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Monday, June 28, 2004

Historians vs George W. Bush
By Robert S. McElvaine
Mr. McElvaine teaches history at Millsaps College. He is the author of EVE'S SEED: BIOLOGY, THE SEXES AND THE COURSE OF HISTORY (McGraw-Hill).

Although his approval ratings have slipped somewhat in recent weeks, President George W. Bush still enjoys the overall support of nearly half of the American people. He does not, however, fare nearly so well among professional historians.

A recent informal, unscientific survey of historians conducted at my suggestion by George Mason University’s History News Network found that eight in ten historians responding rate the current presidency an overall failure.

Of 415 historians who expressed a view of President Bush’s administration to this point as a success or failure, 338 classified it as a failure and 77 as a success. (Moreover, it seems likely that at least eight of those who said it is a success were being sarcastic, since seven said Bush’s presidency is only the best since Clinton’s and one named Millard Fillmore.) Twelve percent of all the historians who responded rate the current presidency the worst in all of American history, not too far behind the 19 percent who see it at this point as an overall success.

Among the cautions that must be raised about the survey is just what “success” means. Some of the historians rightly pointed out that it would be hard to argue that the Bush presidency has not so far been a political success—or, for that matter that President Bush has not been remarkably successful in achieving his objectives in Congress. But those meanings of success are by no means incompatible with the assessment that the Bush presidency is a disaster. “His presidency has been remarkably successful,” one historian declared, “in its pursuit of disastrous policies.” “I think the Bush administration has been quite successful in achieving its political objectives,” another commented, “which makes it a disaster for us.”

... More here http://hnn.us/articles/5019.html

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