Friday, April 04, 2008

61% of "Professional Historians" Are Morons -- and One Is a Particular Retard

HNN reports that 61% of "professional historians" opine that George W. Bush is "the worst [president] in the nation’s history." I would fulminate about this, but Robert K.C. Johnson has already done so:
I fear this finding says more about the groupthink that dominates the contemporary academy than it does about Bush's poor performance in office.

Consider the competition: 61 percent of polled historians consider Bush to have been a worse president than James Buchanan. That's the same Buchanan who: at the least benefited from and at the most surreptitiously schemed with Chief Justice Taney to produce the Dred Scott decision; tried to uphold a pro-slavery Kansas constitution; sought to acquire Cuba, with the expectation that the island could produce more slave states; tried to initiate a presidential war against Paraguay; and sat idly by as the Southern states seceded.

We expect historians, of all people, to eschew presentism in favor of some historical perspective. It's hard to see much historical perspective in a claim that Bush was a worse president than Buchanan.

Some of the rationalizations for the assertion that Bush was worse than Buchanan? Bush is "glib, contemptuous, ignorant, incurious, a dupe of anyone who humors his deluded belief in his heroic self," said one. "Just an immoral man," added another. A third: "Bush does only two things well. He knows how to make the very rich very much richer, and he has an amazing talent for f**king up everything else he even approaches."

Not exactly the most academic of analysis.

But one other "professional historian" made a particular ass of himself:
At least two of those who ranked the current president in the 31-41 ranking made it clear that they placed him next-to-last, with only James Buchanan, in their view, being worse. “He is easily one of the 10-worst of all time and—if the magnitude of the challenges and opportunities matter—then probably in the bottom five, alongside Buchanan, Johnson, Fillmore, and Pierce,” wrote another historian.

Placing Millard Fillmore on this list only demonstrates that the alleged historian doesn't know the slightest thing about that fine man.

Try my posts Millard Fillmore, Decisive Strategist and Millard Fillmore, Fulcrum of History, or simply click on the "Millard Fillmore" tag at the right side of the page.



  1. Anonymous4:24 PM

    I'm confounded by how similarly we seem to view and interpret the past (both in terms of the method employed and the conclusions reached) and how differently we view the Bush administration.

    From a certain perspective, one that judges a President by his ability to implement his preferred policy decisions, I'd say that George W. Bush has been remarkably successful (and as a corollary, that the Democratic congress has been remarkably ineffective as an opposition Party).

    However, judging by the results of the policy decisions implemented, I fall into that group of people who believe that George W. Bush deserves consideration as being among the worst president in the history of the United States.

    That's a very bold and broad statement however, and I think it would be hard for almost anyone to know enough about all of our past Presidents and their effect on our nation's trajectory to have a truly educated opinion on that.

    I would like to hear your take on James Buchanan versus George Bush and what each could have done differently to have been a better president. Thats sufficiently well defined to make for an interesting conversation. I'll take a shot at it if you will.....

    Thanks for the McClintock tip, btw. Just finished the book and learned a lot. I know a great deal about the decisions for secession (it was me that suggested the Michael P. Johnson book to you, for example) but I've never known much about the decision for war.


  2. Decon,

    Good to hear from you. Thanks for the book -- excellent, as you said.

    On rating presidents, I don't begrudge anyone their opinions. What I dislike is alleged historians presenting personal, political opinions and suggesting that they are something else -- i.e., informed judgments based on their claimed historical training and expertise. Rubbish. For myself, I think it's foolish to claim there is any perspective on "best" or "worst" until, say, 25 or even 50 years have passed. Basically, my "best" and "worst" musings end with Eisenhower!

    I think this is particularly true with Dubya. In my view, we are facing a long-term war against an intolerant, implacable and fascistic enemy, who would be happy to kill me without a second thought, and a president who is willing to fight them and kill them gets a thumbs up from me. Maybe I'm wrong -- frankly I hope so -- but only time will tell.

    On James Buchanan, I'll post separately. Please check back!

  3. Anonymous12:12 AM

    At the time we were ramping up to invade Iraq I was at the end of an in depth examination of the southern secession decisions, and most of my understanding of the decision to invade Iraq was and still is very strongly colored by that research.

    The hurried, opportunistic and undemocratic decision(s); the inflammatory rhetoric (charges of treason and cowardice); the exaggeration of an imminent threat; the optimistic assessment of likely costs and casualties; etc....

    Of course while we can't say what would have happened had South Carolina and others not seceded, it is hard to imagine a worse outcome for the ultras advocating secession. I see the invasion of Iraq in much the same way, and don't see any plausible outcome to the invasion that is better than the pre invasion status quo. Basically I see a partitioned Iraq or an Islamic dicatatorship, and possibly both, as the only likely stable outcomes, and I'm not sure we can achieve even that at a cost the American taxpayer is willing to bear. Meanwhile the Taliban are reconstituted, we have doubled the number of failed states in which terrorists operate, gifted Iran a strategic regional influence they would not have otherwise achieved, etc....

    I do agree that it takes many years to accurately judge a presidency, but this President seems so obviously wrong headed -- in my mind it's as if Lincoln had launched an invasion of South America rather than South Carolina, by way of analogy, and then endlessly conflated Rebels in Rio with Rebels in Richmond -- that I don't see how it will be judged anything but a tremendous strategic blunder.

    I agree we face now face an important threat from Islamic extremists, which is part of why I feel so strongly about the matter, but see a tremendous blunder and a huge opportunity cost of being stuck in Iraq.

    As before, I'm fascinated by how much common ground we share in regards to interpreting history and how little in regards to W and the war in Iraq. I feel a little sheepish bringing it up since I'd rather traverse common ground, and there is so much common ground on a topic of shared interest.

    So on to Buchanan for me... tomorrow or this weekend or after I make an acceptable amount of progress on my honey do list.



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