worst president in our lifetime" is how many Americans view George W. Bush.
But Bush is not merely the worst president in recent memory. He's the worst in all US history. And he's won the distinction not on a weakness or two, but in at least nine separate categories, giving him a triple trifecta.
It's a record unmatched by any previous president.
Let's count the ways:
TRIFECTA ONE: Economy, Environment, Education
Until now, Herbert Hoover has been the president most closely associated with economic disaster. He presided over the 1929 stock crash, and choked while the economy collapsed around him.
Bush did not preside over the 2000 Nasdaq crash. But he's turned the biggest federal surplus into history's biggest deficit, which a nervous global banking community sees as a potential weapon of mass fiscal destruction. Bush has lost more jobs than Hoover. A top Bush advisor has called outsourcing "just a new way of doing international trade."
Bush has achieved the economic trifecta by simultaneously collapsing the dollar while gutting the industrial infrastructure and running up gargantuan trade deficits. Even GOP conservatives are petrified over a Bush Blowout that could make the 1930s seem a time of widespread prosperity. With Vice President Dick Cheney saying "deficits don't matter," the administration has introduced a form of "kamikaze economics" entirely new to the American presidency.
Bush's "No Tree Left Standing" attack on Mother Earth has transcended even Ronald Reagan's all-out anti-green assault. More people will ultimately die from the resulting climate chaos, toxic emissions and other eco-fallout than from anything Al Queda could imagine.
Simply put, Bush has trashed not only eco-progress dating back to Richard Nixon, but also the achievements of both Roosevelts, scorching the earth all the way back to US Grant and Yellowstone, our first national park, now being Bushwhacked.
Bush's "No Child Left Behind" scam has imposed massive new costs on state and local school systems with no tangible payback. Even Utah has just said no. Even Reagan's slash and burn of public education has been trumped by an administration for whom the three R's are "Religion, Reaction, and Revelations."
TRIFECTA TWO: Corruption, Constitution, Global Contempt
Until Bush, the friends of Warren G. Harding were the kings of White House sleaze. Nixon and Reagan's made a serious challenge. But with Enron, Halliburton, Bechtel and other Bush funders profiting from the slaughter in Iraq and the decimation of the electric grid and the natural environment, W has captured the crown of public theft.
Richard Nixon's repressive attack on the Vietnam anti-war movement outstripped even the Red Scare excesses of Woodrow Wilson after World War I and those of John Adams after the Revolution. But Bush and Attorney-General John Ashcroft have shredded the Bill of Rights with unprecedented glee. From the Patriot Act, Homeland Security and an escalated drug war, Bush has become George Orwell's Big Brother, making Nixon look like a civil libertarian.
American presidents from Washington to Lincoln to FDR to JFK have been loved around the world. Jimmy Carter, now an ambassador for peace, may have excited the most global contempt by preaching human rights while embracing the brutal Shah of Iran.
But no American president has incited such worldwide hatred as George W. Bush. He has turned the global sympathy from the 9/11 terror attacks into inexpressible rage over the attack on Afghanistan and Iraq, his contempt for the United Nations and his cynical, uncaring arrogance and global ignorance. By blatantly lying to both the United Nations and in the State of the Union, and then unleashing brutal violence, Bush has become the most polarizing president in US history abroad as well as at home.
TRIFECTA THREE: Military madness, Messianic delusion, Macho Matricide
About a dozen US presidents served in the armed forces. Three---Washington, Grant and Eisenhower---are among history's greatest generals. None ever advocated attacking countries that have not attacked us. All honored the firewall between military and civilian rule by avoiding wearing a military uniform while in office.
Bush trashed that tradition with his infamous flight suit. Bill Clinton occupied the short list of presidents known to have dodged the draft. But with an entire cabinet of chickenhawks, Bush gets the Congressional medal for having used his wealth and connections to avoid military service, for likely having gone AWOL and for lying about having ever been in combat. None has heaped such hypocritical praise on American soldiers while slashing their benefits.
Presidents from Washington to Lincoln to the Roosevelts to Reagan have invoked the name of God. Only Bush claims to speak directly to Him and for Him. Only Bush claims to have been elected by Him (the American people certainly didn't do it).
At least since the witch trials of Salem in the 1690s, no other president has ever attempted to impose his personal religion on the nation---or world---as has Bush.
Ronald Reagan ostensibly opposed a women's right to choose, but did little about it. Ditto George H.W. Bush.
But W. has launched an unprecedented crusade against women's rights, affirmative action and a whole range of social legislation supporting equality between the races, genders, communities of preference and classes.
Much more could be said. These modest nine points omit Bush's attacks on organized labor, health insurance, retirement benefits, renewable energy and much much more.
But if you ever have a pinge of doubt about Shrub being the worst president ever, just repeat the phrase "Triple Trifecta" three times. Then go out and organize, organize, organize.
Harvey Wasserman is senior editor of The Free Press (www.freepress.org) and author of The Last Energy War (Seven Stories Press). His newest book is George W. Bush Vs. the Superpower of Peace, co-authored with Bob Fitrakis (Free Press, 2003).
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