Fair is fair

The “worst president ever?” meme has floated from bitter-liberal whining lounges to mainstream venues and plutocrats like Donald Trump, who should know which side their bread is buttered on. This piling-on in the face of the clear facts has to stop if Democrats want to keep a shred of intellectual respectability.

History simply will not support this level of condemnation. Never mind presidents from decades back, here are five contemporary presidents who completely refute the idea that Bush is the worst:

None of the antiwar protesters arrested in Washington Friday night were beaten in captivity. Not a single fractured skull or broken jaw. Bush is much more protective of civil rights and free speech than Robert Mugabe, president of Zimbabwe.

Bush has never, ever, claimed to have an herbal AIDS cure revealed by ancestors in a dream, nor touted it to replace anti-retroviral drugs. Bush is much less anti-scientific than Yahya Jammeh, president of Gambia.

The number of US dissidents killed overseas by plutonium poisoning is zero, and the number of US businessmen ruined and imprisoned for opposing the government is also zero. Bush is much more respectful of law and property than Vladimir Putin, president of Russia.

Bush hasn’t tried to fire even one Supreme Court justice, much less a chief justice. He’s much more respectful of separation of powers than Pervez Musharraf, president of Pakistan.

Bush hasn’t named a single city, river, month, or day of the week after himself, and a meticulous Google-Earth flyover has turned up no gold-plated colossal statues of him, not even silver-plated. Bush is much less egotistical and narcissistic than Sapurmurat Niyazov, the late president of Turkmenistan.

George W. Bush, better in certain ways than some presidents. A banner the righteous may wave with pride and confidence.

Update by MK I thought Mike’s sarcasm was sufficiently broad, but just in case: this post is not a defense of George W. Bush. Some of our friends in Blue Blogistan need to get a grip, or a life.

Author: Michael O'Hare

Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley, Michael O'Hare was raised in New York City and trained at Harvard as an architect and structural engineer. Diverted from an honest career designing buildings by the offer of a job in which he could think about anything he wanted to and spend his time with very smart and curious young people, he fell among economists and such like, and continues to benefit from their generosity with on-the-job social science training. He has followed the process and principles of design into "nonphysical environments" such as production processes in organizations, regulation, and information management and published a variety of research in environmental policy, government policy towards the arts, and management, with special interests in energy, facility siting, information and perceptions in public choice and work environments, and policy design. His current research is focused on transportation biofuels and their effects on global land use, food security, and international trade; regulatory policy in the face of scientific uncertainty; and, after a three-decade hiatus, on NIMBY conflicts afflicting high speed rail right-of-way and nuclear waste disposal sites. He is also a regular writer on pedagogy, especially teaching in professional education, and co-edited the "Curriculum and Case Notes" section of the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management. Between faculty appointments at the MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, he was director of policy analysis at the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs. He has had visiting appointments at Università Bocconi in Milan and the National University of Singapore and teaches regularly in the Goldman School's executive (mid-career) programs. At GSPP, O'Hare has taught a studio course in Program and Policy Design, Arts and Cultural Policy, Public Management, the pedagogy course for graduate student instructors, Quantitative Methods, Environmental Policy, and the introduction to public policy for its undergraduate minor, which he supervises. Generally, he considers himself the school's resident expert in any subject in which there is no such thing as real expertise (a recent project concerned the governance and design of California county fairs), but is secure in the distinction of being the only faculty member with a metal lathe in his basement and a 4×5 Ebony view camera. At the moment, he would rather be making something with his hands than writing this blurb.