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The Tentacle


May 10, 2007

"Judge Not, Lest Ye Be Judged"

John W. Ashbury

The rhetoric is getting out of hand. Pundits - and members of Congress - across the board are vilifying George W. Bush, almost to the point of comparing him with the most treacherous villains in history. It has to stop.

Certainly everyone is entitled to criticize anyone in public office, and the president is no exception. But the volume of the condemnation has reached crescendo pitch. Maybe some feel better by having done so and thereby received the approval of their peers; but it does little, if any, good and only serves to embolden our enemies, not only in Iraq but around the world.

One of the most frequent comments heard is that "George W. Bush is the worst president in our nation's history." Those making that comment have forgotten all of America's story they learned in school, thereby displaying their ignorance.

Have they forgotten the Tea Pot Dome scandal of the Harding Administration? How about James Buchanan's presidency leading up to The Civil War? Or the greed and corruption of Ulysses S. Grant's administrations? And more recently, what about the Watergate scandal, which forced Richard M. Nixon from office in August 1974?

It is fair to object to presidential policies and to seek change. But to use the language being bandied about is detrimental to all of us, despite what the user considers fair criticism. It isn't.

No matter what, George W. Bush will be president until January 20, 2009. And because of that, we are all diminished by the negative rhetoric so frequently highlighted by the national media.

Many point to the low poll numbers as proof that he is a lousy president. Most recent surveys by pollsters give him an approval rating in the mid-30s. They all can't be wrong, so perhaps that is exactly where he is. But you can't judge a president's place in history while he is in office.

Today Harry S Truman is considered by most historians and men-on-the-street as one of this nation's great presidents. Even Newsweek magazine this week leads with a story headlined "Wanted: A New Truman."

Yet during his last year in office (1952) more than 75 percent of those polled disapproved of him. It is one of the reasons he decided to return to Missouri and not seek another term. Remember that he had served all but two months of Franklin D. Roosevelt's fourth term, after FDR died in April 1945.

Then there is Lyndon Baines Johnson, who announced in March 1968 that he, too, would not seek another term when his poll numbers had him at 36 percent. He was mired in The Vietnam War and was just plain tired of the job. He suffered a fatal heart attack on January 22, 1973. He was 64.

Jimmy Carter should have had the good sense to retire after a single term in office. The Iran hostage crisis and spiraling inflation did him in. During his last year in office his poll numbers were worse that George W. Bush's are today.

Then there is Ronal Reagan, considered by Republicans to have been the best president of the 20th Century. Democrats still hang onto FDR for that spot.

But President Reagan, too, had sinking poll numbers during his second term, largely because the media harped on the Iran-Contra imbroglio. But by the force of his personality, Mr. Reagan survived handsomely, and when he died in 2004, his funeral occupied a week of media coverage, the like of which had not been seen since Robert Kennedy was assassinated in 1968.

George H. W. Bush (Bush 41), after Desert Storm, had poll numbers among the highest of any president since polling began. He had ordered American forces to come to the aid of Kuwait when it was invaded by Iraq in 1991. But a year later he tanked, and William Jefferson Clinton was elected president.

Mr. Clinton oversaw a spiraling economy, brought on in large measure by the economic policies of his two immediate predecessors. He adopted part of physicians' Hippocratic Oath, which states that "first you do no harm."

Yet, in his second term, Bill Clinton was impeached by the House of Representatives, primarily because of an illicit affair he had with a White House intern, his evasiveness before a federal grand jury and for lying to a federal judge under oath. He was disbarred in his home state of Arkansas, but the U. S. Senate acquitted him on the impeachment charges.

Of all the presidents who served a second term in the 20th Century, only Dwight D. Eisenhower escaped the wrath of the media and the public, although he was the first president to send "advisors" to Vietnam and to dramatically increase nuclear armaments.

All of this just serves to point out that no president can be judged a success or failure while in office. George W. Bush is no exception. We can mightily disagree with him, his conduct of the war in Iraq, his domestic policies, his failure to reign in out-of-control increases in gasoline prices which has led to spectacular profits for the oil companies, and even his choices for the Supreme Court.

But let history judge him. We are too close to his era to do so.



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