Maybe former President Jimmy Carter wasn't thinking broadly enough when he called President Bush the worst ever. Historians are starting to lump the 43rd president's record in with his dad's, the 41st president, as they begin sizing up just what went wrong with W's administration and his place in history. "His historical legacy," says James Madison University's Glenn Hastedt, "is right at the tipping point." He should know. Hastedt coedits the weighty White House Studies, which is devoting two upcoming issues to comparing father and son.
One scholarly paper provided to Whispers offers an interesting theory. Gary Wekkin of the University of Central Arkansas says the two would have succeeded if they had switched places: 43 to fight the first Iraq war and domestic issues his dad failed at and 41 to handle the current war and international crises that followed. "Strictly speaking, neither Bush 41 nor Bush 43 has been a poor president," says Wekkin. "Rather, each seems to have been the right person for the presidency at the wrong time."It's not curtains for 43, though. Wekkin says Bush may yet see his hope of having historians 50 years off judge him better. "It worked for Harry Truman," says Wekkin. Hastedt, meanwhile, says it all hinges on the war. "If Iraq fails," he says, "it will be very difficult to call it a success."