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Ron Radosh

This has been a good week for George W. Bush. The opening of his presidential library and museum at Southern Methodist University has led to a widespread reassessment of his administration’s record. Indeed, public-opinion polls show that Bush now has a 47 percent approval rating, up from the dismal 33 percent when he left office, and the same that President Obama now has. 

The case for a positive view of Bush’s presidency has been well stated  by Charles Krauthammer and Michael Gerson, both writing in the Washington Post. 

The positive view, even the nice words about Bush spoken by President Obama at the dedication ceremony of the Bush Library, has not rubbed off on historians.  History News Network — the leading website for academic historians —  proclaims, “Historians Still Despise George W. Bush.”

Their judgment of Bush’s reign in office has little to do with a nuanced assessment of his presidency; rather, it has to do with their desire to show that they are leftists first and historians second.

The point was well-argued by historian Stephen F. Knott of the Naval War College in last Sunday’s Washington Post.  As Knott writes, few historians are having second thoughts about the Bush presidency not because of actual facts or assessment of policy successes or failures, but because “far too many scholars revealed partisan bias and abandoned any pretense of objectivity in their rush to condemn the Bush presidency.”

Knott cites two of the most prominent attacks made against Bush while he was in the White House, the first by Princeton’s Sean Wilentz, and the second by Columbia University’s Eric Foner, a man far to the left of Wilentz. Both were bested in their attacks — vicious and unbalanced as they were — by TV’s most well-known “presidential historian” (whatever that is), Doug Brinkley, who wrote in 2006 that “it’s safe to bet that Bush will be forever handcuffed to the bottom rungs of the presidential ladder” and that Bush purposely tried to “brutalize his opponents.” 

It is hard to realize, now that so many journalists who at the time hated Bush are now reevaluating their own biases, that the late Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. — always a partisan of the democratic left of the Democratic Party — actually wrote (as Knott writes) that “the Bush administration was purposefully ‘driv[ing] toward domination of the world,’ placing the constitutional system of separation of powers ‘under unprecedented, and at times, unbearable strain,’ and was intent on ‘outlawing debate.’”

Schlesinger’s intemperate and actually fairly crazy remarks reveal not the judgment of a historian, but that of a leftist partisan intent on scaring the public, just as the old communists used to do in the ’40s and early ’50s by saying that Harry S. Truman was a fascist. 

No wonder that a historical panel held when Bush was in office found that he was a “war criminal” and a “McCarthyite,” all because of the measures he took to protect our national security. Now that Barack Obama has seen fit to continue implementation of the very measures Bush instituted and they condemned at the time, they have become very silent about this truth. Evidently when Obama does the same it is good; when he does things like put prisoners in Gitmo, use rendition, and engage in warrantless wiretapping, they are no longer measures that make the chief executive a war criminal. That designation is reserved only for Republicans they seek to demonize.

Professor Knott has enraged the academics with this conclusion:

George W. Bush’s low standing among academics reflects, in part, the rise of partisan scholarship: the use of history as ideology and as a political weapon, which means the corruption of history as history. Bush may not have been a great president; he may even be considered an average or below-average president, but he and — more important — the nation deserve better than this partisan rush to judgment.

He has also enraged the most left-wing journalists. At The Nation, Eric Alterman  uses his column to print in full the assessment of his colleague Reed Richardson. What piques Richardson is that his journalistic colleagues have dared to look back at their own Bush-era reporting, and have found it flawed. He writes: “what was startling to see this past week was the degree to which the press willingly obliged a phalanx of Bush apologists intent on airbrushing out the many inconvenient and dreadful aspects of our 43rd president’s legacy.”

The so-called truths Richardson objects to include Bush’s “outrageous prevarications on Iraq,” by which Richardson means that Bush believed Saddam Hussein might think of using weapons of mass destruction and thought intelligence — believed as well by Democrats — was accurate. What really annoys him is that the Washington Post allowed Stephen Knott to grace its pages and to “fire a barrage of broadsides at his profession.” 

One would think that Richardson and Alterman understand that op-ed pages are to be given over to people who have opinions different than those that usually are heard, and that since major papers allowed historians like Wilentz to more than once write major articles condemning George W. Bush (which were widely read and quoted), one op-ed dissenting from the viewpoint of most American historians is worthy to be considered. Rather than be upset about the violations of the historical profession engaged in by Wilentz and Schlesinger in their earlier pieces, these two Nation writers are angry that now some newspapers are allowing those who disagree with them to be heard. What happened, I wonder, to their support of the right of free speech?

I happen to think that it is more than likely that, years hence, George W. Bush’s administration will receive a mixed evaluation by historians. Some of his steps will be seen as wanting; others as successful. But such judgments will be made after using newly available archives, after conducting scores of interviews, and after reading new oral histories of policy-makers in his administration. They will not be made by venting about one’s partisan feelings about a Republican president when he was in office and repeating the same charges after he has been out of office for more than a decade. 

So, after looking at the historians’ rankings at the HNN website, I have but one response to their ratings and comments: I give them a grade of F minus.

Comments are closed.

Top Rated Comments   
Another Paultard heard from; go irritate the Libertarians and leave adults alone.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
In a few short years these same "objective" historians will share with us their thoughts on the Obama presidency.

I'm predicting the words "God like" are going to be used many times...

50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
I never voted for Bush--father or son. I was more aware of Dubya as an oil man, baseball owner and governor. Always thought the world of Laura Bush, what a lovely, classy lady. Did not think he'd make a good president and many times had doubts that he was one.

Someone gave me "Decision Points" as a gift and it sat around for a while before I picked it up. Once I did, I did not put it down until the end. Good book from a good man. I even made a small donation to his library, told myself I was doing it for Laura.

History will be kind to President GWB and less kind to his idolized successor. Dubya, he kept us safe.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
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All Comments   (34)
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Why would anyone expect anything different from a leftist? It's in their nature.

A scorpion and a frog meet on the bank of a stream and the scorpion asks the frog to carry him across on its back. The frog asks, "How do I know you won't sting me?" The scorpion says, "Because if I do, I will die too."

The frog is satisfied, and they set out, but in midstream, the scorpion stings the frog. The frog feels the onset of paralysis and starts to sink, knowing they both will drown, but has just enough time to gasp "Why?"

Replies the scorpion: "Its my nature..."
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
I was and still am an unabashed Bush supporter. Unlike some other presidents, he seemed like a genuinely "nice" man. Viewing the dedication of his library reminded me of the safe feeling I had while he was in office. I always felt that he really appreciated the United States and, though raised in a wealthy family, understood the common person. I don't feel that way about Obama whom I consider to be a grifter,out to get as much as he can from a country for which he has no use.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
Talk about leftist historians! This article brings to my mind an old Soviet joke I heard 30 years ago in the mid-1980's.It goes like this....
What is the definition of a Soviet historian? A Soviet historian is someone who can accurately predict the past.The problem with America's academic establishment is that all too many establishment academics are not scholars.They are secular priests & shills employed by the New World Order statists who pull the political levers of Washington politics.their political puppets are in both parties!You don't believe in the NWO?You think I am a conspiracy nut,well maybe I am & so was the great thinker Murray Rothbart.Much of what these "historians" call history is really "Guided History"; myths & fabrications designed to keep us peons in ignorance.The liars who pass themselves off as journalists use these Fairy Tale versions of history to,in their words,"Mold Public Opinion".George Bernard Shaw said "History will lie as usual".Still think That the New World Order is all a "conspiracy" theory & all conspiracy theories are crazy?David Rockefeller,the head of his clan,thinks otherwise.He gave a speech in1991 in which he said "We are grateful to the Washington Post,the N.Y. Times,Time magazine,& other great publications whose directors have attended our meetings & respected their promises of discretion for almost 40 years.But the work is now much more sophisticated & prepared to march toward a world government.The supernational sovereignty of an intellectual elite & world bankers is surely preferable to the national autodetermination practiced in past centuries.
Just think of it,the political parties,the historians,the mass media have known for many years all about the NWO & have done their part to help send America into servitude & slavery.This elite establishment would destroy our nation,our people & our culture without a twinge of guilt about what they are delivering us into!
P.S. Google links to New World Order & David Rockefeller & read many more quotes on this subject,thoughts of this evil man & what he wishes to do to America.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
George Bush will go down in history as the greatest President along with his Father for making sure Islam give their total support to the west. No President has the power to stamp out crony capitalism ,the type of immoral capitalism that creates big bubbles ready to burst . This will bring out the very worst outcome in China and the future west will be saved by social conservatism, moral justice with great faith in God .
the Middle East and the west will be free Saddam Hussein dictators unlike the East
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
Calvin Coolidge continues to fight Schlesinger, Jr's revisionist history, and Coolidge was a very good president. In 2004, I was researching Coolidge for a grad school History of the Presidency course. Still remember my moment of realizing how Schlesinger, Jr just had to blame the Great Depression on both Hoover and Coolidge to justify FDR's New Deal.

That said, the Bush43 legacy that will hurt him the most, by history, is that opposition to him gave us the anti-war left's first president: Obama.

Not like Amity Schlaes does not spin her histories...and, btw, Douglas Brinkley is not in the same league as Wilentz and Foner, who do try to be real historians.
Next week: the duelling 'reviews' of Robert D. Kaplan's current review of Kissinger's legacy in The Atlantic? The left is already in full smackdown mode, but not a peep from the neocons on the right, so far. heh.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
It's been my observation that people of dubious character - unfortunately I've known my fair share of these - are provoked by their own lack in this area into a true revulsion toward those who possess the finer qualities that are generally indicative of good character. I've always believed that this accounts for what has become known as Bush Derangement Syndrome, which came into flower among the left wing media elite and is now in full blossom among lefty historians. I don't know if lack of character is a cause of partisan leftism or a result, but a basic dishonesty seems to be a necessity to continue to live with nothing but distortions of the truth and downright lies. I think they hate Bush so much because he was an honest man of integrity and grace sandwiched between two of their own - one a narcissistic buffoon and the other a snake-like charlatan.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
Mr. Radosh, another Wapo columnist/ dingleberry - Eugene Robinson wrote of the same tunnel visioned nonsense as well recently with respect to the 'eeevil Bush'.

Looking at Mr. Robinson's background, authored books - he's but another Illiberal ideologue whose EVERYTHING is viewed through his darker melanin prism.

What an intellectually stunted, counterproductive, group think-like individual.

Though Mr. Robinson is an Wapo columnist.. I repeat myself..

What's fascinating about the Illiberal Left is to paint 'W' as a ninny. A dummy.

Yet W was apparently gifted enough to convince and receive approval from numerous Illiberal pols such as then-Senator HRC, Durbin etc., post - 9/11, thus receiving approval from both Houses, the UN, as well as W 'hypnotizing' U.S. AND allied intel agencies and their perceived intel findings ALL pointing to the Iraqi/ Hussein threat, resulting in resounding approval for the '03 military campaign(s) in the M E.

Illiberal's, their reveling in their nonsensically and unearned sanctimony is a truly priceless and spectacle sight to see, read.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
Who needs an historian to understand the economy when Bush entered verses when he left, our global reputation when he entered and when he left, and the dysfunction of the legislative branch from when he entered and when he left? Who needs historians to tell us of the cronyism, the daily scandals, the wealthy coddling, the "heckofa job Brownie", the "Mission Accomplished", that Al Qaeda were "in their last throes", that the Constitution was just "a god damn piece of paper" and the "I'm not concerned with Bin Ladin" (or letting him get away in Tora Bora)? Why would we need historians to show us the difference in the 23 million jobs created under Clinton and jobs plummeting under Bush? How can anyone look at the economy and feel a need for an historian to tell us that the Bush tax cuts were an abject failure?

And even if you disagree, who needs an historian, right or left, to remind us of the ouster of his lapdog Congress of 06? And how in the world did Obama win the White House? We don't need an historian to remind us that John McCain simply couldn't distance himself from Bush and the electorate simply wasn't going to go for "another 4 years".

Perhaps if Bush goes back into hiding for a few decades, folks grow older and forget, and new generations evolve, there may be a need to look at historians. But I think most people of reasonable intellect haven't forgotten how god awful he was.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
That's right, Ronald. Who needs an historian, or an economist, or a political scientist when you have all the liberal talking points to repeat ad nauseum. Here's the problem for your liberal boilerplate - the great savior's policies are not working! The emporer has no clothes, along with no identity and no history other than his own autobiography (by Bill Ayers.) You're stuck with a lame horse; a community organizer who wasn't qualified to be an Illiinois senator, let along President of the United States. And now the secular progressives are caught like deer in the headlights of the oncoming train wreck: Obamacare! It couldn't happen to a more deserving group of self-serving idealogues.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
"the cronyism, the daily scandals, the wealthy coddling"

Sounds like Obama, too.

"the "heckofa job Brownie", the "Mission Accomplished", that Al Qaeda were "in their last throes", that the Constitution was just "a god damn piece of paper""

Yep. Let's balance that with "Overseas Contingency Operations" and other nonsense.

"How can anyone look at the economy and feel a need for an historian to tell us that the Bush tax cuts were an abject failure?"

The tax cuts took full effect in '05. We saw full employment afterwards. Apparently, you need an historian to tell you that, because you cannot see it for yourself.

Personally, I think Bush was a lousy President, and Obama is far worse. The worst thing about Bush's big-government approach, is that it allows insufficient contrast to Obama's even-bigger-government approach.

Clinton was a big-government guy, too, but was reined in some by a small-government Congress. When Bush took office, the small-government guys were replaced by big-government guys.

What people fail to perceive is that there is little difference between Bush and Obama. It's mostly a difference of size, but not of approach. They both stink. The country is worse off for both of them. We argue about who was worse, when the truth is, they gave us the big and bigger purple shaft.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
Have you ever read a 'fact' not fed to you by MSM and associated spinners? Each point you make has be demolished, time and time again.

So, how's O working out for you?
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
Academia sold out to the cause 50 years ago. The tenured assholes ar o n the decline. Not to worry.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
Saddam probably did have numerous weapons of mass destruction. He shipped them to Syria. The evidence of this transfer was substantial---but was ignored by Bush 43's existential enemies. This will become more evident as the Syrian civil war continues.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
there is no question that he had gas, he used it on his own people.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
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