Monday, May 22, 2006

Should Historians Try to Rank President Bush's Presidency?

Should Historians Try to Rank President Bush's Presidency? This is a good essay by Larry DeWitt at the History News Network. In it, he explains why it is inappropriate for historians to attempt to rank the Bush presidency now.

I like this quote, "We cannot honestly evaluate the Bush Presidency, as historians, until that presidency is finished, until it passes into history. Any attempt to do so while that presidency is in motion is both foolish and dishonest. It is dishonest because it misrepresents what are the historian’s political opinions as being the profession’s historical assessments."

I know I have covered this topic before in this blog but I think this essay is worthwhile in how it makes this point. Unfortunately, it is apparent that too many historians are letting their own personal political opinions influence their historical analysis. DeWitt cites the example of Sean Wilentz who wrote The Worst President in History? for Rolling Stone recently. Wilentz makes that claim the current president is the worst ever. But how the heck can we know that now? In 100 years will historians really rank Bush behind Buchanan and Harding? I am skeptical...

Sean Wilentz has a rebuttal at HNN as well if you are interested in a different view.

4 comments:

Jennie W said...

I totally agree - it isn't history until its over and even then it needs a "cooling" off period. For instance, I have certain opinions about Clinton...but I also recognize that it will take me awhile (if ever) to be able to critically judge that administration. Just a note, I discussed a similar issue in Presidents and Polls. The article compared Truman and Bush, but ended on the note (which I quote) that we can't make the decision now.

Michael said...

"The article compared Truman and Bush, but ended on the note (which I quote) that we can't make the decision now."

Yes you did as I have previously as well. I will try not to post ont his again but if an article hits my buttons...

"Ms. Cornelius" said...

When does an event stop being "current events" and start being "history?"

It is way too soon to try to place Bush's presidency into a best/worst hierarchy.

Many people have criticized the film about United Flight 93 as being too soon, for example.

Will restrain snarky comment about recent chief executives now.....

Jennie W said...

I'm all for the 50 year rule before discussing events/people historically.