President #43, C-SPAN Historians ranking #36
… and of the Son
My goal in this blog was to review a biography of every former President. I also wanted to do it in a random order.
At first, I assumed I would have a more leisurely stroll through the biographies of the 42ish men who served in the White House. But, I discovered that a lot of the books I was reading were only 150 pages or so and I could devour them quickly. Sometimes books weren’t in that series and I had to read very long tomes (such as with Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson.)
And although the order was random, it happened that George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush happened to fall right after each other in line.
This helped me in terms of finding a tag line at the beginning, but it left me with another problem. That is, there is no adequate biography of George W. Bush to read.
Don’t get me wrong. There are a LOT of books about our newest former President. However, they were either written before he was in office, or while he was in office, or just examine particular aspects of his Presidency. (Did you know there was a war in the Middle East the last few years? I need to read about this. I hope I can find a book.)
George W. Bush has just been out of office for about 11 months (depending upon when you read this, I’m hedging.) Historical perspective on the Bush 43 Administration will take a few more years to come in to focus.
As for now, there are a lot of books available which portray George W. Bush as a saint, a sinner, a hero, a villain, a statesman, a war criminal, etc. If you are a regular reader of this blog, I am fairly certain you are fairly familiar with what happened between January 20, 2001 and January 20, 2009. If not, I applaud you for making a rapid recovery from your long coma or being a very precocious child.
Presumably, George W. Bush will publish memoirs in the next couple of years. And they will be dissected by political pundits for a few months. People on Fox News will say how good they are. People on MSNBC will say how bad they are.
When Bush left office, historians were not kind to him in their rankings. But that may be expected for a President who leaves office with an approval rating of 22%, which is Nixonian. In contrast, George H.W. Bush left office with a 54% approval rating. It helps not to have a major recession start while you are finishing up your Presidency.
I do not think I can add too much to the past eight years, except for this.
I think it was sometime in 1997 when I was talking to someone about how the Electoral College worked and I explained that three Presidents had won despite not getting the most popular votes (John Quincy Adams, Rutherford Hayes, and Benjamin Harrison.) I predicted that such an event would never happen again in our lifetime because there would have to either be a significant third party vote (like in 1824) or a huge sectional divide (1876, 1888.)
The 2000 election put me in my place. (Lots of things put me in my place. I should be put in my place more often. Perhaps I need a new place to be put.) As it turned out, there was enough of a sectional divide in 2000 to propel George W. Bush to the White House. But, it was not exactly the same divide as those after the Civil War. And no other election has ended with the two major nominees listed in a Supreme Court opinion to decide the election.
In time (and that time has not yet come), we can look back at 9/11 and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Patriot Act, the No Child Left Behind Act, the Wall Street bailout, the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina (I’m waiting for Kanye West’s book with a befuddled foreword from Mike Myers), and the influence of Vice President Dick Cheney and see what has become of the United States. Perhaps more will be written when the George W. Bush Presidential Center opens in Dallas on the campus of Southern Methodist University (sometime in 2013.) It is temporarily located in Lewisville, Texas.
And maybe, just maybe, someone will write the definitive biography of George W. Bush. But, there is not one now. So, I will just move on to the next President in line.
Feel free to boo this decision below.
I’m down with it.
Yeah, it’s a little early for rational historians to come to the objective conclusion that he was a ______(fill in your own blank) President. I know what my conclusion is.
I think this is a good call. But if you want to atone for it, you can split up your Grover Cleveland bio into a section that highlights his first term and another that focuses on his second.
Pretty reasonable, Bob. I think much more distance will be required before we can really judge President Bush.
Frankly, I think we’re still too close to accurately judge any of the post WWII presidents.
I can’t wait for your excuse on William Henry Harrison.