Americans love to debate about who was the best or worst president in US history. This is a subject that is too important rely on opinion polls which are skewed by individual bias and political views. While It’s difficult to rate how good or bad any president may have been in comparison to another, a careful look at the facts shows one president failed in virtually every aspect of the job to a degree unrivaled by any other.
When you review the facts below and consider his impact on our economy, foreign policy and domestic policy, by almost any standard, it’s difficult to find any president who did more harm and left the country in worse shape than George W. Bush.
As you read this article, please feel free to fact check everything as well as checking the links I provided to verify these facts.
1. President Bush took growing budget surplus and left us with the biggest deficit in US history.
Although he was the first president in decades to inherit a budget surplus, George W. Bush wasted no time in wiping out that surplus, turning it into the biggest budget deficit in history (exceeding one trillion dollars per year by the time he left office) and adding more debt than every president before him combined..
2. Bush had the worst record of job creation since Herbert Hoover.
When George W. Bush was sworn in as president, he inherited an unemployment rate of just 4%. By the time he left office, unemployment was skyrocketing and the economy was shedding 750,000 jobs in a single month.
Bush’s reliance on tax cuts for the wealthy to stimulate the economy and create jobs was a dismal failure.
Looking at the jobs created during each presidential administration, you would have to go all the way back to Herbert Hoover to find a president with a worse record of job creation than George W. Bush.
Jimmy Carter, who is often ridiculed by Republicans, oversaw the creation of ten million new jobs during his 4 years in office compared to less than 3 million net jobs during Bush’s 8 years in office
3. After promising not to touch Social Security, President Bush took billions from the Social Security trust fund.
While running for president, George W. Bush promised not to touch the Social Security trust fund. Yet barely six months after taking office he broke this promise and began siphoning money from Social Security to make up for the budget shortfall.
After taking hundreds of billions from the trust fund, he then said Social Security was broke and he attempted to privatize it
4. Bush reversed all the trends of peace and prosperity from the Clinton years.
Here is what President Bush inherited from President Clinton when he came to office:
- 4% unemployment,
- A $200 billion budget surplus,
- A stock market that had tripled in value over the previous 8 years,
- The best rate of job creation in history (22 million new jobs in 8 years).
Bush brought all that prosperity to a screeching halt. By the time he left office we had:
- Unemployment heading toward 10%,
- A trillion dollar budget deficit,
- A stock market collapse,
- A crash of the financial system,
- The worst rate of job creation since Herbert Hoover.
Census Bureau statistics showed that the nation’s poverty rate, which dropped every year during the Clinton presidency, rose by more than a million people per year for six of Bush’s 8 years in office.
5. Bush gave us the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression.
While the economy always has ups and downs, it is exceedingly rare for a president to preside over two economic recessions during their term in office. The economic collapse of 2008 was the worst since the Great Depression and required taxpayers to spend nearly a trillion dollars to bail out the financial industry. By the time Bush left office, economists were predicting 20% unemployment within a few months.
6. Bush ignored repeated warnings about an imminent terrorist attack in the months before 9/11.
According to NSA adviser for counter-terrorism, Richard Clark, President Bush was uninterested in the many briefings he received from the CIA and NSA about likely terrorist attacks being planned against the US prior to 9/11.
Richard Clark and CIA director George Tenet believed the system was “blinking red” with warnings of impending terrorist attacks and tried to express this urgency to the president. .
In the weeks after receiving that CIA briefing, Bush spent a month fly-fishing, golfing and clearing brush at his ranch in Texas. Barely a month after that warning, the US experienced the worst terrorist attack in history.
7. Bush rejected many opportunities to fight or prevent terrorism
In February, 2001, after President Bush rejected proposals from the National Commission on Terrorism to create a Homeland Security agency, commission member Paul Bremer (later Bush’s administrator in Iraq), said ”The new administration seems to be paying no attention to the problem of terrorism. What they will do is stagger along until there’s a major incident and then suddenly say, ‘Oh, my God, shouldn’t we be organized to deal with this?’ That’s too bad. They’ve been given a window of opportunity with very little terrorism now, and they’re not taking advantage of it.”.
In 2002, Bush’s National Security Adviser for counter-terrorism, Randy Beers, complained that Bush refused to go after al Qaeda and was holding back troops and resources from Afghanistan to prepare for the war they were planning in Iraq. Beers later quit the Bush administration out of frustration with Bush’s lack of interest in destroying al Qaeda
8. After 9/11, Bush allowed New Yorkers to be exposed to dangerous levels of toxins from the World Trade Center
After the World Trade Center collapsed, the EPA had information indicating that there were dangerously high levels of toxic substances like asbestos in the air. But the Bush administration pressured the EPA to issue a statement saying the air in and around ground zero was safe to breathe and encuraged New Yorkers to return to work. In fact, the level of toxic chemicals was many times higher than what the EPA considers safe.
9. Bush used false information to justify going to war with Iraq
Leading up to the Iraq war, President Bush used questionable information from dubious sources to convince Congress and the American people that we needed to go to war in Iraq. He claimed in his 2003 State of the Union address that Iraq had attempted to acquire uranium from the country of Niger even though the CIA had removed that claim from a previous speech after they concluded it was untrue.
Bush claimed that Iraq acquired aluminum tubes which could only be used for building nuclear weapons. But U.S. intelligence confirmed before the war that the tubes had nothing to do with any nuclear program.
He rejected information from his own weapons inspectors that he sent into Iraq who told him that Iraq had no nuclear weapons program.
He also claimed there was a direct connection between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda even though the CIA and NSA said there was no such connection.
10. Bush started the two longest wars in our nation’s history.
After initially overthrowing the Taliban government in Afghanistan, Bush withheld troops and resources from that war to prepare for the war in Iraq. This allowed the Taliban to retake large portions of Afghanistan within two years.
The most direct result of the war was an increase in worldwide terrorism.
11. Bush and Cheney allowed war profiteers like Halliburton to make billions on the war.
After the invasion of Iraq, Halliburton, which had given Dick Cheney a $40 million severance package, received a huge contract to run the Iraqi oil fields without having to bid against any competitors
12. Bush continued to vacation for several days after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans
While thousands died and tens of thousands were struggling to survive due to the flooding in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina, President Bush continued to remain on vacation.
It was not until 3 days after Katrina hit that public outcry was loud enough that Bush decided to end his vacation, but he still took time to play one more round of golf before flying back to Washington.
13. Bush frequently used 9/11 as an excuse to violate the U.S. Constitution.
- He violated the 4th Amendment when he authorized the NSA to illegally wiretap American citizens’ phones without a warrant.
- He further violated the Constitution when he managed to get a provision into the Patriot Act giving him sole authority to imprison people indefinitely without due process of law.
- He violated the 8th Amendment (in addition to US laws and international treaties) by authorizing the torture of detainees who had not even been charged with any crime despite the fact that torture is the most ineffective and unreliable method of getting information.
14. Bush was terrible for the health of the American people
George W. Bush broke his campaign promise to enact stricter emissions standards for Carbon Dioxide while he relaxed standards enabling polluters to put more toxins such as mercury into our atmosphere. He relaxed clean water standards to allow higher levels of arsenic and mercury in our drinking water and he weakened workplace health and safety standards to benefit big corporations.
15. Bush lied to Congress about the cost of his Medicare Prescription Drug program
In 2003, Congressional leaders refused to support the Medicare Prescription Drug bill if it exceeded $400 billion. So President Bush told them it would cost exactly $400 billion. We now know that Bush was aware that the actual cost would be over $550 billion (cost estimates eventually reached $1.2 trillion). Medicare official Richard Foster was even threatened with termination of his job if he revealed the true cost of the bill to Congress.
Ironically, the same Republicans in Congress who voted for the Medicare Prescription expansion which added over a trillion dollars to our debt, voted against Obamacare which actually reduces the deficit.
16. Bush lowered America’s standing in the world community.
Most of America’s traditional allies condemned the invasion of Iraq and the use of torture on detainees. The Iraq war inspired unprecedented hatred for America in much of the world. Even US allies like Egyptian president Hosni Mubarik said the Iraq war “will create a hundred more Osama bin Ladens”.
In 2004, former Air Force chief of staff, General Tony McPeak said President Bush had “alienated our friends, damaged our credibility around the world, reduced our influence to an all-time low in my lifetime and given hope to our enemies.”
After leaving office, President Bush even had to cancel a trip to Switzerland due to large scale protests calling for him to be arrested.
That’s 16 reasons that would easily justify impeachment
…and we haven’t even mentioned doubling the price of gasoline, exploiting 9/11 for political gain, setting the record for most time spent on vacation, cutting veterans benefits, suppressing scientific findings about global warming, flying in hecklers to disrupt the 2001 recount in Florida, refusing to testify under oath before the 9/11 commission, outing a covert CIA agent for political reasons and leaving office with a 30% job approval rating.
Yes, other presidents have had their failures.
Herbert Hoover presided over the economic crash of the Great Depression, Lyndon Johnson dragged us into the Vietnam War, Nixon and Reagan had more people in their administrations convicted of serious crimes than any other presidents and James Polk started the Mexican-American War under false pretense
The weak leadership of President James Buchanan is often blamed for the Civil War, leading some to consider him the worst president in history.
Yet none of these men, not even Buchanan, failed so thoroughly at so many different aspects of their job as did George W. Bush
There’s Only One Inescapable Conclusion
We are all influenced by our own political bias, including this author. But setting political opinions aside and just looking at the facts, it’s hard to imagine any other American president who inherited a better overall national and international situation while leaving the country in more dismal shape than George W. Bush.
Before you leave any comments, read this note.
This article was not intended to be a detailed analysis of all US presidents to determine who was the worst among them.
This article is an explanation of why the author believes George W. Bush to be the worst president in history. It mentions some other presidents who are often regarded as having done a poor job, but it was written specifically for the purpose of discussing the George W. Bush presidency.
The opinion poll at the end of the article exists primarily for the purpose of measuring the reader’s views, but it is not by any means a scientific poll of a cross section of the American people and it has nothing to do with the content of the article.