Gail Collins’s column made a bit of joke out of it, but the present situation does seem to make a pretty good argument for a parliamentary system where the rejected chief executive would be immediately out after an election and the new one could start governing immediately. Luckily for us, Obama already has started acting more like a president than Bush ever did, and on YouTube no less. Collins still has Bush in the second-worst slot, and there I think I might have to disagree:
In happier days, Bush may have nurtured hopes of making it into the list of America’s mediocre presidents, but somewhere between Iraq and Katrina, that goal became a mountain too high. However, he might still have a chance to avoid the absolute bottom of the barrel, a spot currently occupied by James Buchanan, at least in my opinion. Buchanan nailed down The Worst President title in the days between Abraham Lincoln’s election and inauguration, when the Southern states began seceding and Buchanan, after a little flailing about, did absolutely nothing. “Doing nothing is almost the worst thing a president can do,” said the historian Michael Beschloss.
I doubt this is an original thought with me, but there are actually far worse things that a president could do than nothing. For instance, attacking and occuying another nation for years, with essentially no provocation and on the most flimsy of evidence — Bush did that largely on his own, sui generis. Buchanan came into office with the sectional crisis in full swing, a situation to which he made his contributions, certainly, but one that predated his administration and probably outstripped the ability of any Democratic president of that period (when the Democrats depended heavily on southern votes) to adequately address. Buchanan and Bush were about equal in their feckless responses to other disasters on their watch, but I suspect that Hurricane Katrina and Great Depression II will be much better remembered than the North Carolina hurricane and economic Panic of 1857.