Columbia History Professor and author Eric Foner wrote an article that appeared in the Washington Post on Sunday last. Spot will let Eric introduce it:
Ever since 1948, when Harvard professor Arthur Schlesinger Sr. asked 55 historians to rank U.S. presidents on a scale from "great" to "failure," such polls have been a favorite pastime for those of us who study the American past.
Sometimes, the historians' ranking will vary for a particular president over time, Normally, however, they seem pretty consistent from year to year:
More often, however, the rankings display a remarkable year-to-year uniformity. Abraham Lincoln, George Washington and Franklin D. Roosevelt always figure in the "great" category. Most presidents are ranked "average" or, to put it less charitably, mediocre. [Andrew] Johnson, Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan, Warren G. Harding, Calvin Coolidge and Richard M. Nixon occupy the bottom rung, and now President Bush is a leading contender to join them. A look at history, as well as Bush's policies, explains why.
Like Bush, Pierce, Buchanan, Johnson (the latter three served before and after the civil war), they were just not up to the job. Stubborn, narrow-minded, unwilling to listen to criticism or consider alternatives to disastrous mistakes, and surrounding themselves with sycophants are traits mentioned by Foner.
Also like Bush, Harding and Coolidge were plagued by corruption and scandal during their terms.
With Nixon, Bush shares a disdain of the Constitutional limits on a President's authority.
George hit the trifecta!
Of course George does have his sycophants. Paul at Power Line mounts a defense of Bush against Foner. Paul says that Foner committed some kind of historical malpractice by calling the Bush administration corrupt, saying to his recollection only Scooter Libby was under indictment. On the contrary, says the The Carpetbagger Report: here's a better list.
Paul also says that Bush only stripped civil rights from terrorists. Sorry Paul, but that's impossible. If you deprive an accused of basic due process and then find he's a terrorist, the process is not legitimate and the outcome is not reliable.
Foner is pretty good historian, boys and girls. You can read a little about his credentials here.