(Article changed on June 9, 2013 at 10:22)The cover of a recent issue of THE WEEK posed this question: Was George W. Bush "a good president?"
The very fact that this question could be asked by a serious news magazine is just another indication of sickness in the American body politic.
The Bush presidency was a disaster if one considers either competence or moral character.
It left this country -- our economy, our international standing, our political discourse, our Constitution and the rule of law -- in shambles.
It inherited the potential for budgetary surpluses as far as the eye could see, then enacted a tax cut that transferred huge wealth from the middle class, and from future generations to the richest Americans, while doubling the national debt.
It abetted a great widening of inequalities of wealth and income between the richest fraction of one percent of Americans and the rest of the population.
It shackled our financial regulators and helped precipitate a global financial meltdown when toxic mortgages, sold as high-grade debt, exploded like time-bombs in banks around the world.
It launched two wars of choice, one under false pretenses, and botched them both.
The Bush presidency was the most lawless presidency in American history, according to Bruce Fein, a conservative jurist who was a prominent member of the Reagan administration.
Whole books, by responsible legal minds, outlined a multiplicity of high crimes and misdemeanors -- genuinely impeachable offenses --committed by the Bush administration.
Contempt for the rule of law was displayed as clearly as possible by the presidential pardon given to the only person (I. Lewis Libby) convicted for participation in any of this criminality, even though he was prosecuted by an outstanding Republican attorney (Patrick Fitzgerald) and convicted by a jury of American citizens.
In violation of American law and international treaty obligations, the Bush presidency was the first to embrace the practice of torture.
It usurped constitutionally granted powers from both the Congress and the courts, and did everything it could to escape accountability for its actions .
And yet, little more than four years after George W. Bush left office, we are asked -- because there are opinions to be heard on both sides -- whether he was a good president.
If we knew nothing more about the political condition of America than that, and that (as THE WEEK reports) Mr. Bush now enjoys a 47 percent favorability rating with the public, we would know that there was something rotten in the state of the Union.
Andy Schmookler, an award-winning author, political commentator, radio talk-show host, and teacher, was the Democratic nominee for Congress from Virginia's 6th District. He is the author of various books including The Parable of the Tribes: The Problem of Power in Social Evolution.