country into World War I and helped set in motion a chain of causation that would lead to World War II. In addition, writes Eland, "Wilson's violations of civil liberties during World War I were the worst in U.S. history and make Bush's look fairly mild." Harry Truman enshrined Wilsonian interventionism, permanently burying the traditional U.S. foreign policy of military restraint. Eland also takes Truman to task for intentionally bombing civilians in World War II and the Korean war, unconstitutionally fighting the Korean War without a formal declaration, laying the groundwork for the first large permanent peacetime army in U.S. history, and more.
"Make no mistake," Eland concludes. "George W. Bush has been a horrible president and is one of the worst in U.S. history. But of the 42 men who have served as president, these four men--Polk, McKinley, Wilson, and Truman--were probably worse."
"Is George W. Bush the Worst President in U.S. History?" by Ivan Eland (9/13/08)
Also see, "To Make War, Presidents Lie," by Robert Higgs (10/1/2002)
"No More 'Great Presidents,'" by Robert Higgs (The Free Market, 5/1/97)
The Empire Has No Clothes: U.S. Foreign Policy Exposed (Updated Edition), by Ivan Eland
Center on Peace & Liberty (Ivan Eland, Director)