Rush to Judgment
George W. Bush, The War on Terror, and His Critics
Stephen F. Knott
George W. Bush has been branded the worst president in history and forced to endure accusations that he abused his power while presiding over a "lawless" administration. Stephen Knott, however, contends that Bush has been treated unfairly, especially by presidential historians and the media. He argues that from the beginning scholars abandoned any pretense at objectivity in their critiques and seemed unwilling to place Bush's actions into a broader historical context.
In this provocative book, Knott offers a measured critique of the professoriate for its misuse of scholarship for partisan political purposes, a defense of the Hamiltonian perspective on the extent and use of executive power, and a rehabilitation of Bush's reputation from a national security viewpoint. He argues that Bush's conduct as chief executive was rooted in a tradition extending as far back as George Washington-not an "imperial presidency" but rather an activist one that energetically executed its constitutional prerogatives.
“This is a valuable work for anyone interested in the history of the presidency in wartime, the war on terror, or the responsible role of historians in public debate.”
“Rush to Judgment will alternatively boil one’s blood and cast a chill on one’s hopes for our constitutional republic. Blood will boil in indignation at the derelictions of academic, journalistic, congressional, and judicial duty that Knott exposes, while the chill will come as one surveys the accumulated results: a constitutional order out of whack, a political class overreaching, academic fields politicized, and a democratic citizenry dangerously misinformed and misguided.”
—Perspectives on Political ScienceSee all reviews...
“Knott shows that the Bush Administration could claim constitutional support for its controversial terrorism policies from Franklin Roosevelt to Abraham Lincoln back to Alexander Hamilton. But he goes further. He also calls to account the many historians, both professional and popular, whose criticism of the 43rd president ‘bordered on the unprofessional and made a mockery of the principle of academic objectivity.’ . . . Knott shows that the prerogative is no mere innovation of modern presidents but enjoys an ancient paternity.”
—The Claremont Review
“As Knott methodically demonstrates, Bush’s wartime conduct was fully consonant with that of his predecessors most celebrated by progressive historians, including Founders like Jefferson, populist Democrats like Andrew Jackson, and modern Democrats like Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, and John Kennedy . . . all in an effort to establish that ‘the use of history as ideology, as a partisan tool, also means the corruption of history as history.’”
—The Weekly Standard
“A provocative book that, while not intended as a defense of the Bush years, argues that [these] scholars, from the very beginning, ‘abandoned any pretense of objectivity in their critiques and seemed unwilling to place Bush’s actions in a broader historical context.’”
—The Intelligencer: Journal of U.S. Intelligence Studies
“Provides a clear-eyed view of Bushs policies—and shows that much of the criticism and commentary of the Bush years was incoherent and hysterical.”
—Michael Barone, Senior Political Analyst, Washington Examiner, and Resident Fellow, American Enterprise Institute
“An impassioned and well-argued reappraisal of the presidency of George W. Bush and its use of executive power in prosecuting the war on terror. . . . The first shot in the inevitable revisionist reevaluation of the Bush administration.”
—Peter R. Mansoor, author of Baghdad Sunrise: A Brigade Commander’s War in Iraq
“A terrific book and a much-needed corrective to the distorted accounts that dominate public discussion of Bush. Should be required reading.”
—John Ehrman, author of The Eighties: America in the Age of ReaganSee fewer reviews...
Given that one of the main indictments of Bush focuses on his alleged abuse of presidential war power, Knott takes on academic critics like Sean Wilentz and Arthur Schlesinger Jr. and journalists like Charlie Savage to argue instead that Bush conducted the War on Terror in a manner faithful to the Framers' intent-that in situations involving national security he rightly assumed powers that neither Congress nor the courts can properly restrain. Knott further challenges Bush's detractors for having applied a relatively recent, revisionist understanding of the Constitution in arguing that Bush's actions were out of bounds.
Ultimately, Knott makes a worthy case that, while Bush was not necessarily a great president, his national security policies were in keeping with the practices of America's most revered presidents and, for that reason alone, he deserves a second look by those who have condemned him to the ash heap of history. All readers interested in the presidency and in American history writ large will find Rush to Judgment a deftly argued, perhaps deeply unsettling, yet balanced account of the Bush presidency-and a clarion call for a reexamination of how scholars determine presidential greatness and failure.