Bush Iraq Plan May Be Last Chance to Avoid History's `Dustbin'





George W. Bush came to power in 2001 vowing to make his mark on history by overhauling taxes, pensions and schools. Instead, an item not on the original agenda -- the war in Iraq -- may consign him to the bottom tier of U.S. leaders.

That's the view of a number of historians and presidential scholars, who say that unless Bush's decision to inject some 20,000 more troops succeeds in quelling sectarian violence, he risks joining the ranks of such poorly regarded American leaders as James Buchanan and Warren G. Harding.

``Iraq has done enormous damage'' to Bush's standing, says Robert Dallek, the biographer of Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson. Bush, he says, will rank ``somewhere at the bottom.'' Bruce Buchanan, a political scientist at the University of Texas in Austin, says Bush's effort to reverse the course of events in the war is ``his last chance to avoid the dustbin of history.''

As Bush puts the finishing touches on tomorrow's State of the Union address, the chaos in Iraq is emboldening political opponents and putting his presidency under siege. In a Bloomberg/Los Angeles Times poll conducted Jan. 13-16, 49 percent of respondents said Bush will be remembered as a poor or below- average president, with 28 percent ranking him as average. Only 22 percent said Bush will be judged a success....


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