McClatchy News: Bush Will Rank at Bottom in Presidential History





If Harry S Truman did it, why can’t George W. Bush?

Truman came back from the political abyss — his public approval rating sank as low as 22 percent thanks in large part to America’s entry into the Korean War and his handling of labor disputes at home — to become regarded by historians as one of the nation’s top 10 presidents. Lately, some Bush administration officials and White House associates have predicted that President Bush — mired in an unpopular war in Iraq and saddled with the low Nixon-level approval ratings — will get the Truman treatment by historians after he leaves office in January 2009.

“I think when the history is written that, in fact, it will reflect credit upon this president and his administration,” Vice President Dick Cheney told CNN’s Larry King last month.

Will history really give Bush the Truman bounce? Several historians doubt it, noting that no other president other than the former haberdasher from Independence, Mo., has received such a 180-degree revision to the benefit of his legacy.

“I don’t think any president has had as significant a re-evaluation as Truman,” said Columbia University historian Alan Brinkley. “(Dwight) Eisenhower has risen in historical evaluation quite a lot, but not to the same degree. (James) Polk was once ranked much higher than he now usually is. I suspect (Ronald) Reagan will fluctuate a good deal over time.”

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