April 23, 2013

I agree with Stephen F. Knott that rushes to judgment are to be avoided. The trouble is that his Sunday Opinion commentary [“Judging George W. Bush: Scholarship or punditry,” April 21] rushed to demand that we judge sans facts. It assumed that any harsh criticism of the self-styled “Decider”/“War President” must be steeped in what Mr. Knott calls “partisan bias.” Among those he slammed for such “scholarly malpractice” was Columbia University’s Eric Foner.

A year after Mr. Foner’s December 2006 Outlook piece on President George W. Bush [“He’s the worst ever”], the Bush recession hit; it wound up pushing what had been our sound, solid economy to the brink of a depression. That aside, Mr. Foner — who in 2011 won the Pulitzer Prize for history — made a close, empirical, context-rich judgment on Bush’s shortcomings vis-à-vis those of the worst who’d gone before. In contrast, Mr. Knott provided a textbook case of begging the question. If he (or anyone) can marshal some exculpatory facts on Mr. Bush’s behalf, I’m all ears. Until then, the more Teflon we pour on a failure who deserves to be remembered as a wrecking ball, the more history will stand poised to (God help us) repeat.

John McQueen, Chantilly

The condemnation of the George W. Bush administration on the part of scholars and the media tells us a great deal about these sources of denunciation and very little about the performance and success of the Bush presidency. The lack of balance and objectivity in academia and the media in the United States in recent decades has virtually eliminated the opportunity for proper understanding of presidential performance.

The misbehavior in the Clinton years is winked at by the liberal establishment, while the statesmanship and economic vibrancy of the Bush years (until the Democrats undermined its stability with the home-loan debacle) are denounced because he was a Republican president.

Fifty years from now, reliable scholarship will paint a much different picture than the biased one being put forward today. Mr. Bush will be ranked alongside other sterling presidents who engendered economic prosperity and was willing to place our military in harm’s way to combat destabilizing forces in the world and to defend the United States at all costs.

Thomas J. Ryan, Bethany Beach, Del.

Judging George W. Bush: Scholarship or punditry?” seemed to promise a thoughtful piece prompted by the opening of the George W. Bush Presidential Center, home to the new Bush presidential library. Instead we read a simple criticism of historians who criticized Mr. Bush. It is true, of course, that historians’ methods and the passage of time are useful in assessing a presidency. Nevertheless, it still is okay — even for historians and everyone else who aspire to objectivity — to criticize, within boundaries, poor leadership when it reveals itself.

It would have been far more interesting to read about scholarship vs. punditry at the Bush center, or perhaps an attempt to provide an evidence-based positive portrayal of the Bush presidency.

Thomas S. Bateman, Charlottesville