George Bush's Misplaced Hope that Historians Will Rank Him Higher than His Contemporaries

News at Home

Mr. Shenkman is the editor of HNN and the author of Presidential Ambition. He is a member of POTUS, the HNN blog about politics and the presidency.

"Look, everybody’s trying to write the history of this administration even before it’s over. I’m reading about George Washington still. My attitude is, if they’re still analyzing No. 1, 43 ought not to worry about it, and just do what he thinks is right, make the tough choices necessary."--George W. Bush

While we are reflecting at this time on Gerald Ford's legacy, it is a good time to think about George W. Bush's, as Bush himself has been doing.

President Bush is right to think that history is always being rewritten. As the president noted recently, historians are still debating the role of George Washington in the creation of a new nation. But Mr. Bush's hopes are misplaced if he thinks that gives him a reason to hold out hope for history's redemption.

While Mr. Bush has rightly grasped the insight that there is no History God in the Heavens writing the verdicts on American presidents on sacred tablets, he should probably not read too much into the reassessments of Washington's legacy. Washington has been regarded by almost everybody since he stepped on the American political stage as a leading figure of incomparable dimensions. Even George III recognized Washington's greatness. If Washington gives up his sword and returns to private life after the war, the king purportedly said, he is the greatest man in the world. He did and he was, as one historian aptly put it. While some poliical enemies made a few colorful disparaging remarks about Washington his contemporaries by and large regarded him as a sage.

Mr. Bush is right to surmise that the verdicts of contemporaries are rarely sustained by historians, who have the benefit of hindsight. Of the 10 presidents who served from FDR to the first President Bush, 7 are regarded differently now by historians than they were by contemporaries at the time they left office. Only the reputations of FDR, Nixon and Carter have remained carved in granite: FDR the Great, Nixon the Corrupt, and Carter the Incompetent. All the others have either gone up or down in the esteem in which they are held.

 Illustration by Joshua Brown. Click to see his series, Life During Wartime

Usually the direction has been up. As the first President Bush once opined historians tend to be generous to presidents. This is as it should be. Historians need to express a sympathy for their subjects and that means seeing things as the presidents saw them. From a president's vantage point, there are often only less bad choices not obviously right and wrong choices. (Note to President Bush: This is why diaries are important. If you happen to be keeping a secret diary be sure to mention every day that you are worried about the outcome in Iraq and are having sleepless nights over the misadventure. You might even concede that you think the invasion may have been a mistake. Historians love it when presidents express in private their misgivings over a war they perforce felt compelled to defend in public. That's why LBJ's stock has been rising. We have heard recordings of his phone calls. We now know he shared the same doubts about the war as the anti-war left.)

But sometimes the direction is down. JFK looked like a saint when he was assassinated. Probably on the day of his funeral you couldn't find 100 people in the whole country to say a bad thing about him outside the small circle of nuts who wanted him murdered. Today? While most Americans still rank him among our greatest presidents few historians do. Most of the information that has surfaced about him in the years since his death have left a distasteful impression. He was reckless in his private life. He may have brought on the Cuban Missile Crisis by his obsessive campaigns against Castro and his leaks about Soviet missile inferiority. And of course he got us into Vietnam. Not even his greatest defenders claim he was a great president even as they insist, with much evidence I might add, that he deserves to be remembered as a heroic figure given his personal struggle with persistent bad health.

Every survey of historians I have seen about President Bush indicates he will have to make up a lot of ground to be regarded as anything but a disaster. He bet his presidency on Iraq and at least at this point it looks like he bet wrong. If twenty years from now Iraq somehow emerges as a stable democracy Bush will be given enormous credit even as he is faulted for the way the war was badly waged (about this there can't be any doubt). But are there many people today willing to take the bet that Iraq and the Middle East will end up the better for our invasion? And nobody outside the self-serving circle of Bill Kristol, Fred Barnes, Dick Cheney and George Bush are making the case anymore that we are safer because of Iraq. We are plainly less safe. The war has inflamed anti-American passions around the world and served as a $400 billion blood-soaked recruiting poster for jihadists.

President Bush likes to think that he is doing what's right even if the public doesn't. But he has misconstrued American history. Presidents get points when they take action that the public isn't ready to accept. They don't receive credit for sticking with an action that is clearly discredited.

An example. Harry Truman, with whom President Bush likes to compare himself, was roasted politically during the Korean War when he fired General Douglas MacArthur. The general was more of a hero than Truman was. The public therefore recoiled at the president's decision. Truman's action, however, was clearly correct. If anything, he was late coming to the decision. MacArthur, as Richard Neustadt proved decades ago, had deserved to be sacked a long time before he finally was for challenging the president's authority to set American foreign policy.

Scorecard: Truman 1, the public zero. Truman was ahead of public opinion and deserves credit for doing what he thought needed to be done despite public opposition. To be sure, he deserves to be faulted for taking MacArthur's advice to pursue the war to the Yalu River, a decision that brought the Chinese into the conflict, dooming us to a three-year quagmire. But he wisely changed course and redefined American objectives once it became clear that we could not secure all of Korea. President Bush might take note of this if he really wants to emulate his hero Harry Truman.

To take another example. One of the positive achievements of the Carter presidency was the treaty signing over the Panama Canal. The public hated this treaty. One of Ronald Reagan's most effective lines in his campaign against Carter in 1980 was the claim that we built the canal, we paid for it and we should keep it. Carter was brave to negotiate the treaty and push it through the Senate. The public simply wasn't ready to accept a change the president knew was essential to progress.

And, of course, as we have been reminded ceaselessly over the last few days, there's Gerald Ford's pardon of Richard Nixon. The pardon was overwhelmingly regarded cynically at the time it was given. Americans were sure some sort of deal had been reached between Ford and Nixon. Had Ford traded a pardon for the presidency? It didn't seem farfetched to believe. He dropped thirty points in the polls in a matter of months. But Ford acted wisely. Letting the Nixon scandal continue to fester would have doomed his presidency to irrelevancy. All anybody would talk about would be Nixon. Ford's agenda would be lost. The pardon undoubtedly cost Ford election in his own right as president in 1976. But he is being remembered this week for his courage in pressing ahead with it anyway. A few years ago he was awarded the Kennedy Profile in Courage award. It was richly deserved.

Now ask yourself: When President Bush championed the invasion of Iraq in 2003 what great sail of public opinion was he blowing against? None as far as I can perceive. He had the public with him every step of the way despite strong but limited antiwar opposition. Going to war in Iraq was not a brave call. Given the 9/11 environment, making war against a dictator like Saddam was relatively easy. The public, fearful of another attack, was quickly persuaded that a war against Saddam would be beneficial.

Given the dimensions of the 9/11 attack, the public pressure was all in one direction: it was to take action against our enemies. From the moment the Twin Towers collapsed public sentiment was overwhelmingly in favor of a dramatic attack on our enemies somewhere. Bush would have shown more strength of character had he resisted this understandable bloodlust than he did by giving in to it.

Mr. Bush has misconstrued history as he has misconstrued so much else because he has not given the matter sustained and thoughtful attention. If he thought deeply about the way historians rank presidents he might have wondered about his decision to invade Iraq and he certainly would rethink his decision now that the war has turned sour. But he is not a man given to deep thinking. Like he says: he's a man who goes with his gut.

comments powered by Disqus

More Comments:

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Except for the weird fantasy about "bloodlust" playing any kind of non-negligible role in the Iraq invasion, this is a very good piece. The best line, "He bet his presidency on Iraq," is almost right on. "He bet his presidency on Iraq, and any fool could have known at the time that it was a bad bet for America" would be even closer to the essence of G.W. Bush's presidency.

W knows this too now (though he will probably never confess it) and is going to try hard to finally achieve something positive in the last two years of his presidency, in order to improve his later image in history. It is possible that he may succeed, but it would be a bad bet.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Thanks for the interesting story.

I have little doubt that there are many more like it. Maybe a country of three hundred million.

Despite undeniable feelings of this sort after 9-11-01, I also doubt that many historians will ever be convinced, that such desire for revenge was any kind of significant factor in the actual calculations and decisions of military leaders, politicians, and analysts leading up to the Iraq invasion of March, 2003. Thomas Ricks's "Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq" is probably the first first-rate account of the tangle of willful ignorance, hubris, deviousness, and ineptitude, all of which were key factors. I don't think it will be the last.

We got revenge, of a sort at least: against Afghanistan's Taliban, which WAS involved with 9-11. The popular thrust behind the decision on Iraq was not revenge, however, but fear, marketed deceptively, and the lasting hallmark of the implementation in Iraq was incompetence on a scale well beyond anything done under Jimmy Carter.

The rest of the piece is good even if reasonable people might quibble about a presidential comparison here or there.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Compared to many predecessors, Carter "didn't know what he was doing." He looks a lot more skillful compared to at least a couple of his successors. Carter's understanding of economics certainly exceeded Reagan's.

"Hindering the effort to tackle inflation?" A hard sell. Carter appointed Volcker, whose Fed did more in the 1980s than any politician did to bring down US inflation. Greenspan is the monetary hero, but his policies amounted to a skillful extension of what Volcker began.

The arming of Bin Laden et al and the charred helicopters in Iran might be better examples meriting derision about Carter's policies.

Darren Michael Peterson - 1/9/2007

My prediction? Just another stop gap dictator will be the result. "Stability" and not democracy will be the results...

Whether it was returning the Shah to power in Iran or supporting Saddam against Iran in the 1980s, in 10 years we will be faced with a strongarmed dictatorship to show for all our efforts in Iraq.

The wonderful sounding rhetoric is great! But, like the bumper sticker I saw that drove me nuts said... "The Road to Hell is Paved by Liberals"... I would rather go to hell trying to improve the lives of fellow Americans than the have the good intentions of replacing Saddam and ending up creating just another dictatorship... especially one with strong ties to... you guess it... Iran!

Darren Michael Peterson - 1/9/2007

Truthfully, I don't see a solution for this Iraq war except for another American supported dictatorship. Seriously. Whether it was the support of the Shah in Iran or Saddam when he was considered to lesser of two evils in the 1980s.

In the end what we will be left with in Iraq is another dictator that suppresses the minority group.

The misconception often given about Democrats and Liberals is that we don't love democracy, or we don't love freedom.

A careful look at military occupation to create long term political change does not bode well. Extreme efforts were required in all occupied countries during WWII to control the occupied population. Israel shows us the same lesson.

While AEI, PNAC and their fellow travelers have talked about their ideals and the worthiness of freedom, remeniscient of "Give me liberty or give me death!" They miss the crucial aspect of that... the voluntary acceptance to make that choice!

This President missed the golden opportunity where we had the world prepared to support us in any reasonable action we took. Invasion of Afghanistan, limited military actions against terrorist strongholds, cooperation through lay enforcement and intelligence, nationally and internationally.

The questions that have always been under the surface concerning whether or not FDR knew about Pearl Harbor in advance will be miniscule against the question of whether or not intelligence was cooked or cherry picked to justify this war... and if it was, why?

Rational, reasoned responses to problems facing America are a measurement of greatness. The ability to bring America together.

The partisan use of this war, the political campaigning designed to attack Democrats will show that this President never rose to the challenge of being the President of the United States... he always took the low road and remained, first and formost, the head of his party.

That will be what the historians will see.

Edmund D. Tobin - 1/7/2007

"And as much as historians can't stand to admit it, democracies really don't go to war with each other."

Most historians know that the United States has gone to war with every one of its neighbors, at one time or another.

We have also invaded or otherwise intervened in scores of smaller, less powerful countries around the world.

And we did not engage in these many wars for the purpose of spreading democracy.

World War II is the only possible exception, but we did not choose that war the way we have so many others.

This kind of sanctimonious claptrap may make you feel better about killing people and stealing their stuff, but it is ahistorical.

Edmund D. Tobin - 1/7/2007

Saddam from the moment the Supreme Court voted him in, if not sooner.

9/11 just made it easier.

The main reason Bush "had the public with him every step of the way" in the run-up to war is because he and his co-conspirators (especially Cheney) lied relentlessly about the threat that a weak tin-horn dictator on the other side of the world posed to the United States.

And the other major reason is that the media were disgracefully stenographic in getting the Bush/Cheney war lies into print and out over the airwaves, without the kind of challenge to official lies we should expect from journalists.

Unfortunately, historians will more measure Bush's incompetence in commanding the Iraq War, rather than the mendacious propaganda campaign that made the war possible, in deciding that the Decider-in-Chief was our worst president ever.

Well, I guess however you guys come to the right conclusion is fine by me.

But I wish that lying the nation into an illegal, murderous war were a bigger historical deal than the fact that that war turned out badly.

Jason Blake Keuter - 1/7/2007

And bringing back the Iraq commission geriatrics that made the mess with amoral "realpolitik" in order to restore America's moral standing amongst "allies" who used to criticize America for following precisely the policies they now hate America for NOT following is foolishness in the extreme.

Lawrence Brooks Hughes - 1/7/2007

Bush's legacy will not necessarily turn on events in Iraq. Roberts, Alito, and all the other good federal judges he has appointed will surely be an important part of his legacy.

Our new military footprint worldwide is another part, along with the dramatic makover of the armed forces under Donald Rumsfeld.

Clearly, Iraq and Afghanistan will never be the same. Bush was obliged to do something different in the ME, as the fly-over zones were a failure and 60 years of bribes all around had led only to child suicide bombers and more carnage than ever in Palestine. To his credit, Bush did something different. He turned the whole palce upside down, and put the spotlight where it belonged, on our worthless European "allies." Under Bush the latter have found they can no longer launch (or withhold) the U.S. military, especially while maintaining an inadequate military force themselves. The "world test" complaint of John Kerry ain't gonna be heard no more.

We have withdrawn half our troops from South Korea, and it seems likely the other half will come out before long. The same is true in Germany and Japan, as it should be, 60 years after WWII. You might say this was going to happen anyway, but why didn't it happen under Bush, Sr., or Bill Clinton?

Dubya has a new approach to foreign affairs, which makes the State Department satisfy the folks in Midland, Texas. His novel idea is to advance the interests of the United States, and freedom, just about everywhere. An important part of this sea change has been the "outing" of the kleptocracy on Turle Bay. The U.S. public will never again think of the UN as the world's great hope for the future. Kofi was a Godsend.

As for Iraq, per se, when you project where we are today out ten years ahead, there is little likelihood the country's inhabitants will look back and regret the ovethrow of Saddam and creation of the present government. As time goes by, Americans will judge it a success, too, regardless of whether it is a total success or a partial success. We are virtually guaranteed some degree of a success.

Last but not least, you have to remember the economic devastation in the U.S. which immediately followed 9-11, and particularly the empty airports and plunging Dow-Jones average. The Bush tax cuts proved to be precisely the right medicine for that, and precisely the medicine we would NOT have received from President Gore. This is a crucial reason to view the Bush presidency favorably. After they have worked their magic for another two years, even the Democrats won't be able to vote against the tax cut extensions. The rising prosperity, by the way, has covered the enormous financial cost of the war. (It is probably this reaffirmation of capitalism which his most inveterate enemies especially cannot abide, because it mercilessly destroys their religion.)

There has been a halting start at computerizing the FBI and CIA, and forcing these agencies to work together. There has been another monstrous bureaucracy created called Homeland Security, but it has had some success, and nobody claims we are more vulnerable today that we were on 9-12. On the contrary.

The campaign to privatize, or partly privatise--to rationalize--Social Security has had its groundwork laid. The public is eager for it, and steadily growing more in favor. This idea's time will come much sooner because of the efforts of Geroge W. Bush.

The Medicare Rx entitlement was done successfully, and in such a way that new miracle drugs will continue coming forth steadily from the big drug companies. It should be remembered when critics complain about this "huge new entitlement," that it is not really accurate to call it "new." Drugs have been emptying hospital beds relentlessly for the past 30 years, with the drug costs not paid by the old Medicare program. The retirees needed this relief, and with their foot in the door who can doubt the donut hole will eventually be filled, too.

Meanwhile, soaring overhead, is the new philosophy that America stands for liberty, freedom and self-government for oppressed peoples everywhere, a standard which all Americans instinctively support. This is the enduring George DUBYA Bush legacy, just wait and see. We will render less and less support to brutal regimes for the sake of expediency. And as Bush's stewardship becomes more and more obviously a triumph, that of his father will be seen as more and more of a disaster.

Jason Blake Keuter - 1/6/2007

Historians will never look favorably upon Bush because of the way Bush talks and his silliness - all of which will remain on video for historians to watch again and again.

It doesn't take history, however, to see that the Bush Doctrine is right -both morally and strategically. American foreign policy based on relationships with dictators we think are "our sons of bitches" is inherently destabilizing. Dictatorships are themselves unstable and require deflection of attention towards foreign subjects and will thus seek foreign enemies in order to maintain control over their own people. But no one wants to live in a dictatorship and dictators know this better than "intellectuals" from democratic societies who take seriously news interviews with Lebanese civilians living in areas under Hezbollah control.

And as much as historians can't stand to admit it, democracies really don't go to war with each other. And as much as historians can't stand to admit it, democracies NEVER come to power without war that involves foreign assistance. In other words, every democracy has arguably been imposed. And last, democracies do not come into being without protracted struggles, setbacks and conflict. Last, democracies are not born and stabilized in less than 25 to fifty years.

The irrational hatred of George Bush has so blinded "intellectuals" that they deny what they would have freely admitted or even insisted upon prior to his Presidency. The policies they advocate by default all lack any historical examples of success.

Working with our "allies" who have failed to assimilate immigrants because of their insistent, racist nationalism and thus fear the powder keg of jihad in their own back yards is a foolish policy - for us and them.

Working through the UN is, first of all, what Bush did and in opposing the invasion of Iraq the UN simply proved itself to be an organization that really doesn't mean what it says. Insisting on going through the UN deflates and depresses the hopes of people all over the world stuck under the boots of oppressive and tyrannical governments who dominate that august body. The ringing applause for the psychotic rants of Chavez come not from the people of the Third World but from their well-fed oppressors who sit at the UN.

And what about history? Let's look at an AMerican example:

The struggle to bring democracy to the South took over 100 years. It commenced under false pretenses of maintaining the union. When the war became abolitionist ("radicalized"), the north was far from a perfect society (the requirement the left has of AMerica before it can justifiably meddle in foreign affairs). The war itself was rife with corruption and profiteering a la Halliburton. Moreover, few people thought blacks equipped to handle democracy or freedom and most beleived the South itself was naturally inclined to despotism. The end of the war brought on democracies in the South that required Northern Armies to sustain. Those governments were accused of being the puppets of the north. Then there was a protracted, violent insurgency by various klan groups to redeem the South and rid it of foreign rule As the costs of fighting this insurgency mounted, the initial Reocnstructionist euphoria of Civil War victory receded and a war weary north withdrew its support for Reconstruction governments, allowing all sorts of message-sending massacres of blacks to take place and soon the South was under racist Democratic control and remained so until the Civil Rights movement nearly 100 years later.

the lesson? Mint and magnolias were better, and the war messed everything up and it was better to leave the South alone. In other words, slavery, while not perfect, was at least stable.

Of course, it wasn't, but it was convenient to think so.

I won't go into details about democratic Spain, Portugal, Germany, Italy, Japan and now the countries of Eastern Europe, all of whom fail to measure up to the standard of perfection that is used to hamstring US foreign policy that actually promotes freedom and democracy. These details have been given again and again elsewhere. Loathing of Bush and Rumsfeld has blinded historians into acknowledging the striking and blatant hsitorical parallels that argue that there is really nothing naive or wrongheaded about Bush making freedom and democracy the raison d'etre of American foreign policy.

It is far better to deserve honor than to actually receive it. May Bush always be ranked low by historians who lack the professional integrity to suspend their animus and acknowledge the reality of their own subject.

E. Simon - 1/3/2007

It's not even clear whether he remembers that line-item veto legislation was passed during the CLINTON administration, only to be struck down by SCOTUS as UNCONSTITUTIONAL.

Note to W: How do we make unconstitutional things constitutional? Oh yeah, by amending the constitution. Remember that bit?

HNN - 1/3/2007

Carter's bungled raid on Iran typified his misguided use of power.

Of course a president can't be held responsible for every mistake the military makes. But just as we are holding Bush responsible for the mess in Iraq and its poor execution, we should hold Carter responsible for the failed hostage rescue.

What was his plan B? Did he even have one? Or was it go for broke? The upshot is that America looked weaker rather than stronger and that hurt us.

We were morally compromised by that point because Carter had allowd the Shah into the UYS for medical treatment, so we couldn't very well claim to be standing for truth, justice and the American way. Giving a dictator humanitarian help? Please.

Carter inherited the Iranian mess, of course. It began with Ike's decision to back the Shah in the US sponsored coup against Mossadegh. But Carter left things rather worse.

He should have heeded warnings that the embassy staff was at risk and gotten them out once he made the decision to admit the Shah. Having failed to take that prudent step, he needed to have a Plan B and a Plan C if the hostage rescue attempt failed (as was likely given its complexity).

These are just some of his foreign policy mistakes.

Jeffery Ewener - 1/3/2007

Point taken (except for the part about firing cabinet secretaries unnerving people, which I don't understand).

It may be my geographic situation that makes me focus on his foreign policy, rather than his handling of domestic issues. And certainly domestic issues are what elections are fought on. But don't historians' assessments typically zero in on foreign affairs, America's place in the world, etc.? Why does this not seem to be the case for Carter?

HNN - 1/3/2007

Hi Peter,

Here's what I meant by bloodlust.

A few weeks after 9/11 I was at a dinner party where a professor was talking about what happened. She surprised me by saying that if the Islamists kept attacking us we should level Afghanistan. Destroy the place entirely. Wipe it off the map.

She had friends who lived in NYC. I believe she may have had a friend who died in the Towers.

This was bloodlust.

She wanted revenge and she didn't care if innocents were killed in the process.

Bush turned this natural human reaction to 9-11 to his advantage in attacking Iraq.

HNN - 1/3/2007

Here's one reason why Carter's presidency is usually derided by historians.

His energy policy required Americans to pay more for energy. His inflation policy was designed to lower prices and get Americans paying less for things. He implemented both policies simultaneously. They could not both be implemented and succeed. Carter failed to understand the connections.

A Democrat invented the misery index (inflation rate plus interest rates) in 1976. Under Carter it went higher than ever before in our history.

Presidents do not control the American economy. But Carter's policies hindered the effort to tackle inflation, wich he himself regarded as our number one domestic problem.

He left unfortunately the strong impression that he didn't know what he was doing.

After his malaise speech, which was popular, he fired five cabinet secretaries. This unnerved the American people and his poll numbers plummeted.

Jeffery Ewener - 1/3/2007

Rick Shenkman's article is a very wise and learned piece of writing. But when I read his dismissal of Jimmy Carter's Presidency, I was almost surprised. But sadly, not quite.

One of the mysteries of watching America from beyond its borders is the near-universal animosity -- insdie those borders -- toward the Carter Presidency, which from out here looks like one of the more inspiring periods of recent US history. It seems far from the failure Mr. Shenkman describes.

It was the first and last time the USA intervened aggressively for peace in the Middle East. Certainly the peace was flawed, but it was far better than war, and no other American initiative has come close to matching it since.

The focus on human rights in American foreign policy was criticized then and has few champions now. But human rights are better defined and more straightfotwardly monitored than nebulous concepts like "democracy" or (God help us) "freedom", which tend to mean whatever the speaker chooses to make them mean. And -- particularly in Central America -- it led to a far more open & civilized foreign policy than the years of barbarism and state-sponsored terrorism that followed it.

It's also been pointed out that, had Carter's efforts to conserve energy and reduce America's dependence on foreign oil not been reversed by his successors, American society and its economy -- and quite possibly its foreign policy -- would be stronger today.

And then there was the "malaise". It's hard not to suspect that this was the true origin of Carterphobia. Carter himself is blamed for even raising the question, as if he had made it up out of whole cloth, in a desperate effort to slander the greatest country in the world.

Yet isn't it possible that this was an opportunity for America to face up to its new, more relative and less absolute dominance of the free world of the day, to admit that its ability, after Vietnam and after Watergate, to unilaterlaly impose its will on the planet had waned, and that it was now much more the first country among equals and not the only country that mattered? It's called, in a word, humility. It's a lesson nobody enjoys learning, but everybody benefits from. It's part of growing up.

Instead, America voted for Ronald Regan and his fantasies -- which that unfailingly genial boob cheerfully admitted were fantasies -- and his Administration's feel-good policies like Salvadorian death squads, the invasion of Grenada and Iran-Contra. Meanwhile the reality of economic deterioration, depressing and therefore blithely ignored, accelerated.

It's not a straight line from there to the bloodbath in Iraq, but the regression is pretty clear. Since Carter, no President has failed to talk about America's hope or compassion or values or greatness, nor has one ever come close to doing half as much to realize any of it as Jimmy Carter did. And that is especially true of America's greatness.

One day I expect there will be a revaluation of the Carter legacy. What's holding it up, I suspect, is that it will necessitate a devaluation of the Presidents and policies that followed him.

Tim Matthewson - 1/2/2007

Rick Shenkman's essay is a fine piece of historical writing and leaves the reader not only with insights of the moment but also with methods helpful to others about the how to evaluate American statesmen. I plan to send it around to my friends and hopefully it will appear in other publications.

Tim Matthewson - 1/2/2007

Rick Shenkman's essay is a fine piece of historical writing and leaves the reader not only with insights of the moment but also with methods helpful to others about the how to evaluate American statesmen. I plan to send it around to my friends and hopefully it will appear in other publications.

Tim Matthewson - 1/2/2007

Rick Shenkman's essay is a fine piece of historical writing and leaves the reader not only with insights of the moment but also with methods helpful to others about the how to evaluate American statesmen. I plan to send it around to my friends and hopefully it will appear in other publications.