Happy Independence Day, everyone!
Two presidents fell more than five spots in the new Siena College survey: George W. Bush and Jimmy Carter, to a dismal 39th and 32nd, respectively.
Well deserved! Terrible presidents, both. I'm not sure that they're in exactly the correct places, but both were, at least in my view, clearly failed presidents -- two people who never should have been in that office, and were quickly and decisively overwhelmed by the job.
This does bring up a point in rating presidents, and I should make my own point of view clear; to me, what we're looking at is the ability of presidents to do the job. It's pretty obvious that partisan Democrats, and ideological liberals, would prefer Jimmy Carter as president to George W. Bush -- or, to put it another way, would have voted for Carter over Gerald Ford in 1976, and voted for Carter over Ronald Reagan, even if they were certain that Ford and Reagan were more capable of doing the job of president than Carter. And they would be quite right to do so (and the same with conservatives and Bush). As voters, we're at the mercy of the selections that the parties make -- which is a good reason to be active in one's party, in order to affect those selections. But generally when I'm talking about presidents, it's not whether they're in the party I vote for or agree with me on policy, but whether they're good at doing the job. That can be a fine line sometimes...it can be hard to distinguish, often, between policies which one just disagrees with and policies that are in some sense (some "objective" sense? I'll leave that alone for now) a sign of presidential failure. However, I do think that such analysis is possible. If you don't, that's fine -- but just be aware that I do think it can be done, and that's what I'm mostly talking about here.
At any rate, both Bush and Carter were terrible presidents...I'm mostly just going to send you to what I've already posted on them (Bush here, Carter here). I'll also say that while it's always difficult to see outside one's own time and place, it's very hard for me to see a significant Bush revival in the future. Is Bush's record on the economy likely to improve? Seems unlikely. Are there important bills passed under Bush that have been overlooked so far? I'll take suggestions, but I don't really think so. Will his handling of terrorism look better down the road? I can imagine (not endorsing it, just saying I can imagine) scenarios in which some of his civil liberties policies are thought to be necessary steps -- but those scenarios would, I think, lead to judging Bush more harshly overall for his failures in his campaign against bin Laden. It's also easy to imagine that Bush's excesses in the areas of civil liberties will wind up thought of like those of Wilson, FDR, and others, as terrible mistakes. And if I had to guess, I'd say it's fairly likely that many of the people in the Bush administration, including the president himself, will be thought of as war criminals for implementing a policy of torture. As for Carter, his ratings are propped up by high scores for integrity (#7) and intelligence (#13). My guess is that both of these will fall as we move into the future -- they're both helped, I would guess, by his post-presidential reputation, which I'd assume will play a much smaller role in future historian's assessments of his presidency. So, yes, I'm going to guess that Carter and Bush will continue to be safely in the bottom fifteen for some time.