Meena Bose: Bush and Clinton legacies are at stake in election

Historians in the News

[Meena Bose is a professor and director of Hofstra University's Kalikow Center for the Study of the American Presidency. She is co-editor of "The Uses and Abuses of Presidential Ratings" and author of "Shaping and Signaling Presidential Policy: The National Security Decision Making of Eisenhower and Kennedy." Bose teaches courses on the presidency and other topics at Hofstra, which is hosting the third and final presidential debate on October 15.]

President George W. Bush did not attend the Republican National Convention but is speaking to the delegates via video conference.

His predecessor, Bill Clinton, had a moment in the spotlight at the Democratic National Convention last week, but the party then witnessed a key transition in leadership with its nomination of Barack Obama.

Yet even though Bush and Clinton were largely on the sidelines of their party's conventions, each has a significant stake in seeing his party win the presidency in November. Their legacy in American politics hinges on the result.

Evaluating presidents during their tenure or in the early years after they leave office is risky business. Declassified records, inside stories from administration officials and the long view of history all can change our perspectives in significant ways.

Scholarly surveys of presidential "greatness" typically put George Washington and Abraham Lincoln at the top of the pantheon and James Buchanan and Warren G. Harding at the bottom, but consensus disappears with recent presidents. A recent survey ranked both Clinton and Bush II in the middle of the list, leaving much room for the two to move up or down in the future.

Judgments are typically based on a president's ability to enact his policy agenda, respond to events and improve American politics and prospects over the long term, among other factors.

The initial appraisals of the Bush and Clinton presidencies share a common theme of squandered opportunities that could be mitigated by a November victory for their party....
Read entire article at Meena Bose at the CNN website

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