USA Today founder Al Neuharth once chastised Senator Hillary Clinton for stating that George W. Bush’s presidency was one of American history’s worst. Neuharth promptly made his own list of worse presidents.
Now, he has recanted and offered a mea culpa:
I remember every president since Herbert Hoover, when I was a grade school kid. He was one of the worst. I’ve personally met every president since Dwight Eisenhower. He was one of the best.
A year ago I criticized Hillary Clinton for saying “this (Bush) administration will go down in history as one of the worst.”
“She’s wrong,” I wrote. Then I rated these five presidents, in this order, as the worst: Andrew Jackson, James Buchanan, Ulysses Grant, Hoover and Richard Nixon. “It’s very unlikely Bush can crack that list,” I added.
I was wrong. This is my mea culpa. Not only has Bush cracked that list, but he is planted firmly at the top.
Josh Bolten and Karl Rove must be spending some time trying to figure out how to fix Bush’s legacy problem with 22 months left and defy Hillary Clinton and Al Neuharth’s prognostications.
How to do it?
Here’s a start:
Read a lot more about what it took for Nixon to go to China
Work feverishly in helping to establish the State of Palestine
Invent the core institutional arrangements that might allow for collective security agreements between Israel and other moderate Sunni regimes in the Middle East
Help coax forward a Syria-Israel peace deal along the lines that got Libya out of the international dog house
Stabilize Afghanistan. . .fast
Call a Regional Conference on the Middle East and get all stakeholders there
Organize a global politial effort — that is serious — to engage, contain, and confront — in ways more creative and effective than a military strike — Iran’s nuclear weapons appetite
Stop pursuing foreign policy/national security objectives on the cheap
Call for, authorize and fund a Manhattan Project on Energy alternatives
This is not a comprehensive list, and Bush’s presidency has been politically chastened — but some of these are doable and could help raise the long-term stock value of the Bush legacy.
But as John Negroponte once told me about waiting for new great ideas from the administration on how to deal with Iraq, “Don’t hold your breath.”
— Steve Clemons