Granby/William Hamilton " President George W. Bush: His place in history?
Some war-time presidents aren’t popular. George W. Bush’s poll numbers (30.8-percent) prove it. Even though more popular than the Democrat-controlled Congress (18.7 percent), President Bush’s popularity also suffers from being a lame duck and from having no vice president in the White House trying to become president. This scenario hasn’t happened since President Truman, who left office with an approval rating of only 22 percent.
Abraham Lincoln was an unpopular war president. Lincoln prosecuted the Civil War using fascist tactics. Lincoln charged 11 Southern states with rebellion. He sent the Union Army to arrest their leaders. With habeas corpus suspended, some rebels were arrested without warrant, held without bail, their homes subjected to warrantless searches, telegraph wires were tapped, and Confederate spies summarily executed.
Winning helps. Also, he freed the slaves.
Woodrow Wilson was re-elected in 1916 on a promise to stay out of WW I. But, as he told a group of pacifists, the U.S. had to enter the war so he could be seated at the peace conference. Later, Wilson, Lloyd George, Georges Clemenceau, and Vittorio Orlando FUBARed (technical military term) the Treaty of Versailles so badly that they made WW II virtually inevitable. Wilson died a broken man.
Until Japan’s sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, FDR’s desire to fight Hitler had little popular support. Only then did FDR have the support of the mainstream media and the general public. Winning boosts one’s place in history.
Harry Truman was an unpopular war-time president (only 22 percent approval) who declined to run for re-election versus a winning general from WW II who promised to go to South Korea and accept the status quo ante. Eisenhower was a popular president because he ended the Korean War.
Had he not been assassinated, JFK might have been an unpopular president for deepening the U.S. commitment to replace the French in Vietnam. LBJ’s fear of being “less than JFK” compounded JFK’s error. LBJ ended up afraid to run for his own party’s re-nomination.
Nixon-Kissinger had the Vietnam War “won” a la Eisenhower by settling for the status quo ante; however, Congress refused to honor Kissinger’s Treaty of Paris and left the ammunition-depleted South Vietnamese to be overrun in 1975. Losing Vietnam hurt President Ford.
Unless one counts converting Iran from friend to foe, Carter wasn’t a war president. Carter’s low was 28 percent.
Ronald Reagan won the Cold War with a combination of economic and military cards played with deft hands by Reagan and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher against a Soviet Empire crumbling after 73 years of the flaws inherent in communism. Winning helps.
Troops under George H.W. Bush won Gulf War I in 100 hours; however, Bush’s popularity (89-percent) was wiped out when Bush broke his pledge of “no new taxes.” By 1992, his popularity dropped to 29 percent. George H.W. Bush was beaten by Bill Clinton.
Writing in USA Today on June, 30, 2004, this observer opined that George W. Bush could claim victory in the “heartland” of the Middle East if our efforts prevent Iraq’s oil revenues from fueling al-Qaeda, if Iraqis could choose their own government, if the terrorists leave Iraq and if the region is left with an independent Iraq sitting between Persian Iran and its Arab neighbors to the West.
Four years later, al-Qaida in Iraq is virtually dead. The Iraqis are handling their own affairs. Many of the terrorists have moved to the caves of Afghanistan or Pakistan and Iran is, so far, check-mated from achieving hegemony over the Persian Gulf and is stopped from further westward expansion.
Will history see the cost in blood and treasure as worth it? Only time will tell.
While the zeal of George W. Bush for the promotion of democracy is commendable, what he has done with regard to our national security (a la Lincoln, FDR, Truman, Eisenhower and Reagan), will be the basis upon which history will render its final judgment.
” After earning degrees from Oklahoma, the George Washington University, the Naval War College and Nebraska, syndicated columnist and featured commentator for USA Today, William Hamilton, studied government and politics at Harvard’s JFK School of Government.
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