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The Verdict is in: Guess Who's The Worst President in US History?

Updated on November 11, 2015
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Jeff is a computer professional who takes a great interest in politics and tries to always distinguish fact from opinion.

Americans of all stripes love to debate which president was best or worst. This is a subject that is too important to rely on opinion polls, which are skewed by individual bias and political views. While It's difficult to rate how good or bad any president may have been in comparison to another, a careful look at the facts shows one president failed in virtually every aspect of the job to a degree unrivaled by any other.

When you review the facts below and consider his impact on our economy, foreign policy, and domestic policy, by almost any standard, it’s difficult to find any president who did more harm and left the country in worse shape than George W. Bush.

At the same time that Bush was leaving office with a 28% job approval rating, 61% of historians rated George W. Bush's presidency as the worst in history. In another, informal survey of 109 professional historians, 98.2% judged the Bush presidency as a failure while a mere 1.8% classified it as a success.

Below you can find all the reasons that George Bush deserves the title of Worst President in US History. I encourage you to do your own research and verify the facts stated in this article.

1. Bush Turned a Budget Surplus into the Largest Deficit in US History


Although he was the first president in decades to inherit a budget surplus, George W. Bush wasted no time in wiping out that surplus, turning it into the biggest budget deficit in history. By the time he left office, the deficit exceeded $1 trillion dollars per year. He added more to the national debt than every president before him combined.

Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthy were supposed to stimulate the economy and reduce the deficit. However, just the opposite happened. the economy collapsed and the deficit grew bigger with every tax cut. Check out this report from the Congressional Budget Office, which provides Congress with non-partisan analysis on budgetary on spending issues, showing the budget deficits and surpluses.

2. The Worst Job Creation Record Since Herbert Hoover

Data gathered from Forbes Magazine
Data gathered from Forbes Magazine | Source

When George W. Bush was sworn in as president, he inherited an unemployment rate of just 4%. By the time he left office, unemployment was skyrocketing and the economy was shedding 750,000 jobs in a single month.

Bush's reliance on tax cuts for the wealthy to stimulate the economy and create jobs was a dismal failure.

Looking at the jobs created during each presidential administration, you would have to go all the way back to Herbert Hoover to find a president with a worse record of job creation than George W. Bush.

Jimmy Carter, who is often ridiculed by Republicans, oversaw the creation of ten million new jobs during his 4 years in office compared to less than 2 million net jobs during Bush’s 8 years in office.

3. Bush Plundered Social Security, Breaking a Campaign Promise

While running for president, George W. Bush promised not to touch the Social Security trust fund. Yet barely six months after taking office he broke this promise and began siphoning money from Social Security to make up for the budget shortfall.

After taking hundreds of billions from the trust fund, he then said Social Security was broke and attempted to privatize it - an attempt that thankfully failed.


4. Bush Squandered the Clinton Economic Boom

Here is what President Bush inherited from President Clinton when he came to office:

  • 4% unemployment,
  • A $200 billion budget surplus,
  • A stock market that had tripled in value over the previous 8 years,
  • The best rate of job creation in history (22 million new jobs in 8 years).

Bush brought all that prosperity to a screeching halt. By the time he left office we had:

  • Unemployment heading toward 10%,
  • A trillion dollar budget deficit,
  • A crash of the financial system,
  • The worst rate of job creation since Herbert Hoover.

Census Bureau statistics showed that the nation’s poverty rate, which dropped every year during the Clinton presidency, rose by more than a million people per year for six of Bush’s eight years in office.


5. Bush Gave Us the Worst Economic Crisis since the “Great Depression"

While the economy always has ups and downs, it is exceedingly rare for a president to preside over two economic recessions during their term in office. The economic collapse of 2008 was the worst since the Great Depression and required taxpayers to spend nearly a trillion dollars to bail out the financial industry. In fact, former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke claims that the economic collapse of 2008 was actually worse than the Great Depression in some respects. By the time Bush left office, economists were predicting 20% unemployment within a few months.

6. Bush Ignored Repeated Warnings About Terrorist Attacks Before 9/11

According to NSA adviser for counter-terrorism, Richard Clark, President Bush was uninterested in the many briefings he received from the CIA and NSA about likely terrorist attacks being planned against the US prior to 9/11.

Richard Clark and CIA director George Tenet believed the system was “blinking red” with warnings of impending terrorist attacks and tried to express this urgency to the president.

On August 6, 2001, President Bush received a CIA briefing entitled “Bin Laden Determined to Attack the U.S.” which referenced the World Trade Center and discussed terrorist plans to hijack U.S. airplanes with New York City as a possible target.

In the weeks after receiving that CIA briefing, Bush spent a month fly-fishing, golfing, and clearing brush at his ranch in Texas. Barely a month after that warning, the US experienced the worst terrorist attack in history.

7. Bush Missed Many Opportunities to Fight or Prevent Terrorism

In February, 2001, after President Bush rejected proposals from the National Commission on Terrorism to create a Homeland Security agency, commission member Paul Bremer (later Bush’s administrator in Iraq), said "The new administration seems to be paying no attention to the problem of terrorism. What they will do is stagger along until there's a major incident and then suddenly say, 'Oh, my God, shouldn't we be organized to deal with this?' That's too bad. They've been given a window of opportunity with very little terrorism now, and they're not taking advantage of it.”

In 2002, Bush’s National Security Adviser for counter-terrorism, Randy Beers, complained that Bush refused to go after al Qaeda and was holding back troops and resources from Afghanistan to prepare for the war they were planning in Iraq. Beers later quit the Bush administration out of frustration with Bush’s lack of interest in destroying al Qaeda


8. Bush Failed to Protect New Yorkers from Toxins After the 9/11 WTC Collapse

After the World Trade Center collapsed, the EPA had information indicating that there were dangerously high levels of toxic substances like asbestos in the air. But the Bush administration pressured the EPA to issue a statement saying the air in and around ground zero was safe to breathe and encouraged New Yorkers to return to work. In fact, the level of toxic chemicals was many times higher than what the EPA considers safe.


9. Bush Used False Evidence to Justify The Iraq War

Leading up to the Iraq war, President Bush used questionable information from dubious sources to convince Congress and the American people that we needed to go to war in Iraq. He claimed in his 2003 State of the Union address that Iraq had attempted to acquire uranium from the country of Niger even though the CIA concluded that it was untrue.

Bush later claimed that Iraq acquired aluminum tubes which could only be used for building nuclear weapons. But U.S. intelligence confirmed before the war that the tubes had nothing to do with any nuclear program.

He rejected information from his own weapons inspectors that he sent into Iraq who told him that Iraq had no nuclear weapons program.

He also claimed there was a direct connection between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda even though the CIA and NSA said there was no such connection.

10. Bush Started the Two Longest Wars in US History


After initially overthrowing the Taliban government in Afghanistan, Bush withheld troops and resources from that war to prepare for the war in Iraq. This allowed the Taliban to retake large portions of Afghanistan within two years.

The Iraq war was arguably the single biggest foreign policy blunder in US history. After sending hundreds of thousands of Americans off to war with the promise of a quick victory, these wars dragged on for years costing thousands of American lives and trillions of dollars. The overthrow of Iraq led to the creation of several Islamic militant groups and a lengthy civil war that completely destabilized the entire Middle East region.

The most direct result of the war was an increase in worldwide terrorism.

11. Bush and Cheney allowed war profiteers like Halliburton to make billions on the war.


After the invasion of Iraq, Halliburton, which had given Dick Cheney a $40 million severance package, received a huge contract to run the Iraqi oil fields without having to bid against any competitors.

Halliburton made at least $39 billion over the course of the Iraq war and overcharged the government tens of millions of dollars. Cheney’s stock options in Halliburton earned him millions of dollars after he became vice president.

President Bush looking out the window of Air Force One observing the devastation of hurricane Katrina.
President Bush looking out the window of Air Force One observing the devastation of hurricane Katrina. | Source

12. Bush Was Painfully Slow in Responding to Hurricane Katrina

While thousands died and tens of thousands were struggling to survive due to the flooding in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina, President Bush continued with his planned vacation schedule.

After the levees broke and New Orleans flooded, Bush sprang into action by flying to Arizona where he gave a birthday cake to Sen. John McCain and promoted his Medicare Drug program. That evening Bush received another request from Louisiana Gov. Blanco for more help. She did not get a reply.

While thousands of stranded people in New Orleans were still waiting in vain to be rescued, President Bush flew to San Diego to give a speech about Iraq. Later he played guitar with a country singer before returning to his ranch in Texas.

On the third day Bush returned to Washington where he was photographed looking out the window of Air Force One at the devastation below.

13. Bush Frequently Violated the U.S. Constitution

  • He violated the 4th Amendment when he authorized the NSA to illegally wiretap American citizens’ phones without a warrant.
  • He further violated the Constitution when he managed to get a provision into the Patriot Act giving him sole authority to imprison people indefinitely without due process of law.
  • He violated the 8th Amendment (in addition to US laws and international treaties) by authorizing the torture of detainees who had not even been charged with any crime (not to mention that torture is the most ineffective and unreliable method of getting information).


14. Bush Was a Health & Environmental Catastrophe

George W. Bush broke his campaign promise to enact stricter emissions standards for carbon dioxide, relaxing standards that enabled polluters to put more toxins such as mercury into our atmosphere. He relaxed clean water standards to allow higher levels of arsenic and mercury in our drinking water, and weakened workplace health and safety standards to benefit big corporations.

In 2003, Bush gutted the Clean Air Act so that energy companies could substantially increase the amount of pollution generated by older energy generating plants.

15. Bush Misled Congress About the Costs of Medicare Part D

In 2003, Congressional leaders refused to support the Medicare Prescription Drug bill if it exceeded $400 billion. So President Bush told them it would cost exactly $400 billion. We now know that Bush was aware that the actual cost would be over $550 billion (cost estimates eventually reached $1.2 trillion). Medicare official Richard Foster was even threatened with termination of his job if he revealed the true cost of the bill to Congress.

Ironically, the same Republicans in Congress who voted for the Medicare Prescription expansion which added over a trillion dollars to our debt, voted against Obamacare which actually reduces the deficit.


16. Bush Lowered America’s World Standing

Most of America’s traditional allies condemned the invasion of Iraq and the use of torture on detainees. The Iraq war inspired unprecedented hatred for America in much of the world. Even US allies like Egyptian president Hosni Mubarik said the Iraq war “will create a hundred more Osama bin Ladens”.

In 2004, former Air Force chief of staff, General Tony McPeak said President Bush had "alienated our friends, damaged our credibility around the world, reduced our influence to an all-time low in my lifetime and given hope to our enemies."

After leaving office, President Bush even had to cancel a trip to Switzerland due to large-scale protests calling for him to be arrested.

Any of Those Reasons Would Have Justified Impeachment

And we haven’t even mentioned doubling the price of gasoline, exploiting 9/11 for political gain, setting the record for most time spent on vacation, cutting veterans benefits, suppressing scientific findings about global warming, flying in hecklers to disrupt the 2001 recount in Florida, refusing to testify under oath before the 9/11 commission, outing a covert CIA agent for political reasons and leaving office with a 30% job approval rating.

Yes, Other Presidents Have Had Failures

James Polk started the Mexican-American War under false pretenses. Many historians blame President James Buchanan’s weak leadership for the Civil War, leading some to consider him the worst president in history. Herbert Hoover presided over the economic crash of the Great Depression. Lyndon Johnson escalated the Vietnam War. Nixon and Reagan had more people in their administrations convicted of serious crimes than any other presidents.

Yet none of these men, not even Buchanan, failed so thoroughly at so many different aspects of their job as George W. Bush

There's Only One Inescapable Conclusion

We are all influenced by our own political bias, including this author. But setting political opinions aside and just looking at the facts, it's hard to imagine any other American president who inherited a better overall national and international situation while leaving the country in more dismal shape than George W. Bush.

Who is the Worst?

Which of these do you think is the worst president in the past 50 years?

See results

Before you leave any comments, read this note.

This article was not intended to be a detailed analysis of all US presidents to determine who was the worst among them.

This article is an explanation of why the author believes George W. Bush to be the worst president in history. It mentions some other presidents who are often regarded as having done a poor job, but it was written specifically for the purpose of discussing the George W. Bush presidency.

The opinion poll at the end of the article exists primarily for the purpose of measuring the reader’s views, but it is not by any means a scientific poll of a cross section of the American people and it has nothing to do with the content of the article.


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    • profile image

      Joshi 6 months ago

      You must be blind GAR as G. W. Bush came in at 65% as worst President and Obama came in at 19% look more closely at the graph above. Read all what it says about Bush as well.

    • profile image

      ewent 8 months ago

      For the first time in U.S. history, you have Republicans thinking for us, making high handed decisions without a shred of consideration for our right to judge those decisions or voice opinions in protest.

      I never really hated George W. Bush. Rather, I always felt sorry for him. He was merely the vehicle by which Richard Cheney could run a back room presidency. Anyone who ever read Cheney's bios would see that clearly.

      George W. Bush was never cut out for leadership of a nation like the U.S. Cheney, former CEO of Halliburton began what would lead to the presidency of one maniacal, egotistical Donald Trump.

      Once you put a CEO in as president, you no longer have a government of the people, for the people, by the people. You have high handed MEN who believe in their own selfish, self-centered, self-important power and greed.

      When Michael Bloomberg, one of the top 7 wealthiest men in the US. (Trump isn't even in the to 10. He like George Soros is in the top 400 according to Forbes.), said, Donald Trump is a "menace." I should think that former mayor of NY City, Bloomberg knows what he is talking about.

      Now the southern and midwestern Republicans got what they asked for. What they won't get is more Dem state funding to keep their states afloat. Already several Dem states plan to cut federal funding to Trump World states. It is a simple matter of not flushing it to the GOP majority in the House. So there you go.

      This election was clearly rigged by men who lust for power and nothing else. Of course, to be more powerful, you have to make the masses obey like good little doggies.

    • Ewent profile image

      Eleanore Ferranti Whitaker 8 months ago from Old Bridge, New Jersey

      The Republicans rigged the election of 2016 and fixed the campaign so Hillary couldn't win. Here's how. Back in the year 2000, TX had only 23 electors in the Electoral College. By magic in 2016, they had 34. The Republican states believe we up north are all as "ignernt" as they are. We know that by alterning the voting districts on redistricting maps, they knew they had control of the Electoral College.

      Here is what is so wrong with that. The Founding Fathers felt that the Electoral College was needed so that states with the smallest populations would have as much electoral power as states with the largest populations.

      But look at what the Republican states have done. They found a loophole is using redistricting maps so they would end up with the most voting districts and by association, the most electors.

      This they hope no one will catch on to. Now, a state like RI, can divy up their voting districts so they end up with twice the number TX has. If that's the only way we can get them to play fair, so be it.

    • jeff61b profile image

      jeff61b 8 months ago

      Most likely this article will need to be revised in two or three years. By 2018 I expect there could be a new worst president in history.

    • profile image

      Sergeant Prepper 8 months ago

      I am walking on sunshine & dancing on the ceiling because soon the very worst president(?) ever, BHO, is finally on his way out. God bless Trump!

    • profile image

      johan smulders 8 months ago

      Perhaps the worst is still to come? What a mess the elections were! That is viewed from outside the USA in a country with our own leadership problems!

    • Ewent profile image

      Eleanore Ferranti Whitaker 8 months ago from Old Bridge, New Jersey

      Hey! WelbyMD...GWB IS the worst but then, as you know phony med man...He never was your president, was he? You had Cheney running the entire 8 years of the Bush presidency. Want proof?

      Cheney sent Bush around the country for 18 months campaigning from state to state to get the Iraq war off the ground. Where was Cheney on 9/11? In an underground bunker safe and sound while Bush had to fly back on AirForce One hoping there were no more terrorists in the skies.

      If all you have is spite, you need to grow up.

    • profile image

      Demian Hammock 8 months ago

      America is in panic. After World War Two, it was really the only kid on the block as a result unprecedented economic growth.

      Now the Berlin Wall has come down and Europe is in play again in major way. China is a factor etc…

      More importantly it is not about the decline of the American Empire it is about the decline of Nationalism.

      Mainly because of the internet, funds can changes hands in seconds around the World.

      People like George W Bush are in such panic to keep America number one, but the only card they seem to know how to play is the military card.

      Also if America is no longer the Gold Standard who is?

      America might have its problems but it is not China.

      Also a logo on a hat that says “Make America Great Again” won’t work, especially if that hat is made in China and the person wearing is a maniac e.g. Donald Trump.

      Comments By: Demian Hammock.

    • profile image

      Sherri Auditor 8 months ago

      I didn't vote Obama for the worst but he's a close second. The worst was definitely George W. Bush.

    • profile image

      Baruch 10 months ago

      Bush was a terrible president...he's stupid, lacks empathy, is corrupt, comes from a Nazi family, he's a terrible human being, a mass murdering psycho. Obama is right there with him however. Obama is smart, clever, tactical, but also utterly corrupt, lacking in empathy, in service to an agenda of world domination and population reduction, eco-cidal and a consummate liar.

    • profile image

      Kevin Graham 10 months ago

      Once you people realized we have been duped by this Kenyan-born usurper it will be too late to do anything about it. BHO has destroyed our nation. Not even Trump will save us now. ONLY Jesus provides salvation.

    • grand old lady profile image

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 10 months ago from Philippines

      Nice to see an analysis based on data instead of on prejudice.

    • jeff61b profile image

      jeff61b 10 months ago

      George -

      Almost none of what you stated was true. My first clue should have been when you called the Civil War the War of Northern Aggression. Everything after that was equally silly.

    • profile image

      George 10 months ago

      Is it not the times that make or break a President? We remember Lincoln due to the War of Northern Aggression, we remember Roosevelt for WWII and so on. Therefore, those with tougher problems face decisions without a road map which at times causes a wrong turn. But at least there is a willingness to turn. Others come in with no problems and create their own. Then instead of owning up to the down-hill slide they attempt to cover it up. Since I love history, this question of the worst President was thoughtful. My selection is based on the inception of this country to its present structure. For the simple reason of creating a godless society that projects man above God, Obama gets my vote. With all the promotion of that which is evil, Mr. Barrack has torn this country from its foundation. And when the foundations are crumbling, how will anyone be able to stand. Our founding fathers would not even recognize the character of this nation as it flounders on the sea of stormy changes. History will get it right, that will be found, however, for us now there is no joy in Mudville for mighty Obama has struck out.

    • profile image

      Tigre 10 months ago

      Obama is the only president who is trying to bring the US under the hegemony of foreign powers.

    • profile image

      Puluno 11 months ago

      George W Bus worst President by aNY count

    • profile image

      Eleanore G. Whitaker 11 months ago

      Ever notice how the only people who bash President Clinton are from Republican states? So let's look at what the Republican Majority in the House and Senate has done to their own states.

      Using their traditional "Big D" delay, defund, degrade, deny slash and burn tactics, their Republican states are all under water.

      Mind you, a single review of how much each of these states take for the $1 they pay in federal taxes is nearly 3 times what Dem states get in ROI.

      So..what exactly are Republican states doing with all of that money? Brownback in KS and Grassley in IA had to close school for lack of funding.

      No matter what any of the CONservatives say, their states have the lowest wages in the US, the highest records of poverty, the most on welfare and phony SSDI. Why? If you pay $1 and your ROI is like OK's for example, $1.65, just why do you need to close schools or cut funding to hospitals? Worse, "Big Rich Texas That Whole Other Country" gets $1.78 for their $1 in federal taxes. This doesn't begin to count their share of that $50 billion they get for border protection or the $17 billion they get for Big Oil.

      President Obama entered office with Bush's 2nd term recession. Awfully strange isn't it? Every Republican president, except Eisenhower, since Warren Harding had a 2nd term recession. Only GHWB didn't and ONLY because no one trusted him to a 2nd term.

      So when you hear or see posts from lunatic fringe wingers bashing the Clinton Economic boom, you know they come from the Corn Pone and Mutton Chops Republican states.

      They are morons who just don't get it. They vote Republicans into office and for that they get sharecropper or Walmartian wages that Walmart supplements by telling their workers to collect welfare. They dump the cost of their healthcare onto phony SSDI or worse, cause our premiums to go sky high. They stupidly continue to invest in fossil fuels which are about as passe as it gets and then insists that they will drill your backyard if they please. But, sharecropper and Walmartian wages somehow always are just enough to buy that bull nosed Bully Boy pickup brand new and an arsenal of weapons.

    • profile image

      Ron 11 months ago

      Bottom line is every president in history has done good and bad things.

    • Ewent profile image

      Eleanore Ferranti Whitaker 11 months ago from Old Bridge, New Jersey

      One day, the FEC will come clean about just how Bush was re-elected in 2004. The reality is deep, dark and dirtier than the oil soaked waters in the Gulf BP spill has ever been.

      The Republicans in 1996 loathed that then President Clinton had successfully and economically moved the country in a far more financially stable condition. They knew they HAD to put a GOP president in the White House in 2000, come hell or high water. They got their high water when Bush handed an accountant, Michael Brown, the job of FEMA director and caused the deaths of Americans in Hurricane Katrina.

      The Republicans knew that the ONLY way they would EVER get another GOP president in the White House was with hanging chads, uncounted college student voters votes and any other manipulation of elections they had to use for the ends to justify the means.

      Sadly, in 2010, the won a House Majority and immediately loaded every financial committee with their GOP chairmen. Why else would a nobody like Paul Ryan be named head of the House Ways and Means Committee and then become Speaker of the House?

      The GOP knows that if they control your money, they control you. Don't wonder why you know have a nutbag like Donald Trump trying to turn your government into his personal corporate empire.

    • Boss Lady Mae profile image

      Mae Merriweather aka Boss Lady Mae 11 months ago from Atlanta, GA

      You're right on the money with your assessment of George W. Bush's Presidency. Too bad so many fault Barack Obama when he pulled us all from the cliff that we were going off. He did a lot that he doesn't get credit for doing. He had the Republicans who blocked everything he tried to do so his Presidency would be a failure and that is what the people don't understand who judge him so harshly. Blame the Republicans for things not being better because of their 8 years of being obstructionists.

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