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Ask Auntie Pinko

July 22, 2004

Dear Auntie Pinko,

I am very young and have not paid any attention to politics at all until about a year ago. Now I read and watch a lot more. I have become a solid Democrat.

Anyway, I have heard a lot of hatred and disgust of Bush not only from Democratic websites like these, but also among normal, everyday, people who really aren't into politics. The whole world community hates Bush with a passion.

My question is, has any other president been treated like this before? Were any previous administrations hated so much that people say that they are a threat to the world and civilization as we know it? While I agree with this statement, has any president been told this, or is Bush the only one? How bad is he compared to the 42 other men in his position over the entire history of this country?

Thank You,

Cameron
Lee's Summit, MO


Dear Cameron,

That's a lot of questions, and they have a lot of answers. But I'm very glad to hear that you've begun paying attention to politics, and that this has resulted in your identification with the Democratic Party. We need all the young people who are 'paying attention' that we can get!

First question: Have any other presidents been treated like this?

To begin with, it helps to realize that when you're actually living through a series of events, you have a very different perspective on them than you have twenty or thirty years later, or than historians conclude eventually. A great many American Presidents have in their day endured firestorms of criticism, both domestically and in world opinion. Even in our own time, we needn't look far for similar examples of relentless negativity and disapproval on the domestic front: Mr. Clinton's years in office provide a vivid comparison. Like Mr. Bush, he was incapable of doing anything decent, moral, correct, or productive, at least to a substantial and vocal segment of the electorate.

In their times, Mr. Carter, Mr. Nixon, Mr. Johnson, Mr. Truman, Mr. Franklin Roosevelt, Mr. Hoover, Mr. Wilson, Mr. Harding, Mr. Grant, Mr. Lincoln, Mr. Jackson, and even some of our "Founding Father" Presidents were subjected to withering public criticism, both at home and abroad. It's a venerable public tradition. Still, even without the perspective of a couple of decades to look back through, I would have to say that I am unaware of any President in the last century who has incited as much profound, widespread, and freely-expressed dislike in the world community as Mr. Bush.

The charge of being a "threat to civilization as we know it" is also nothing new. Even during Auntie's own lifetime, this charge has been laid at the door of a number of Presidents, especially as humanity developed the capability to annihilate ourselves with weapons of mass destruction.

The comparison of Mr. Bush with his 42 predecessors is an entirely subjective judgment that each individual must make for himself or herself. History cannot form a consensus until considerably more time has passed - and even then, one person's historical verdict is another's smear job or canonization. In Auntie's own opinion - for what that is worth - Mr. Bush is certainly a strong contender for the "Worst President" accolade, if only for the terrible financial and foreign policy disasters he's leaving for future generations to clean up. But even trying to be as analytical and rational as I can about it, that is still a subjective judgment.

I'm certain that many people have drawn Mr. Bush's attention to the various criticisms being leveled at him. But it is paradoxically a characteristic of both a very poor leader and a very good leader, to carry through what he sincerely believes is the best course of action regardless of public criticism. We would not necessarily be better off with a President who changed their policies every time a storm of public disapprobation was expressed.

With all of that said, I still believe that someday the judgment of history is going reflect very poorly on Mr. Bush. But that judgment is not going to rely on how much or how little criticism he receives today. Rather, it's going to rely on how the policies he implemented and the decisions he made can be traced to the shape of future events, and whether they leave a better world for future generations, or not.

Keep reading and watching, Cameron. But take opinions for what they are, and use your critical thinking skills to identify facts and form your own judgments about them. I'm confident that will keep you voting Democratic for a long time! And thanks for asking Auntie Pinko.


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