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View Full Version : who is the worst President in US history?


DSeid
09-30-2003, 05:10 PM
A freind says GW, I say he's beat out by Andrew Jackson ... what with the Trail of Tears and genocide and such. Nixon was scum but not a bad prez.

Thoughts?

Jello
09-30-2003, 05:19 PM
James Buchanan, for standing idly by and letting the Civil War occur. Result - death of 660,000 Americans.

There's really no contest.

Guinastasia
09-30-2003, 05:23 PM
Ronald Reagan-for being out of touch, for supporting terrorism in Latin America and for Iran-Contra.

El_Kabong
09-30-2003, 05:25 PM
I am, or at least I will be if ever elected.

Kind of broad question, don't you think? Could we maybe get some kind of qualification as to what makes one Pres worse than another? I mean, at the time, a lot of people apparently thought Lincoln was fairly useless as a chief exec.

Seriously, though. Of course, we are at a great distance from those days, but for overall ineptness and/or corruption, the Grant presidency seems a serious contender for the crown. Post-1900, how about Herbert Hoover? GWB, much as I loath him, doesn't quite make the grade yet. He could still come through, however; ask me again at the end of this term.

TheMemeWarrior
09-30-2003, 05:28 PM
For shere incompetence I'd have to say Harding.
For consequences Buchanan.
For general evilness Nixon.

Captain Carrot
09-30-2003, 05:42 PM
I think that it really depends on how you define "worst". If you mean "evil", then I think Andrew Jackson would take the cake. If you mean "bad at the job", probably either Dubya or Reagan.

John Mace
09-30-2003, 05:54 PM
OK, I can understand the hatred some on this board have for Bush, but Reagan? The worst president ever??? Reagan???? Come on.:rolleyes:

I'd like to see that case outlined in detail.

Rashak Mani
09-30-2003, 06:09 PM
Bush :)

Trinopus
09-30-2003, 06:12 PM
Was there really anything Buchanan *could* have done to avert the Civil War? I agree he *didn't* do anything...but what options did he actually have in hand?

If you were his privy advisor, knowing as mcuh of what was to come as the wisest and most fore-sighted people of the time, what would you have advised him to do?

Trinopus

TVAA
09-30-2003, 06:19 PM
I think Hoover got a bum deal. Lots of presidents have been blamed for economic problems that were actually the result of the predecessor's predecessor's economic policies, if that. Lots of presidents have also been given credit for economies they could have done little to bring about.

RexDart
09-30-2003, 06:20 PM
Originally posted by Jello
James Buchanan, for standing idly by and letting the Civil War occur. Result - death of 660,000 Americans.

There's really no contest.

Buchanan?? Isn't Lincoln really to blame for this?

I'd have to say (honestly, not trolling here) that Lincoln is the worst in my opinion. He caused the second greatest travesty to justice in American history in order to end the greatest one. And if I weren't a libertarian who equated slavery with death, then it could easily be the other way around. With slavery an inefficient economic system that would never have survived in a market economy that had developed more efficient means of production, why we had to fight a bloody war over it I don't know. Let the South secede, so what? It's Wilsonian self-determination. 20 years down the road, slavery would have disappeared, and the death toll from the War would never have occured. Lincoln was an egomaniac who couldn't bear to see the Union split under his watch, and no friend to civil liberties (see his suspension of habeus corpus.) As a libertarian, the end of slavery is the greatest accomplishment in American history, but whether that should have been done by drafting the poor into the army and throwing them into a slaughter is something I vigorously disagree with.

I'd say the second worst was Wilson, despite how much I like his postwar ideology. Getting us into WW1 began a century of US intervensionism, and our forefathers warnings about becoming involved in European entanglements proved true as hundreds of thousands of Americans lost their lives through meddling interventionist foreign policies in the decades to come.

As for Jackson, I rather like his stance on the Bank War, and he was very popular in my state. But I'd have to rank the "Trail of Tears" right behind those first two injustices above as being quite the black mark on our history. Especially considering how well the Five Civilized Tribes had adapted, we ought to have integrated them into our nation not stolen their property and exiled them to a harsh future resulting in thousands of deaths.

Fang
09-30-2003, 06:30 PM
Originally posted by John Mace
OK, I can understand the hatred some on this board have for Bush, but Reagan? The worst president ever??? Reagan???? Come on.:rolleyes:

I'd like to see that case outlined in detail.
I'd say heading up an administration responsible for the sale of arms to America's enemies would qualify as pretty bad.

Mehitabel
09-30-2003, 06:34 PM
Whoever was President when you were in college, and had your eyes opened to The Hypocrisy All Around Us :D

Or maybe Milliard Fillmore, because of the Know-Nothing Party anti-Catholic thing.

Never thought much of Rutherford B. Hayes, either, because Reconstruction went so far off the tracks.

msmith537
09-30-2003, 06:49 PM
Well Clinton was pretty bad. He was just fortunate that the only crisis he had to deal with were those of his own making.

Did Kennedy do anything other than screw up the Bay of Pigs, start Vietnam and then get shot in the head?

And by the idiotic criteria of RexDart and Rashak Mani, wouldn't FDR and Truman be the worste presidents? After all, FDR allowed Pearl Harbor to happen and got us involved in WWII and Truman used nuclear weapons to kill a bunch of Japs which thanks to the miracle of revisionist history, wasn't really necessary?

Lumpy
09-30-2003, 08:01 PM
RexDart, while Lincoln might not have been perfect, I have to dispute your post. You seem to have an idea that if the Union had just let the southern states go, slavery would have died on it's own and the south either readmitted to the Union or at least become a dependably peaceful neighbor like Canada.

That scenerio seems utterly unlikely to me. Slavery wither away? Despite Reconstruction, the quasi-peonage of southern blacks didn't begin to die until the 1950s, and even then under pressure from the Federal government. Make no mistake: the South didn't secede because they didn't like tariffs or because the transcontinental railway didn't take a southern route; they seceded because a pro-abolition party took control of the presidency. Never mind whether slavery made economic sense, southern whites considered Negroes a caste of untouchables, and would never have voluntarily given them equal rights. Maybe by the 1930s or 40's (!) pure chattel "sold on the auction block" slavery might have passed away, to be replaced by some sort of apartheid culture without even the pretense of "separate but equal".

Did the South have a case for seceding, in a pure democracy sense? Undoubtedly. But if Lincoln hadn't opposed secession, the rest of the Union might have fallen apart. Or at best, the precedent would have been established that the states could tell the Federal government to go to hell. If what's now the continental US had split into two (or three or four) separate countries, some of which might have fought over the unincorporated western territories, or taken opposing sides in world wars One or Two, the Civil War might seem a bargain by comparison.

BTW: "Drafting the poor". Yes, the north had a draft, but it was mainly a device to encourage people to volunteer for a regular three-year tour (and get a fat bonus incidently), after which they were exempt from further service, and had numerous exceptions. By James MacPhearson's account, only about one man in nine whose name was drawn was ever actually pressed into service. The South btw had a universal draft for the duration.

Anyway, to get back to the OP, most people today have little good to say about Andrew Jackson, who is now regarded as a bigoted obstructionist who derailed true reform in the South.

John Mace
09-30-2003, 08:48 PM
If we are allowed to judge past presidents by today's moral standards, one might argue that Jefferson was surely one of the worst presidents. He actually owned slaves, afterall.

elfbabe
09-30-2003, 09:01 PM
Millard Fillmore. Both for the reason already mentioned, and because he inspired that stupid comic strip.

Ulterior
09-30-2003, 09:09 PM
Rex:
1. What Lumpy said re: Lincoln.
2. What was Wilson supposed to do? Let the Germans keep killing American civilians? It isn't interventionism to consider unrestricted submarine warfare against a neutral power conducting commerce in international waters an act of war. It's called having a grasp of the blindingly obvious.

-Ulterior

bri1600bv
09-30-2003, 10:05 PM
I'd say the worst in recent memory was LBJ (for Vietnam and the Great Society which we are still reeling from) and Carter (for his general incompetence and blame-America first weakness). A little further back was Wilson (for getting involved in WWI instead of trying for a truce). Nixon was pretty bad even leaving aside Watergate and his dirty tricks.

Great Presidents? Ronald Reagan for winning the Cold War (Oh, but wait, what about Iran-Contra? Yeah, like that has any importance whatsoever in the grand scheme of things) and making the country believe in itself, simplifying the tax code (getting rid of all the tax dodges that the rich took while at the same time cutting rates from 70% to 28%). FDR for sheer pluck through the darkest times of the country.

I never understand Lincoln being called great. If the South wanted to leave, why didn't he just let them go? I mean if my wife wants to divorce me, do I go to war with her to "preserve the union"? And he said if he could preserve it without freeing the slaves he'd do so, so don't say he did it to free the slaves. Besides, slavery would have probably ended on its own in another 10 or twenty years.

JasonFin
09-30-2003, 11:05 PM
Despite what has long been maintained by apologists for the South, slavery was not an inefficient economic system. It allowed slaveowners to extract labor under coercion, which would normally be far cheaper for them than paying a fair market wage.

This page (http://www.eh.net/bookreviews/library/weiss.shtml) is an examination of the effect of Time on the Cross, a seminal 1974 book that sparked wide reexamination of traditional economic views on slavery. It mentions a 1995 survey of members of the Economic History Association which found that nearly 100% of both economists and historians affirmed the propositions that slavery was profitable and viable. In addition, a majority of members of both fields agreed that slave agriculture was efficient compared to free labor. The robustness of slavery prior to the Civil War is now the mainstream position.

Morpheous
09-30-2003, 11:25 PM
G.W.Bush. Res ipsa loquitur

Airman Doors, USAF
09-30-2003, 11:31 PM
Originally posted by Fang
I'd say heading up an administration responsible for the sale of arms to America's enemies would qualify as pretty bad.

I'm sorry. Were you talking about "Nuclear Secrets to China for Campaign Contributions" Clinton, or was it "Lincoln Bedroom" Clinton? Sometimes I have trouble keeping all the scandals separate.

Reagan certainly isn't at the top of the list, but Clinton certainly belongs at the bottom.

pkbites
09-30-2003, 11:51 PM
I have to stick with my all time choice of FDR. He is the father of socialists programs and bloated government. He changed this nation more than any other President........and not for the better!

2sense
09-30-2003, 11:52 PM
I agree with Lumpy except that I wouldn't characterize the antebellum Republicans as a pro-abolition party. The Repubs were the abolition party back then as the Dems today are the liberal party, that is: not exactly. If an abolitionist were a member of a major party they would be a Republican but there were plenty of Republicans who didn't favor abolition. Lincoln wasn't an abolitionist in 1860, at least not publicly. It's not likely he would have been elected had he been. The South seceeded when the federal government would be run by someone who wasn't explicitly proslavery and couldn't be counted on to bend the rules to favor the institution as had been the case for decades. It seems that Southern hysteria was also a major factor.

Those claiming that slavery would die a natural death if the South were left alone have an uphill battle to show the claim has any merit. Check out David Grimstead's American Mobbing, 1828-1861: Toward Civil War (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0195117077/qid=1064983198/sr=1-1/ref=sr_1_1/102-1319473-2012167?v=glance&s=books) sometime. It was literally worth your life to question slavery in the antebellum South. People were lynched on the suspicion that they were soft on slavery. How can you sway public opinion toward some action when you can't safely discuss it publicly or even privately?

Further the ideology of the planter aristocracy, which naturally trickled down to the masses, was one of mastery. A southern gentleman was the master of his domain ( however large or small. ) To be a master there must be inferiors to dominate. Giving up slavery meant giving up not only a way of life but also their very conception of themselves. What could make them do so? Economic ineffiency? Please.


As for myself, I too have nothing good to say about Jacksa Chula Harjo but I would pick Jefferson as the worst president. He did so much to create a language of possibility that could envision a brave new world but crassly sold that vision down the river to further his own ends. In 1800 America cast off the old Federalist ideology and looked to their hero to lead them into a new future. What they got was a guy who talked revolution but basically continued the policies he had so discredited.

I guess it is kind of perverse that I am condemning a man more for what he might have done instead of what he did do. But that is the optimist in me. Sometimes I see what should be more clearly than what is. What did he do, really? Just act the politician. But I think the opportunity he squandered was the last to create something unique here in America. Some title more worthy than merely the latest World's Greatest Empire. For that Thomas "Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss!" Jefferson gets my vote.

RexDart
09-30-2003, 11:59 PM
Originally posted by Ulterior
Rex:
1. What Lumpy said re: Lincoln.

My emphasis in college was on the antebellum South, so perhaps I don't know as much about the actual era of the War Between the States as I do the preceding era. Nonetheless, I'm pretty solid on market theory, and slavery was an inefficient method of production that would have had to succumb to market forces and die off, simply because it was cheaper to produce goods in the new model than it was under the old agrarian slavery model.


2. What was Wilson supposed to do? Let the Germans keep killing American civilians? It isn't interventionism to consider unrestricted submarine warfare against a neutral power conducting commerce in international waters an act of war. It's called having a grasp of the blindingly obvious.

-Ulterior

Maybe Wilson shouldn't have kept sending ships to intervene in the European conflict. I'm a big free-trade guy, but you don't push it when doing so will cause war. IMHO, there's good reason to believe that Britain staged the entire Lusitania sinking so as to drag us into that war. But even if that's not the case, it was a foolish pretext used to drag us into war. And Wilson campaigned on the promise of keeping us out of war, and just plunged us right into the thick of it. As broken campaign promises go, one that kills off thousands of Americans and sets the stage for tens of thousands more deaths is pretty high up there in dishonorable mention. He was a dirty liar with respect to the one thing you ought not be a liar about, war and the fortunes of thousands of American lives.

RexDart
10-01-2003, 12:13 AM
Originally posted by JasonFin


This page (http://www.eh.net/bookreviews/library/weiss.shtml) is an examination of the effect of Time on the Cross, a seminal 1974 book that sparked wide reexamination of traditional economic views on slavery. It mentions a 1995 survey of members of the Economic History Association which found that nearly 100% of both economists and historians affirmed the propositions that slavery was profitable and viable. In addition, a majority of members of both fields agreed that slave agriculture was efficient compared to free labor. The robustness of slavery prior to the Civil War is now the mainstream position.

I not only read Time on the Cross, I cited it in my senior thesis. It's the best-known work on slavery in America written by someone whose last name isn't Genovese. I'm well aware of its arguments. I simply don't agree with them. Slavery might be profitable in isolation, but in a world of free commerce, the market would still defeat it. My main point in my thesis was that the laws defining the "peculiar institution" of slavery were so arbitrary that the entire system was headed for collapse, and that T.R.R. Cobb's attempt to formalize them would have failed even given a further chance.

It is not a legally coherent system, and using the courts to simply enforce the power of slaveowners would have eventually led not only to contradictions in the law (which it clearly did) but also to a complete breakdown of the rule of law. It may be popular to think that the court system always serves the interests of the wealthy, but it isn't true. If we ever saw such a system laid bare, we would be seeing the beginnings of a breakdown in the justice system of the sort not seen since the enactment of the Magna Carta. Such a system could not sustain itself.

Marley23
10-01-2003, 12:25 AM
I'd have to say (honestly, not trolling here) that Lincoln is the worst in my opinion. He caused the second greatest travesty to justice in American history in order to end the greatest one.
Blaming one man for the Civil War is folly, not to mention a pretty strange interpretation of history. He was 'on record' as saying he thought slavery was evil, but that it would die out naturally, just as you say it should've. He was also on record saying he wasn't going to be the one to abolish it. You call him an "egomaniac" for wanting to preserve the Union, but it seems to me he was willing to subvert his own feelings on the subject in the interests of the country.

With slavery an inefficient economic system that would never have survived in a market economy that had developed more efficient means of production, why we had to fight a bloody war over it I don't know. Let the South secede, so what? It's Wilsonian self-determination. 20 years down the road, slavery would have disappeared, and the death toll from the War would never have occured.
I guess the hundreds of thousands of people who would've suffered and died in those 20 years - like those who did for centuries before them - don't merit consideration here? You said you equate slavery with death, so I think that's a weird way of looking at it. And that's only provided what you say about slavery dying out is true, which I don't know that it is.

Lincoln was an egomaniac who couldn't bear to see the Union split under his watch
I don't really see why wanting to preserve the US as it was is egomaniacal - isn't it equally possible he just cared about the country? Furthermore, I'd ask "what kind of country the CSA would have become?" Here's my take:

Let's say slavery would have died out a few decades later (I think 20 is a rosy estimate, but anyway). The ex-slaves would've still had the problems they faced after the war. Immense racism, abridgement of rights, and so on. The indentured servitude (sharecropping, etc.) probably would've been even worse, because the North, which was less tolerant of that behavior (regardless of its other faults) wouldn't have stepped in. Ditto segregation - you wouldn't have had Ike sending in the national guard to desegregate schools. Actually you probably wouldn't have an equivalent to Brown v. Board of Ed. at all. So I have a hard time believing the rights of black Confederate-Americans would be any better in this alternate system of events than they were in, say, 100 years ago in real history.

t-keela
10-01-2003, 12:38 AM
I'd have to say GHWB. Pres #41

He was in cahoots with Nixon, Iran-Contra, Desert Storm, "read my lips", fathered Dubya and Jeb w/out pop neither would be in office. Had business ventures with the Bin-Ladens 20 years ago. Helped setup Saddams regime.
We're still in shit w/ folks he screwed over. Now, all his gang is back in DC again.

No one knows all the crap he's done.

squeegee
10-01-2003, 12:54 AM
Originally posted by Airman Doors, USAF
I'm sorry. Were you talking about "Nuclear Secrets to China for Campaign Contributions" Clinton, or was it "Lincoln Bedroom" Clinton? Sometimes I have trouble keeping all the scandals separate. Airman, I've heard the "nuclear secrets to China" about Clinton accusation over and over, but I've never ever seen any evidence of this other than vague finger pointing, the sort of 'proof' that's not even up to the standards of the WMD/Iraq connection.

Do you feel this is allegation is something proven? It seems to me to that this whole line of accusation is a rightist bogeyman, but I'd be willing to correct my impression. Does anyone have some cites that the Clinton admin really sold/leaked/whatever nuclear secrets to the Chinese government?

Thanks.
Squeegee.

Marley23
10-01-2003, 01:11 AM
As far as ' "Lincoln Bedroom" Clinton' goes, he's not the only President to pull that kind of thing. Are we playing the old game of "if you accuse a Bush of doing something, you're supporting Clinton?"

Mr. Babbington
10-01-2003, 01:35 AM
Originally posted by Airman Doors, USAF
I'm sorry. Were you talking about "Nuclear Secrets to China for Campaign Contributions" Clinton(?)

Airman, to sell nuclear secrets to China for camaign contributions is a treasonous act. Treason, for God's sake. That's pretty serious. It's been nearly 10 years since that came up, and I haven't heard much about people finding any evidence that Clinton actually did that. Therefore, I am gonna have to call it a "rightist bogeyman" as squeegee so eloquently put it. However, I think you might want to tread lightly when you play treason-ball. I can play too, and I can make the claim (equally unsubstantiated for now) that George II and his Lord Regent Karl Rove committed treason when they leaked the name of Valerie Plame, a CIA operative, in retaliation for her husband James Wilson's anti-war stance. Just be careful, Airman. Be very careful.


And as to the worst president ever, I'd have to go with Warren G. Harding. He had his fingers in more teapots than I care to count. Wait....that would make him the most corrupt. Let me see...I could think of a few. Martin Van Buren, Andrew Johnson, Richard Nixon, Herbert Hoover, Franklin Pierce. But I'd have to go with Hoover as the worst. Wrong response to the Great Depression. No leadership in the worst peacetime crisis the country has ever seen.

To the people who claim that Clinton or George II were the worst Presidents: How can we know? We are still sorting out what Jimmy Carter did when he effected the first Israeli-Egypt peace treaty. If you think that one of the two most recent Presidents is the worst, then you are grinding your political axe, or you have absolutely no concept of history. I have no love for George II, but I'm not gonna say he was the worst. Not for at least twenty years, until I see how the "War on Terrorism" pans out. If it turns into one of these unwinnable pseudo-wars like the "War on Drugs," or the "War on Poverty," he might have to lick Hoover's spats. But that's a long way down the road, and only time will tell.

Mr. Babbington
10-01-2003, 01:36 AM
Ambassador Joseph Wilson, even.

Marley23
10-01-2003, 04:55 AM
I think Mr. Babbington's suggestion that it's to soon to judge recent presidents is eminently fair. Look at this thread: we're still arguing about the impacts of Lincoln's tenure, which was almost 150 years ago. It's simply impossible that we have enough historical context to get more than initial observations of the 'new guys.'

I never understand Lincoln being called great. If the South wanted to leave, why didn't he just let them go?
Millions of slaves and great damage to the United States don't count as reasons, eh? Convenient.

And he said if he could preserve it without freeing the slaves he'd do so, so don't say he did it to free the slaves.
Err, wait. What? The South didn't secede because Lincoln abolished slavery. He made zero attempt to do so. They did so, in part, because they THOUGHT he would (even though he said he wouldn't). If Lincoln had freed the slaves, and then the war happened, this argument might make sense. What could Lincoln have done to preserve the Union? Made slavery legal everywhere? That's a SLIGHT case of bending over backwards. :p And it wouldn't have mattered, anyway- the Northern states didn't pick up slavery the way the South did because it didn't make any economic sense for them to do so. When the North was agrarian, it tended toward smaller farms, and after it became industrialized, slavery made even less sense there. So legalizing slavery in the North would have been a token gesture at most, and it wouldn't have preserved the Union. Although there WAS the matter of the Fugitive Slave Act, which compelled even Northerners to help slaveowners find runaway slaves if called upon to do so. That didn't legalize slavery north of the Mason-Dixon, but it's pretty close.

Another issue was that Lincoln was elected despite not even being on the BALLOT in the South - they felt like they were being denied a say in the affairs of the nation.

msmith537
10-01-2003, 06:10 AM
Originally posted by bri1600bv
Besides, slavery would have probably ended on its own in another 10 or twenty years. [/B]

Probably to be followed by 150 glorious years of an American version of aparthaid.

RickJay
10-01-2003, 07:34 AM
1. Buchanan
2. Harding
3. Grant
4. Hayes
5. Jackson

I don't think enough time has passed to judge Clinton or Bush 2.0. Bush 2.0 has a shot at making the bottom five, but I would not bet on it. Clinton doesn't even approach the incompetence of men like Buchanan, Harding, and Grant.

Alan Owes Bess
10-01-2003, 07:54 AM
From my perspective, without a doubt:

Andrew Jackson was by far the most vile.

Abraham Lincoln was by far the wittiest (If deadliest).

Bill Clinton was by far the funniest (If most corrupt - ie. politically).

Jimmy Carter was by far the stupidest (If most idealistic - but I repeat myself).

And all four belong to the "worst ten" category for reasons already mentioned by other posters.

Questions of this kind are usually only important to those who think that "the people" (their own wise, brilliant selves excepted, of course) really need some kind of Avatar to "lead" them.

Governor Quinn
10-01-2003, 08:04 AM
Worst Presidents? Frst of all, I'd remove from the bad all Presidents starting with Ford, as ideological considerations still cloud our judgement.

Second, I'll assume that this is of people who were bad at their jobs, rather than people who were good at their jobs, but not quite what you'd want in the office (Nixon).

With those considerations in hand, the list is:

Harding, Coolidge, Pierce, Buchanan, Fillmore, Tyler, Jackson (thanks very much for the Panic of 1837), Grant, and both Harrisons, in no particular order.

Governor Quinn
10-01-2003, 08:16 AM
Worst Presidents? Frst of all, I'd remove from the bad all Presidents starting with Ford, as ideological considerations still cloud our judgement.

Second, I'll assume that this is of people who were bad at their jobs, rather than people who were good at their jobs, but not quite what you'd want in the office (Nixon).

With those considerations in hand, the list is:

Harding, Coolidge, Pierce, Buchanan, Fillmore, Tyler, Jackson (thanks very much for the Panic of 1837), Grant, and both Harrisons, in no particular order.

puddleglum
10-01-2003, 09:04 AM
I'd say the five worst in this century are Hoover, Johnson, FDR, Nixon and Carter.
Hoover - He turned a recession into a depression with his tax hikes and profligate spending.
Johnson- His war in Vietnam and his war on poverty were both disasters. His civil rights record mitigates his failures.
FDR - He turned a depression into the Great Depression. His fascist economic policies were exactly the wrong thing to do. His getting us into WW2 keeps him from being the worst though.
Nixon - He brought us wage and price controls, watergate, and detente.
Carter - His cluelessness brought us the energy crisis, the Iran hostages, the invasion of Afghanistan, and malaise.

plnnr
10-01-2003, 09:15 AM
"Jimmy Carter was by far the stupidest (If most idealistic - but I repeat myself"

You'll have to define "stupidest" insofar as Carter graduated from the US Naval Academy and had an area of concentration in nuclear physics. I don't know many stupid people who do that sort of thing.

PatriotX
10-01-2003, 09:44 AM
I surpirsed that Grant only garnered a few mentions.

Bryan Ekers
10-01-2003, 09:50 AM
Why, I hate FDR so much I won't even touch a nickel!


Just kidding. I'm Canadian and our nickels have beavers on them.

bri1600bv
10-01-2003, 09:56 AM
[/B][/QUOTE]Millions of slaves and great damage to the United States don't count as reasons, eh? Convenient.[/B][/QUOTE]

You missed my point. The "great damage"??? You mean phsyical? Yeah it was caused by something called the Civil War, which wouldn't have happened if he had let them secede.

You mean damage to the institution? Well that would be like saying that I refuse to let my wife divorce because she is doing damage to the institution of our marriage.

Slavery? That's why I mentioned that Lincoln said he did not go to war to "free the slaves". So you can't turn around and say, "weren't the slaves worthy of being freed"? Maybe, but that's not why he went to war. He went to war to preserve the union. He said "if I could preserve the union and have the slaves still slaves, I'd do it." So yes, slavery caused the South to rebel, but it didn't cause him (Lincoln) to fight the rebellion in the interest of freeing them. At least, that's what he said.

[/B][/QUOTE]Err, wait. What? The South didn't secede because Lincoln abolished slavery. He made zero attempt to do so. They did so, in part, because they THOUGHT he would (even though he said he wouldn't). If Lincoln had freed the slaves, and then the war happened, this argument might make sense. What could Lincoln have done to preserve the Union? Made slavery legal everywhere? [/B][/QUOTE]

I didn't say he tried to outlaw it. What could he have done to preserve the union? That's my point. He should have let it go. If they want to be on there own, why is that a terrible thing? Other than slavery (which is not why he wanted to fight them....he was not fighting to "abolish slavery"), why is it terrible when people go their separate ways? Ever hear of "self-determination"? Why did that not apply to the South?


I don't think slavery is that much different economically than the system that replaced it, share cropping. In slavery, blacks got no wages and subsistence level food and lodging and were treated cruelly. In share cropping blacks worked on their own, but were paid subsistence level wages barely good enough to afford the shacks they lived in. The shacks probably weren't that much different than slave quarters...so what was the difference, other than the treatment was obviously crueller under slavery?

I think the South would have realized that they could abolish slavery and it would have died out.

It would have been replaced by apartheid? Wasn't it anyway?

John Zahn
10-01-2003, 09:58 AM
I think history will show George W. Bush as one of the worst. He gets my vote for many reasons. For presidents, I think his intelligence is among the lowest. His fiscal irresponsibility, and for his lack of leadership, both domestic and internationally or other reasons. Hell, he couldn’t lead a horse to water; let alone make him drink. I’m embarrassed to see his mug on TV, and to hear him stumble over sentences. Does anyone have on record where he actually completed three complete sentences from a unprepared speech, without messing it up with a stutter, a pause, a mispronunciation , or him losing his train of thought? Alright, how about two then? Without his daddy’s name, to this day he probably would have ended up flipping burgers for some fast-food chain. Hypocrisy comes to mind when I think of Dubya. The more I read about his life; his drunken years till he was 40; him refusing to answer questions about drug use; so many of his business dealings and records that are sealed in secrecy and not for public viewing; and for his daddy’s pull to get him in the National Guard, and even while there he was AWOL are just some more reasons. His former TX drivers license has also been pulled and was reissued, for what I think were called national security reasons. Yeah, right, and we seen what was on his Maine drivers license. Yet this man ran on a campaign that he was going to restore honor and dignity back in the White House. He’s running the country about as well as any of his previous businesses. His fiscal irresponsibility by taking hundreds of billions of dollars in annual surpluses before he was in office, to over a half a trillion in IOU’s a couple of years later is inexcusable. The last nincompoop who showed this much fiscal irresponsibility was his daddy whose last year in office had over 300 billion in debt. Dubya easily smashed that record. Republicans claim how conservative they are, particularly being fiscally conservative. Finally they got what they wanted and have a Republican Congress now; it would be a good time to start showing it.

JZ

Susanann
10-01-2003, 10:01 AM
Abraham Lincoln - he changed our governement from being a "federation" of states into a too strong national government.

Second place was Herbert Hoover for running the country into the ground, but it looks like bush is trying to overtake Hoover.

kelly5078
10-01-2003, 10:51 AM
As with several other posters, Jackson gets my vote for pure evil.

Since they haven't come up, I'd like to mention McKinley and T.R. The really got American adventurism (if that's a word) into high gear, what with the Spanish-American war, the Philipines, Cuba, Hawaii, and so on.

When it comes to having the most deleterious overall effects on the country and on the world, I think history will show Dubya to be the worst (to date). I know he's got serious competition when one looks at individual areas, but George II is an all-rounder.

Sofa King
10-01-2003, 11:29 AM
Thinking back over some of the dimmer stars in American history (borrowing heavily from my recollection of Richard Shenkman's entertaining book, Presidential Ambition), I've compiled a list of some of their most notorious shortcomings.

Ulysses S. Grant: Widespread allegations of corporate influence and corruption (http://www.time.com/time/2002/enron/). His Vice President awarded himself lucrative government contracts (http://www.guardian.co.uk/Iraq/Story/0,2763,912515,00.html).

Warren G. Harding: Posthumously derided for permitting the criminal leasing of public lands to private companies (http://www.ems.org/interior/griles_release.html), particularly oil reserve lands (http://www.anwr.org) in the so-called "Teapot Dome" scandal.

Franklin Pierce: Widely rumored to be an alcoholic (http://www.thesmokinggun.com/archive/bushdui1.html).

Ronald Reagan: Permitted the people involved in the Iran-Contra Scandal (http://www.wsws.org/articles/2001/aug2001/cont-a01.shtml) to subvert the direction of Congress.

Richard Nixon: Nearly impeached for manipulating an intelligence agency (http://www.cnn.com/2003/LAW/06/06/findlaw.analysis.dean.wmd/).

Yeah, I'd say the jury is still out on who is the worst ever....

ammo52
10-01-2003, 11:52 AM
I can think of no more fitting testament to the soundness of the American political system than to note that nearly every American who has ever served as President has received votes disparaging him as the all-time worst.

Or to note that the list of the all-time best would read precisely the same.

:)

Menocchio
10-01-2003, 01:01 PM
While Reagan, Bush II, Clinton, Lincoln, FDR, even Nixon and (to a lesser extent) Hoover, may have their fans and apologists, ammo, I really hope no one copmes in here to speak up for Jackson, Harding, or Grant.

I mean, some people were just bastards.

My list:
The trinity I named above at one two and three, obviously.
LBJ- For comitting us to vietnam under false pretenses (I'd draw contemporary comparisons, but I agree that its too soon to judge the recent guys ;)).
Hoover- Dropped the ball, big time.
Nixon- Some have been as corrupt, but tricky Dick gets a prize for being so corrupt that he was run out of office.

and I'm no fan of Reagan either, but he probably did more permanant good than harm in the long run, and it's too soon to tell the long term effects of his legacy.

As for FDR, well, I am quasi-socialist, but look at it this way: The 1930's were, in many nations, a time of political experimentaltion. I see FDR's programs as an innoculation against true socialism/communism or facism. He gave us cowpox, so we could avoid smallpox.

Marley23
10-01-2003, 01:02 PM
You missed my point. The "great damage"??? You mean phsyical? Yeah it was caused by something called the Civil War, which wouldn't have happened if he had let them secede.
I meant damage to the United States. Yes, a lot of damage was caused by the war, but you seem to be asserting that the North would have been undamaged by the loss of the South, as the two were largely complementary parts of the country. (I think the opposite was true as well.) There still would've been damage had a peaceful secession occurred.

Slavery? That's why I mentioned that Lincoln said he did not go to war to "free the slaves". So you can't turn around and say, "weren't the slaves worthy of being freed"? Maybe, but that's not why he went to war. He went to war to preserve the union. He said "if I could preserve the union and have the slaves still slaves, I'd do it." So yes, slavery caused the South to rebel, but it didn't cause him (Lincoln) to fight the rebellion in the interest of freeing them. At least, that's what he said.
The fact that it wasn't his stated reason doesn't mean it can't be factored into a cost-benefit analysis, which is really what we're doing here. You say yourself (coming up in just a moment) that Lincoln could not have preserved the Union as it was. Are you arguing that the existence of the United States wasn't worth the trouble?

If they want to be on there own, why is that a terrible thing? Other than slavery (which is not why he wanted to fight them....he was not fighting to "abolish slavery"), why is it terrible when people go their separate ways? Ever hear of "self-determination"? Why did that not apply to the South?
Like I said, this labors under the assumption that secession wouldn't have harmed the North. If the South is allowed to act in its own self-interest, the North has to have the same prerogative. And likewise, despite your comment that slavery can't factor into the picture anymore, Southern blacks would have had nothing that even faintly resembled self-determination. The
'self-determination' you're talking about applied only to some segments of the population.

I don't think slavery is that much different economically than the system that replaced it, share cropping. In slavery, blacks got no wages and subsistence level food and lodging and were treated cruelly. In share cropping blacks worked on their own, but were paid subsistence level wages barely good enough to afford the shacks they lived in. The shacks probably weren't that much different than slave quarters...so what was the difference, other than the treatment was obviously crueller under slavery?
You're correct about the terrible nature of the sharecropping system, although I'd include "slaveowners could separate families by selling the members apart at will, and often did so" as part of the 'obviously crueller' treatment. The fact that they didn't own human beings on paper does count for something.

I think the South would have realized that they could abolish slavery and it would have died out.
At some point. Is the slaveowners' right to get rid of slavery on their own time and of their own free will more important to you than the right of the slaves to, um, not be slaves?

It would have been replaced by apartheid? Wasn't it anyway?
Yes, it was. Everybody who's said so has added that conditions there in the present would surely be worse for blacks in the South now had the Confederacy been allowed to go on its merry way. Conditions would have been worse from 1860 through the present. Progress has been made toward equality since then; I think it would have been slowed or prevented from ever happening under a Confederate apartheid. Is there a reason you didn't address this point? A lot of people made it.

BobLibDem
10-01-2003, 01:23 PM
My biggest surprise in reading the posts so far was any mention of Lincoln. Although personally he favored abolition, he saw as his primary duty the salvation of the union, whether no slaves were freed, some slaves were freed, or all slaves were freed. If the south had been allowed to leave peacefully, who can say the nation would have lasted or we would have broken up into a number of regional republics? What Lincoln did was put down a rebellion of criminals- he has nothing to apologize for. Without him, there is no United States.

About Andrew Jackson- surely the Trail of Tears was one of the low points of American history. But we are mistaken if we judge 19th century leaders by 21st century standards. Now we see it as genocide, but it was not seen as such at the time. Still, one wonders why he still graces the $20 bill.

Ronald Reagan currently tops my list, but George W. Bush is rapidly gaining ground. What Reagan started was the immature thinking that there was a free lunch and that we can mindlessly loot our grandchildren's treasury. The fact that the national debt more than doubled in his tenure (in other words, Reagan's deficits totalled more than Washington thru Carter combined!) earns him a place in the Hall of Shame. Add to that his subordinates' felonious activity in the Iran-Contra and he outdoes Harding in the sleaze factor.

George W. Bush may top Reagan on my list, even if stopped at one term. John Zahn hit many nails squarely on the head. Add to that he put Dick Cheney a heartbeat away from the presidency. Add to that the profiteering that firms friendly with Bush and Cheney will engage in the reconstruction of Iraq. The only question in my mind is will history regard the worst two as 1 GWB- 2 Reagan or 1 Reagan-2 GWB.

Freddy the Pig
10-01-2003, 01:44 PM
Good God, isn't anyone in this thread going to mention Andrew Johnson, the most openly racist individual ever to occupy the White House? The man who opposed allowing African Americans to vote, in an annual message to Congress, because they "have shown less capacity for government than any other race of people", with "a constant tendency to relapse into barbarism"? The man who vetoed every civil rights bill to cross his desk, who opposed using the Army to fight the Ku Klux Klan, who sabotaged every attempt to grant land to former slaves? The guy was pure human slime.

plnnr
10-01-2003, 01:55 PM
Sorry, but you'll have to show me more about Franklin Pierce other than his alcoholism before I include him in the pantheon. Alcoholism, by itself, doesn't make anyonce a bad anything except a bad drinker. Absent any evidence to the effect that Pierce's alcoholism played any part in his ability as President and he's not even in the ballpark.

Biffy the Elephant Shrew
10-01-2003, 02:07 PM
Originally posted by puddleglum
Carter - His cluelessness brought us the energy crisis
Hardly. The '70s energy crisis began in 1973, four years and two administrations before Carter.

Marley23
10-01-2003, 02:18 PM
Although personally he favored abolition, he saw as his primary duty the salvation of the union, whether no slaves were freed, some slaves were freed, or all slaves were freed. If the south had been allowed to leave peacefully, who can say the nation would have lasted or we would have broken up into a number of regional republics?
You know, to take a different approach to this question, holding the country together is really the most basic requirement for any President. I'd say Lincoln was upholding the duty of his office, and if he hadn't, he might be the Worst President Ever automatically - who could be worse than the guy who let the country break up?

Earl of Sandwhich
10-01-2003, 02:47 PM
Originally posted by Governor Quinn
both Harrisons

I never thought I'd find myself rising to defend William Henry Harrison, but exactly what could he have done wrong in his month in office?

fiddlesticks
10-01-2003, 03:44 PM
Originally posted by Earl of Sandwhich
I never thought I'd find myself rising to defend William Henry Harrison, but exactly what could he have done wrong in his month in office?

Well, he didn't wear a coat during his inaugaral address... Probably entirely too much coughing and wheezing too. :)

Hayduke Lives!!
10-01-2003, 05:11 PM
Originally posted by Bryan Ekers
Why, I hate FDR so much I won't even touch a nickel!


Just kidding. I'm Canadian and our nickels have beavers on them.


Great. Who's on you dimes? FDR is on ours.

RexDart
10-01-2003, 05:29 PM
Originally posted by Marley23
<regarding an assertion that the South basically was apartheid anyways>
Yes, it was. Everybody who's said so has added that conditions there in the present would surely be worse for blacks in the South now had the Confederacy been allowed to go on its merry way. Conditions would have been worse from 1860 through the present. Progress has been made toward equality since then; I think it would have been slowed or prevented from ever happening under a Confederate apartheid. Is there a reason you didn't address this point? A lot of people made it.

Well, we can say that the South was basically an apartheid until the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Which means that, as things really were, it only beat out Rhodesia by about 15 years, and South Africa by 25. Arguably, had blacks in the alternate-universe CSA of 1965 overthrown the oppressive system themselves, they might even have a better position today than they do.

It's also possible that had the South eliminated slavery itself, that shift wouldn't have been seen as external, and thus a point of resentment. After all, Reconstruction is what created the KKK as a response. Heck, for all we know the South might have just given the ex-slaves land out west, just to avoid an integrated society. For all that the just-released slaves would have no land or property in then-existing Southern states they would be leaving behind, this might have worked out alot better for them than 100 years of co-existing with Southern whites in which they were second-class citizens.

It's all wacky speculation. Ultimately the only thing we do know would be different had the War Between the States never been fought is that the hundreds of thousands of people killed in the war would not have died (at least not because of the war.) Fighting that war was something Lincoln could have elected simply not to do. It was as much his choice to topple the CSA as it was Bush's to topple Saddam, and both show blatant disregard of principles of national soverignty.

bri1600bv
10-01-2003, 05:36 PM
Originally posted by RexDart
Ultimately the only thing we do know would be different had the War Between the States never been fought is that the hundreds of thousands of people killed in the war would not have died (at least not because of the war.) Fighting that war was something Lincoln could have elected simply not to do. It was as much his choice to topple the CSA as it was Bush's to topple Saddam, and both show blatant disregard of principles of national soverignty.

Exactly my opinion. Since it isn't specified (I don't think) in the Constitution how states can secede, didn't Lincoln need to see if he could find a peaceful solution and possibly allow the South to go its own way? Once states decide to join together, does that mean they are together for all eternity?

Maybe the US wouldn't have been as strong, maybe it wouldn't have been as great, but so what? Might isn't supposed to make right and the ends aren't supposed to justify the means.

Sofa King
10-01-2003, 07:08 PM
Okay, more on Franklin Pierce

Franklin Pierce was probably a man ill-suited for the job not solely because of his alcoholism, but because (according to Richard Shenkman's Presidential Ambition, pp. 78-94) of a bizarre turn of events which appears to have ruined him before he even took the oath of office.

Pierce's wife had a near-pathological hatred of politics. Pierce, in turn, had a near-pathological desire to stay away from his wife. She finally convinced him to step down as Senator in 1841 after the birth of their third--and only surviving--child, but then took the job as Chairman of the New Hampshire Democratic Party. When she managed to talk him out of that, he went and joined the Army to participate in the Mexican War.

When the opportunity to put himself up for nomination to the Democratic ticket came up in 1852, he took it. He just didn't tell his wife. She supposedly didn't find out until after he won the nomination.

Then, as President-elect, the Pierce family was on a train when it derailed, and while Mr. and Mrs. Pierce were virtually unscathed, their only son was killed before their eyes. Pierce reputedly took to the bottle and allowed his cabinet to make virtually all policy decisions--or no decisions at all--and managed to hit a pedestrian while drunk-driving a carriage as President. When he lost the nomination for re-election, he reputedly said (http://www.4reference.net/encyclopedias/wikipedia/Franklin_Pierce.html), "there's nothing left to do but get drunk."

In the meantime, Pierce had (theoretically) presided over the opening of Japan at gunpoint, the cession of the Gadsen Purchase by Mexico (also, metaphorically, at gunpoint), the purchase (again, at gunpoint) of the lands of the Indian tribes in future Washington state, and the boiling over of Kansas into outright civil war--four events which 20/20 hindsight tells us had unusually long-reaching consequences for the United States.

But we might not be able to hold Pierce accountable, because he was a grieving drunk who didn't have a crystal ball.

(Incidentally, George W. Bush (http://www.thesmokinggun.com/archive/bushdmv1.html) is a relative of Franklin Pierce, via his mother, Barbara Pierce Bush (http://www.4reference.net/encyclopedias/wikipedia/Barbara_Bush.html).)

Sofa King
10-01-2003, 07:09 PM
Okay, more on Franklin Pierce

Franklin Pierce was probably a man ill-suited for the job not solely because of his alcoholism, but because (according to Richard Shenkman's Presidential Ambition, pp. 78-94) of a bizarre turn of events which appears to have ruined him before he even took the oath of office.

Pierce's wife had a near-pathological hatred of politics. Pierce, in turn, had a near-pathological desire to stay away from his wife. She finally convinced him to step down as Senator in 1841 after the birth of their third--and only surviving--child, but then he took the job as Chairman of the New Hampshire Democratic Party. When she managed to talk him out of that, he went and joined the Army to participate in the Mexican War.

When the opportunity to put himself up for nomination to the Democratic ticket came up in 1852, he took it. He just didn't tell his wife. She supposedly didn't find out until after he won the nomination.

Then, as President-elect, Pierce and his family were on a train when it derailed, and while Mr. and Mrs. Pierce were virtually unscathed, their only son was killed before their eyes. Pierce reputedly took to the bottle and allowed his cabinet to make virtually all policy decisions--or no decisions at all--and managed to hit a pedestrian while drunk-driving a carriage as President. When he lost the nomination for re-election, he reputedly said (http://www.4reference.net/encyclopedias/wikipedia/Franklin_Pierce.html), "there's nothing left to do but get drunk."

In the meantime, Pierce had (theoretically) presided over the opening of Japan at gunpoint, the cession of the Gadsen Purchase by Mexico (also, metaphorically, at gunpoint), the purchase (again, at gunpoint) of the lands of the Indian tribes in future Washington state, and the boiling over of Kansas into outright civil war--four events which 20/20 hindsight tells us had unusually long-reaching consequences for the United States.

But we might not be able to hold Pierce accountable, because he was a grieving drunk who didn't have a crystal ball.

(Incidentally, George W. Bush (http://www.thesmokinggun.com/archive/bushdmv1.html) is a relative of Franklin Pierce, via his mother, Barbara Pierce Bush (http://www.4reference.net/encyclopedias/wikipedia/Barbara_Bush.html).)

Mehitabel
10-01-2003, 09:30 PM
Originally posted by Governor Quinn
Worst Presidents? Frst of all, I'd remove from the bad all Presidents starting with Ford, as ideological considerations still cloud our judgement.


THANK YOU! I knew people would be jumping on Dubya and Reagan and Clinton and I think it's way, waaaay too premature to judge their place in history.

Andrew Johnson was also the first Prez to be impeached.

Freddy the Pig
10-01-2003, 09:45 PM
The three pre-Civil War "doughfaces"--Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce, and James Buchanan--have never fared well in historical appraisal in any era. No one admires Northerners with pro-slavery sympathies. The best that can be said about these men is that by appeasing the South they postponed the Civil War for ten years, until the North was better prepared to fight it.

But none of the three were really evil, in the sense of Andrew Johnson or Richard Nixon. They were more like passive political hacks.

And Sofa King, good stuff on Pierce, but I'm not sure what you mean by saying the Gadsden Purchase was "metaphorically at gunpoint". From everything I've read, Santa Anna was a willing seller because he needed the money to fight the endless civil wars in Mexico.

pantom
10-01-2003, 10:40 PM
I just had a conversation yesterday where I made up a list of the four most dangerous Presidents we ever had. My list:

1 - Woodrow Wilson
2 - LBJ
3 - Nixon
4 - Dubya

All had the same thing in common: abusing the power to make war by sending our boys overseas to fight in wars they had no business fighting. Dubya has the unique privelige to be the only one of the Fab Four to actually begin the hostilities, on almost entirely trumped up charges.
Woodrow tops the list for all the reasons already cited by RexDart above.

adaher
10-01-2003, 11:51 PM
John Adams. There has never been a more egregrious violation of the Constitution than the Alien and Sedition Act.

Sofa King
10-02-2003, 12:14 AM
Well, jklann, I was looking at the Gadsen Purchase as more of a "we'll do you a favor, and we won't kick your ass again" sort of a favor. My knowledge of Mexican history is sadly poor from the years 1845-1916.

The result I was thinking about was the inclusion of many thousands of square miles of desert to American territory which would have presented a fine natural border on the other side of the line, which might have prevented the habitual incursion and retreat of gangs of bandits and renegade Indian tribes.

Come to think of it, it might have led to even earlier, stronger "splendid islolationism" and who knows what else. Nevertheless, Pancho Villa and his predecessors proved to be a long-standing pain in the butt for America, with nominal returns, save that it politically blocked any potential Southern gateway to the Pacific Ocean.

I can't claim that "what if" to be any more beneficial than the attempted French coup during the Civil War, or anything else that actually happened. But I think I can say that taming the Gadsen Purchase is now a primary objective of our Department of Homeland Security today.

cmkeller
10-02-2003, 02:42 PM
I can't believe that DSeid's friend (cited in the OP) thinks that George Washington was the worst President in US History.

Scott Dickerson
10-02-2003, 10:37 PM
Am I really an SDMB contrarian? I always thought of myself as a normal fellow Doper, but my opinions on this question--and I think my opinions fairly well-considered--are WAY the other side of much that has been said.

The last time I looked--and it wasn't really ALL that long ago--Andrew Jackson was considered well in the upper reaches of the Presidency: ie, either a "great" or a "near-great." He was credited with enhancing the power of the Chief Executive vis-a-vis the Legislative and Judicial branches, and that was thought to be a good thing by most historians and pol-scis of the 20th Century--so I understood. I gather he was a vile racist in personal life and an oppressive aggressor against Native Americans. (Was this as President? Pardon me for asking.)

It may well be that Old Hickory was far overesteemed in the past. But going from top tier to rock bottom is QUITE a drop. Is it possible that revisionist readings of American history are weighing-in a tad too heavily? I'm not making a CASE for him, just a little distrustful of emotional revulsion as a basis for historical judgment.

In fact, I have something of a problem with the whole idea that a "worst President" has to be a "truly vile human being." Unless all of our Presidents are of absolutely equal "Presidentiality" (whatever the Hell that might mean), it's entirely possible that there will be a "worst" who isn't especially bad, as well as a best who isn't terribly admirable.

Where is the standard? What "ought" a President do? Enforce contracts and protect our shores from invasion? Make us more virtuous people? Enhance national greatness and honor? Bring on the millenium? (Bill Clinton did that.) Establish absolute equality? Make the world a safer place for Jesus?

My standard:

The President "ought to" conduct himself in office in such a manner as to promote (with reasonable likelihood, based upon available information) the kind of society (and to a degree, the kind of world) that the alert conscience can consider with some satisfaction.

A very nice, philosophical, theoretical formulation.

It's morality over "moralism," ethics over "legalism," sober concurrence over mob-democracy, looking-with-fresh-eyes over don't-upset-the-applecart, reluctant interventions over hungry invasions, clear-eyed modesty over jingoistic chest-thumping, a searching conscience over haggling diplomacy, personal liberty over conformist group-think--BUT advancing The Good over merely self-centered "libertarianism" (small "l").

Perhaps it is indeed "President-as-avatar"--in several senses.

So then: worst Presidents?

Harding was too much a weak-willed bumbler to be an anti-avatar. But US Grant, when sober, ranks near the bottom for failing to confront his corrupt poker buddies. Pierce put his personal neuroses ahead of his duty. Both Johnsons, perhaps Jimmy Carter as well--heartbreakingly stubborn. Coolidge?--too much the minimalist. To the bottom third I'll add a few of those "mediocre Presidents" memorialized in the Simpsons song.

As to the very worst, I'm inclined toward James Buchanan--not so much for "not preventing the Civil War," but for what I gather was his role in the circumstances of the Dred Scott decision, which was deeply immoral and a national shame.

I rank Woodrow Wilson very high; Clinton and George I somewhere in the middle around Ike; Reagan and George II too close to the present to assess fairly.

Isabelle
10-03-2003, 01:13 PM
Nixon
Because his particular brand of presidential shame was so far-reaching, and his denial so very very adament.

Balle_M
10-03-2003, 02:18 PM
Originally posted by Menocchio
While Reagan, Bush II, Clinton, Lincoln, FDR, even Nixon and (to a lesser extent) Hoover, may have their fans and apologists, ammo, I really hope no one copmes in here to speak up for Jackson, Harding, or Grant.

I mean, some people were just bastards.



Then don't read this book...

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0684849267/ref=lib_dp_TFCV/103-2143822-3471818?v=glance&s=books&vi=reader#reader-link

Hazel
10-03-2003, 03:02 PM
I don't think it's too soon to nominate Bush the 2nd for "absolutely the worst ever".

> Turning surpluses into record-breaking deficits,

> large tax cuts for the rich,

> getting us into a war on false pretences

> and with no exit strategy (perhaps because no exit is planned?),

> getting us into a war without UN backing,

> poor conduct of said war (large number of civilians killed, maimed, injured; looting of national archaeological treasures, art treasures, nat'l library),

> insistance on having large tax cuts for the rich and fighting a war at the same time,

> roll back of environmental protections, withdrwal from the Kyoto Treaty,

> frittering away of the good will of our allies (former allies?),

> reinstituting the global gag rule,

> replaceing real sex ed with abstinence-only-until-marriage,

> appointing Ashcroft,

> the USA PATRIOT Act (and PATRIOT II, if it passes)

> funelling tax money to religious organizations,

> and loss of jobs (how can it be a recovery if we are not gaining jobs?).

I've probably overlooked a few things, but that's what I can come up with off the top of my head.

Hazel
10-03-2003, 03:12 PM
Oh, yeah, and then there's 9/11: the worst intelligence failure in history. And once in progress, how well was it handled? Why, when even one plane changed course with no warning and stopped resonding to the control tower, were no Airforce planes sent out to take a look?

And then there's the unaccounted-for $2.5 billion per month. Senator Kennedy, in a recent interview with the AP, said that the Congressional Budget Office has reported that, out of $4 billion a month being spent on Iraq, $2.5 billion cannot be accounted for.

Acsenray
10-03-2003, 04:50 PM
I'll have to add that LBJ is one of the oft-nominated worst that I would also name as one of the best. I mean, come on, the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act. That's what ended American apartheid. He knowingly sacrificed the political future of the Democratic party in order to pursue this ideal.

On FDRHe changed this nation more than any other President........and not for the better!

Do you mean to say that overall, this country is a worse place to live now than it was in 1933? Man, you have got some twisted view of reality.

Splanky
10-03-2003, 05:01 PM
Originally posted by adaher
John Adams. There has never been a more egregrious violation of the Constitution than the Alien and Sedition Act.

I agree that the Alien and Sedition Acts were truly horrible acts. Especially the Sedition act, which made writing critically against the government punishable by fine and imprisonment. Unfortunatly, judicial review wouldn't be established for a few more years until Marbury vs. Madison.

That said, Adams just doesn't compare to Andrew Jackson. Jackson was fucking insane. His actions during the First Seminole War deserve a painful sledgehammer to the head. He was also a murderer. But as for his administration as president, the Trail of Tears and other actions against Indians collectively were the most blatant and horrific acts the country has ever done. Over 100 million acres of Indian land were abandoned. Jackson also ignored a Supreme Court Decision giving the Cherokee Nation sovereignty forcing them to move to Oklahoma, and killing 30% on the trip there.

The Alien and Sedition Acts were bad, but they were all repealed or expired by 1802, 4 years after they were signed. Those adversely affected by the acts were also pardoned by Jefferson. The Trail of Tears had much more lasting and horrible consequences.

Zhen'ka
10-03-2003, 11:11 PM
Originally posted by Sofa King
Thinking back over some of the dimmer stars in American history (borrowing heavily from my recollection of Richard Shenkman's entertaining book, Presidential Ambition), I've compiled a list of some of their most notorious shortcomings.

Ulysses S. Grant: Widespread allegations of corporate influence and corruption (http://www.time.com/time/2002/enron/). His Vice President awarded himself lucrative government contracts (http://www.guardian.co.uk/Iraq/Story/0,2763,912515,00.html).

Warren G. Harding: Posthumously derided for permitting the criminal leasing of public lands to private companies (http://www.ems.org/interior/griles_release.html), particularly oil reserve lands (http://www.anwr.org) in the so-called "Teapot Dome" scandal.

Franklin Pierce: Widely rumored to be an alcoholic (http://www.thesmokinggun.com/archive/bushdui1.html).

Ronald Reagan: Permitted the people involved in the Iran-Contra Scandal (http://www.wsws.org/articles/2001/aug2001/cont-a01.shtml) to subvert the direction of Congress.

Richard Nixon: Nearly impeached for manipulating an intelligence agency (http://www.cnn.com/2003/LAW/06/06/findlaw.analysis.dean.wmd/).

Yeah, I'd say the jury is still out on who is the worst ever....



Sofa King,

[Partridge family]

I think I love you....

[/Partridge family]



Just wanted to say that this was a great post! Thanks for the links.

Not In Anger
10-04-2003, 01:00 AM
I'd say Reagan for utter incompetence and for taking the country in the wrong direction. But, as a general opinion, and not just mine, it would have to be Nixon for inciting general contempt and removing the respect one ordinarily holds for an office of that sort. Dubya's creepy, but no one is even surprised anymore.

Best: (1) FDR, (2) Clinton.

adaher
10-04-2003, 02:46 AM
Clinton took us in pretty much the same direction Reagan did, or he was led that way by Congress, take your pick.

Welfare reform, spending cuts, free trade, "era of big government is over".

Governor Quinn
10-04-2003, 04:28 PM
Originally posted by Earl of Sandwhich
I never thought I'd find myself rising to defend William Henry Harrison, but exactly what could he have done wrong in his month in office?

Sorry about that. I don't care much for Harrison the grandson.

Thanks for the complement, Mehitabel.

milroyj
10-04-2003, 05:11 PM
Originally posted by Hazel
I don't think it's too soon to nominate Bush the 2nd for "absolutely the worst ever".


> roll back of environmental protections, withdrwal from the Kyoto Treaty,

The United States was never a party to the Kyoto Treaty, because the Senate never ratified it, as required by the Constitution.

And this is Bush's fault how, exactly?

DSeid
10-04-2003, 05:29 PM
I just want to say thank you to the posters for helping remind me of how little I know about so much ... especially history. I've learned a lot by your responses.

Hazel
10-05-2003, 02:04 AM
Originally posted by milroyj
The United States was never a party to the Kyoto Treaty, because the Senate never ratified it, as required by the Constitution.

And this is Bush's fault how, exactly?

People seem to be blaming him. Perhaps they (and [gasp!] I) are wrong. Did he influence Repubs in the Senate to not ratify, or speak out against it, or something?

adaher
10-05-2003, 02:10 AM
No, the vote was unanimous against Kyoto. Democrats and Republicans alike rejected it.

scotandrsn
10-05-2003, 12:43 PM
This si not something to be takenon haphazardly. I confess I have not giventhe question a great deal of thought.

I disagree with the posters who say the recent presidents should be off the table. History often has a way of over-objectifying things. Every one of the presidents mentioned previously has their staunch defenders.

I say we start with what's in front of us:

Who's worse, Clinton or GWB? Granted, GWB's presidency has another year, and he COULD pull it out of the bag, but it looks less and less likely.

Neither is wonderful. Both are fairly corrupt liars. Clinton at least though, managed only to make himself an embarassment to the presidency. Bush the Younger has managed to make America an embarassment to the world, so my list, so far, starting with the worst, is:

1) George W. Bush
2) William Jefferson Clinton

Now, to move on.

Who's worse, George W. Bush, or George Herbert Walker Bush?
That's a toughie. Two sides of the same coin, in fact. Both did inherit precarious conditions from their predecessors, but both also handled them very poorly.

I think Daddy Bush gets the nod, because when the Soviet Union collapsed, he did absolutely nothing to show that his America was still Truman's America, one which quickly let bygones be bygones and built up its former enemies in the name of keeping the world right. Russia and its former satellite states are still shaky on their feet, twelve years later, when it could have been a modern shining example of how America treats its former foes. It all gets laid at Elder Bush's feet.

1) George Herbert Walker Bush
2) George W. Bush
3) William Jefferson Clinton

Reagan beats out all three, in my opinion. I did not believe for one second that the release of the Iranian hostages on his inauguration day was a simple coincidence, and I was only 13. Shame on you if you though otherwise. The rest of his presidency was one long slide from there. I never saw many homeless on the street before his presidency, but they are a continual presence since. He brought "trickle down economics" out of its pre-Depression mothballs, and gave it another run (which will cause him to beat out Coolidge). Nearly destroyed this nation, in my opinion.

1) Ronald Wilson Reagan
2) George Herbert Walker Bush
3) George W. Bush
4) William Jefferson Clinton

Carter was pretty bad, but I'll give him kudos for being the best ex-president ever, and the fact that he actually managed to oversee a mid-east peace treaty that lasted, more than the other four ever managed to do.

1) Ronald Wilson Reagan
2) George Herbert Walker Bush
3) George W. Bush
4) William Jefferson Clinton
5) James Earl Carter

I'll have to think further about the others....

scotandrsn
10-05-2003, 01:01 PM
Ford is worse than Carter, if for nothing other than pardoning Nixon.

Ford managed to lose a war, but GWB is managing to louse up two simultaneously, so he wins.

The question then, is: who's worse, Ford or Clinton? Ford was basically a bumbler, whereas Clinton is a manipulator.

1) Ronald Wilson Reagan
2) George Herbert Walker Bush
3) George W. Bush
4) William Jefferson Clinton
5) Gerald R. Ford
6) James Earl Carter

There's a lot of mileage to be gained out of saying Nixon was the worst ever, but GWB has done every stupid thing Nixon did, only he has done it AGAIN and WORSE. And at least Nixon left a trail to follow.

1) Ronald Wilson Reagan
2) George Herbert Walker Bush
3) George W. Bush
4) Richard Milhous Nixon
5) William Jefferson Clinton
6) Gerald R. Ford
7) James Earl Carter

scotandrsn
10-05-2003, 01:25 PM
LBJ managed to take a South Vietnamese Civil War and turn it into an international and domestic crisis, so he's up there, but hasn't beat out GWB for gung-ho bullshit (We have GOT to stop electing Texans!)

Nixon managed not to end Vietnam after campaigning with a "secret plan" to do so, so he beats out LBJ as well.

LBJ or Clinton? I think LBJ did more to promote an "Imperial America" more than Clinton did, so:

1) Ronald Wilson Reagan
2) George Herbert Walker Bush
3) George W. Bush
4) Richard Milhous Nixon
5) Lyndon Baines Johnson
6) William Jefferson Clinton
7) Gerald R. Ford
8) James Earl Carter

Kennedy? His main contribution was to inspire America, whereas the defining characteristic of Carter's administration was malaise, so:

1) Ronald Wilson Reagan
2) George Herbert Walker Bush
3) George W. Bush
4) Richard Milhous Nixon
5) Lyndon Baines Johnson
6) William Jefferson Clinton
7) Gerald R. Ford
8) James Earl Carter
9) John Fitzgerald Kennedy

Ike? As much as he warned us against the "military-industrial complex" on his way out, he did more to create it than any other president, with such shining examples as taking over Guatemala in 1954 on behalf of the Chiquita Banana company (then United Fruit), and destabilizing South American countries to the point that we are now blessed with a hoard of illegal immigrants, fleeing what he started. Plus his complacent America, created out of nothing, is the shining example of society that today's conservatives long for a return to.

1) Ronald Wilson Reagan
2) George Herbert Walker Bush
3) George W. Bush
4) Richard Milhous Nixon
5) Lyndon Baines Johnson
6) William Jefferson Clinton
7) Dwight David Eisenhower
8) Gerald R. Ford
9) James Earl Carter
10) John Fitzgerald Kennedy

Scott Dickerson
10-05-2003, 04:32 PM
Dear President Jackson:

Just so's you know, lots of people in the 21st Century just hate you. And not just because you founded the Democratic Party, either.

Yours,

Scott Dickerson

Master Wang-Ka
10-05-2003, 04:58 PM
I WARNED you people about voting for rich Texans for President.

I'm a Texan. I KNOW these things.

I'm also rather surprised that no one's mentioned Reagan's handling of the AIDS crisis. His refusal to address the issue until it had already reached epic proportions, and his utter insanity in refusing to approve any kind of funding for developing a method of BLOOD TESTING, much less a treatment or cure, killed a great many people.

I was amazed at the speech he made in which he remarked that as far as AIDS was concerned, "Don't medicine and morality teach the same lesson?"

Well, durned if I can see how medicine OR morality can prevent anyone from getting infected with HIV as a result of a blood transfusion of tainted blood that MIGHT have been prevented if Reagan had allowed some funding to develop a method of determining if stored blood was safe or not.

...and this isn't even mentioning his other high crimes and misdemeanors while in office.

Nixon: a fine politician, a good President... but an utter rat of a man. The guy who finally destroyed America's belief that any politician could have any kind of morals or integrity. Ultimately, I think the harm he did by his weaselly manipulations during Watergate (...trying to fire the Attorney General who was investigating him? What the hell was Nixon thinking?) outweighs the good he did, or might have done, while in office.

Alzarian
10-05-2003, 06:49 PM
I was just reading about Lincoln the other day, and three items jumped out at me:

1) Lincoln was opposed to the Mexican-American War as he believed it wasn't fought to defend the US, but rather that the President decided to make the first strike. He was even quoted as saying that it was a dangerous step for a President to start waging unprovoked wars.

2) Lincoln was criticized at the time for curtailing all sorts of freedoms and rights in the name of winning the Civil War.

3) Lincoln wasn't going to war to end slavery, but rather to curtail the spread of slavery to new territories. Even after the much vaunted Gettysburg address, Lincoln said he would allow the southern states to keep their institution if they were to cease the war and rejoin the union by January 1st, 1864. It was only after the deadline passed that ending slavery all across the country was part of the equation.

In my opinion, Lincoln was by no means a perfect leader, but he didn't want the union to dissolve on his watch. He was against the institution of slavery, but also didn't feel that he had the right to dictate to the southern states whether or not they could have it. Mind you, his support of freedom for the slaves didn't extend to blacks and whites living as equals in all respects, but that line of thinking was pretty radical in those days.

I think the previous administrations, (Fillmore/Pierce/Buchannon) were at best trying to keep the country together by compromise, and their inaction at best delayed the eventual war. They were playing a balancing game between north and south interests, in the end pleasing no one side very much.

For what it's worth, the divisiveness in the Democratic party about the issue led to the success in 1860 of Lincoln and the Republican party, as the Democrats were running three different candidates. His election was the straw that broke the camel's back, as seven states seceeded between the election and his innauguration, while Buchannon did nothing.

Lincoln may be even more highly thought of, (if that's possible), had he lived to see the end of his second term, as he sought to make reconstruction as easy and painless as possible...

pkbites
10-05-2003, 07:12 PM
Originally posted by acsenray
Do you mean to say that overall, this country is a worse place to live now than it was in 1933?

:rolleyes: Sigh!
That's not what I was saying. I was talking about the size/role of government.

FDR was a major figure in changing this country from one that, overall, had little government intervention in the lives of the general populace to one where the government has it's fingers into everything. One that forces upon the populace social programs that not only create dependance, but also rides the backs of an otherwise prosperous people with huge taxes.

kgriffey79
10-05-2003, 07:46 PM
Originally posted by Hazel
I don't think it's too soon to nominate Bush the 2nd for "absolutely the worst ever".

> large tax cuts for the rich,
> getting us into a war on false pretences
> getting us into a war without UN backing,
> poor conduct of said war (large number of civilians killed, maimed, injured; looting of national archaeological treasures, art treasures, nat'l library),
> insistance on having large tax cuts for the rich and fighting a war at the same time,
> roll back of environmental protections, withdrwal from the Kyoto Treaty,
> frittering away of the good will of our allies (former allies?),
> replaceing real sex ed with abstinence-only-until-marriage,
> and loss of jobs (how can it be a recovery if we are not gaining jobs?).



1. http://www.rushlimbaugh.com/home/menu/top_50__of_wage_earners_pay_96_09__of_income_taxes.guest.html
nuff said
2. On false pretences that Iraq was a danger to the world? That is an opinion, isn't it? Or false pretences of having WMDs? Didn't Bill Clinton bomb Iraq's Chemical warfare labs? Hasn't the UN stated many times that Iraq has had WMDs.
http://www.casi.org.uk/info/scriraq.html (just interesting reading)
3. Without UN backing. When did we become a subject of the UN?
4. Any stats on Civs killed? And how the hell were we supposed to stop that looting? Those archives are worth more than human lives???!
5. See #1
6. Withdrawal from the Kyoto Treaty? Excuse my French,(or is that now politically incorrect? :) ) but WTF?! Seriously! How many countries have signed the Kyoto Treaty(and are in compliance with it?!!?) Name them. And the US Senate Unanimously voted against ratifying the treaty. Republicans, Democrats and Independents.
7. Frittering away our allies? The way France and Germany have been headed, this was going to happen sooner or later, GWB or not. So we should do something because our allies want us to do it? Give into peer pressure, that's a noble.
8. Are you really putting Sexual Education on your list?
9. Loss of jobs... Capitalism is cyclical. we were only in a recession for two quarters. You can't always blame a president for what happened in the economy during his term/s. Economic policy is not immediate, cause and effect aren't alway that easily attributed.

adaher
10-05-2003, 11:08 PM
As a libertarian, it's hard to resist nominating FDR for worst ever.

With LBJ getting a close second and GWB third for adding yet another entitlement, as if taking 40% of Americans' income wasn't enough.

JThunder
10-06-2003, 01:53 AM
I'm surprised that nobody has mentioned Lex Luthor (http://www.dccomics.com/features/lex/lexwins.html) yet.

Sublight
10-06-2003, 05:45 AM
Originally posted by RexDart
Maybe Wilson shouldn't have kept sending ships to intervene in the European conflict. I'm a big free-trade guy, but you don't push it when doing so will cause war. IMHO, there's good reason to believe that Britain staged the entire Lusitania sinking so as to drag us into that war. But even if that's not the case, it was a foolish pretext used to drag us into war. And Wilson campaigned on the promise of keeping us out of war, and just plunged us right into the thick of it. As broken campaign promises go, one that kills off thousands of Americans and sets the stage for tens of thousands more deaths is pretty high up there in dishonorable mention. He was a dirty liar with respect to the one thing you ought not be a liar about, war and the fortunes of thousands of American lives.
Actually, the US didn't join in the fun until several years after the sinking of the Lusitania in 1915. Germany was able to pacify Wilson by promising to agree to a set of restrictions on sub warfare, which they held to for another two years. Even the announcement in 1917 that they were returning to unrestricted sub warfare, however, wasn't enough to provoke the US into full committment. It wasn't until the Zimmerman telegram was intercepted and leaked by the British (rather cleverly, so as not to reveal that they could read German communications), that the US realized that they were going to be dragged into the war whether they wanted it or not; Germany was offering an alliance with Mexico in return for the latter's disrupting US military assistance in Europe by attacking through Texas. The telegram also contained requests for Mexico to persuade Japan to join in and launch an attack on Hawaii and the west coast. Faced with a confirmed threat of direct attack on their own soil, taking the fight to the enemy and joining the war in Europe seems to me to be the best strategy.

smiling bandit
10-06-2003, 06:37 AM
I don't think Jackson or Grant deserve mention here.

Grant, while a failure as a President, was a failure not because of any personal flaw, but because he really did trust his subordinates. As it turns out, they had their hands deep in the till, and I'm sure that really hurt him. He was used, but there wasn't really anyway he could have known. In any event, he did a lot of really good things, and would have gone down in history as a great Pres if some of his pals hadn't been stabbing him in the back.

Jackson, well, we've had whole threads on Jackson (Go search for them in GD yourself). Suffice it to say there's deccent evidence he was a god man, and he certainly made an effective president.

Hazel
10-06-2003, 04:44 PM
Sponsors Ease Bill on Gases That Warm the Climate (http://www.nytimes.com/2003/10/02/politics/02CLIM.html?ex=1066104000&en=0c87c34485912652&ei=5040&partner=MOREOVER)
New York Times, October 2, 2003

Short quote: "The original plan and the revised version are far less aggressive than the limits in the Kyoto Protocol, an international treaty rejected by President Bush, which would require industrialized countries to cut greenhouse gas emissions to below 1990 levels by 2012. This would be the first Senate vote on a global-warming issue since 1997 when it adopted a resolution, 95 to 0, that said the United States should not sign any international agreement on climate change that would seriously harm the American economy." (emphisis added)

EU alarmed as Putin backtracks on Kyoto (http://www.guardian.co.uk/climatechange/story/0,12374,1052371,00.html)
Guardian Unlimited (UK), September 30, 2002

Short quote: "Mr Putin added that more research into climate change was needed. Such a comment will cause delight in Washington, which has been trying to persuade the Russian president to join George Bush in repudiating the treaty." (emphisis added)

For some time, I've been seeing causual references like these to President Bush having rejecting or repudiating the Kyoto treaty. Hence my listing of this as one of the bad things he's done.

I note, however, that the Times artile refers to the Senate having adopting a resolution that the US "should not sign any international agreement on climate change that would seriously harm the American economy." If they did this to keep us out of the Kyoto treaty, then it would seem they also had a role.

Guinastasia
10-06-2003, 04:57 PM
kgriffey79, dude, you're citing Rush freaking Limbaugh?

Rexdart, please tell me you're kidding about the British staging the Lusitania sinking.

Captain Amazing
10-06-2003, 05:15 PM
Originally posted by JThunder
I'm surprised that nobody has mentioned Lex Luthor (http://www.dccomics.com/features/lex/lexwins.html) yet.

Leave him alone! He rebuilt Gotham. Damn Luthor haters.

akennett
10-06-2003, 10:02 PM
Originally posted by Menocchio
While Reagan, Bush II, Clinton, Lincoln, FDR, even Nixon and (to a lesser extent) Hoover, may have their fans and apologists, ammo, I really hope no one copmes in here to speak up for Jackson, Harding, or Grant.

I mean, some people were just bastards.



I'll put in my two cents on pulling Jackson out of the pile. Nothing I have read prior to your post has even hinted at anything he has done that is deserving of being called the worst president ever.

The Cherokee Removal? Sure it was a bad chapter in American history, but it wasn't the doing of Jackson. It really was the will of the majority of people, especially in the affected areas. Do we condemn Washington, Jefferson, etc. because they were president while we had slavery?

The bank? We're now calling someone a horrible president becuse he stands up for a deeply held belief? Do we consider the fact that he wanted nothing to do with the decision, it was thrust upon him by Biddle (the head bank honcho) and Henry Clay - perennial losing presidential candidate from the other party. They made Jackson veto the bank bill to use it in the upcoming elections. As for the outcome of the bank, it was as much a result of the horrible speculation economy of the times.

Besides, was the bank truly a constitutional act to begin with? Can anyone point to where the constitution authorizes it?

Perhaps we ought to look at his reception upon taking office. There are accounts from the period extant that describe the tremendous reaction and acclaim Jackson had, and the huge outpouring by the populous...I'm not claiming that popularity is a measure of greatness, but it goes a long way against the idea of a bastard...

dinoboy
10-06-2003, 10:42 PM
Wow, lots of good argument here, but it seems many are judging past actions with 21st century morality: Jackson, johnson maybe even Lincoln. We got a biography of that drunkard Pierce, and many today seem to disfavor GW (he definitely will get an honerable mention by me), boy, how many are left to roast?

And I'll add yet another to the list (unless he has already been added and I missed him):

James K. Polk

Oh yes, this second-stringer "dark horse" bridges the gap between 21st century morality: don't forget manifest destiny! And 21st century stupidity: Let's overthrow a mexican Dictator (General Mariano Paredes) and replace him with... A mexican Dictator (Santa Ana). The bonus: We get to fight Both! Yes, Mr Polk helped Santa Ana raise an army, invade Mexico with U.S. ships in support (think, "Bay of Pigs" but more successful - hey he did get that right) and then watched him (Ana) turn about and attack the U.S. forces, fantastic!

I do not think any other president can claim financing both sides of a war (well, while still in office anyway). This takes a special skill.

RexDart
10-06-2003, 11:52 PM
Originally posted by Sublight
It wasn't until the Zimmerman telegram was intercepted and leaked by the British (rather cleverly, so as not to reveal that they could read German communications), that the US realized that they were going to be dragged into the war whether they wanted it or not; Germany was offering an alliance with Mexico in return for the latter's disrupting US military assistance in Europe by attacking through Texas. The telegram also contained requests for Mexico to persuade Japan to join in and launch an attack on Hawaii and the west coast. Faced with a confirmed threat of direct attack on their own soil, taking the fight to the enemy and joining the war in Europe seems to me to be the best strategy.

What exactly makes it a "confirmed" threat? The British claimed to have intercepted it, and showed it to us. We didn't ourselves intercept it, and so there was no way for us to confirm it's validity. The British had pretty darn good reason to concoct something like that. Trusting the veracity of a highly interested party on the legitimacy of such a note strikes me as utter folly.

And did we have any evidence at all that Mexico was going to agree to this deal? Or that Japan was? If either of them was going to do so, then why didn't they when we joined the war. With our boys heading off to Europe, Mexico would have been in a much better position than before to engage us on the Southern border. Fact is, neither of those countries did attack us, which tells me that either A) the telegram was a British hoax designed to drag us into the war to save their own asses, or B) the German proposition was a pipe-dream that would never have come to fruition. In either of those cases, our entry into the European conflict was dead wrong, possibly the most catastrophic mistake of the century.


Also, surely nothing about engaging in trench warfare and exposing troops to chemical weapons could possibly be described as a "best strategy". Americans dying in "no-man's-land" making a obviously suicidal charge to capture 100 yards of useless land in France that neither they nor the nation gave a lick about doesn't seem like any part of a "best strategy" to me.

20th century Presidents ignored our founders' advice to avoid European entanglements, and our young men paid for it with hundreds of thousands of their lives. All that goes right back to Wilson and his failure to keep his campaign promise and keep us out of that war. If a few thousand casualties in Iraq are enough to make many posters here seriously consider Bush among the worst Presidents, then surely the hundreds of thousands we can lay at Wilson's feet make him hundreds of times worse.

scotandrsn
10-07-2003, 11:48 AM
Truman.

Truman, Truman, Truman. That's a toughie.

So many good things, so many bad...

Would rather have him than Reagan, any Bush, Nixon or Johnson.

Clinton? Hmm, they're both manipulators, but Clinton didn't kill anyone with nukes, and didn't create a war that hasn't ended 50 years on...

Plus, I'm convinced, as this nonsense wears on, that Bush II is more dangerous than Reagan. Based on what I understand of history, he is coming really close to paving the way for America's first dictator...

1) George W. Bush
2) Ronald Wilson Reagan
3) George Herbert Walker Bush
4) Richard Milhous Nixon
5) Lyndon Baines Johnson
6) Harry S Truman
7) William Jefferson Clinton
8) Gerald R. Ford
9) James Earl Carter
10) John Fitzgerald Kennedy

Montresor
10-07-2003, 01:33 PM
I'm a long-time lurker, but I just had to come out of hiding for this one. Specifically, I'm trying to come to grips with RexDart's assessment of Wilson's decision to involve the US in the First World War.
Now, I've got no problem with a moral objection to sending US troops to fight in wars overseas; but for cryin' out loud, admit that its a moral issue!
I've never heard the proposal that the Zimmerman Telegram was a British-perpetrated hoax: cite? And the fact that it wasn't taken seriously by the Mexican government speaks volumes about the Mexicans' good sense. The fact that the proposal was extended by the Germans in the first place speaks volumes about their desire to see us stay out of the war!
Why? Because in the absence of US involvement, the British and the French were going to lose, and rather quickly. Perhaps RexDart will elaborate on his condemnation of Wilson by describing how modern history would have played out with all of Europe under the control of the Kaiser?
Not that I'm a huge Wilson fan; he did renege on his campaign promises to the American people. But for the above reasons, as well as the horrors wrought by unlimited submarine warfare by the Germans, he did as good a job as any president could in confronting this situation, and in fact he tried very hard to avert World War Two. It is a great pity (and a black mark on the legacies of folks like Clemenceau) that Wilson's attempts to create a sustainable peace were defeated.
One more thing: "hundreds of thousands" of American lives lost in the Great War? I come up with 48,900 battle deaths (from here (http://www.ku.edu/carrie/specoll/medical/stats/statsus.htm). Not that that's good, per se, but again, you're way off.
I don't want to overstep my bounds as a newbie, but a lot of what Rex says above just didn't ring true for me. Feel free to correct anything I'm wrong about myself, of course.

plnnr
10-07-2003, 02:30 PM
"One that forces upon the populace social programs that not only create dependance, but also rides the backs of an otherwise prosperous people with huge taxes."

I'll thank you to sign over all of your Social Security benefits to me then, since you must be morally adverse to using them.

Mehitabel
10-07-2003, 03:29 PM
For the love of God, Montresor!

Welcome aboard! Good delurking and the sort of stuff we like to see in Great Debates.

I reiterate that the discussion is very skewed if you consider Presidents in the last 20 years, but so be it. I stand by Hayes. Against Hayes. YKWIM.

RexDart
10-07-2003, 06:19 PM
RE: Zimmerman telegram

Why do I need a cite for it? It's my own personal theory, based on inferences from what followed after the event. The fact that neither Mexico nor Japan attacked us indicates that the telegram, if genuine, was at best indicative of a longshot hope of the Germans. It was therefore not a serious threat. And it's a simple fact that our entry into the war greatly assisted the British, which gives them strong motive to have forged the note. It's not surprising that nobody investigated the note's authenticity at the time, since any press agent who had attempted to do so would have been thrown in prison for sedition, for daring to question Wilson's war.

RE: Europe had the Kaiser won

Well, there was a very good article in this month's issue of Free Inquiry about the rise of the Nazis. Specifically, the Nazis popular support can be largely attributed to the fact that most Germans (both Protestant and Catholic) did not at all like democracy, and wanted a more authoritarian rule. Traditionalism was on the rise, and they wanted a strong government to enforce that as a moral ideal, much like had been done in Italy. Had Germany still been a monarchy, perhaps we would never have seen the rise of fascism, because the desire for strong government would have been satisfied by the monarch.

But that's all beside the point, since the US government's job is to protect the people of the United States. It is definitely not the role of our military to intervene in shaping the political landscape of sovereign nations abroad, our founders specifically warned us against that. Whether Europe would have been better or worse had the Germans won the First World War is none of our concern, because we aren't Europe.

Oh, your cite on the death toll is right, I pardon the confusion. In an earlier post, I had argued that all the deaths caused by US military interventionism during the 20th century can be laid at Wilson's feet for entangling us in European alliances. Ergo, hundreds of thousands. But, all the same, you can probably get us to a hundred thousand in WW1 if you count as casualties those we killed in addition to our own deaths, as many do in tallying the casualties of Iraq II.

Montresor
10-07-2003, 06:56 PM
OK, I'm willing to buy your theory re. the Zimmerman Telegram, but you have to admit that its just a theory with nothing aside from an argument to back it up. Japan was, at the time, theoretically at war with Germany, which is a plausible reason for their failure to act on the offer (well, they were an ally of Britain, at any rate). Like I proposed earlier, Mexico was just acting rationally. But the telegram, "longshot" though it may have been, was a pretty naked act of aggression; if I circulate a petition in your neighborhood encouraging your neighbors to burn down your house, even if they don't take me up on it, I could hardly complain if you got upset, right?
As far as "what ifs" concerning Germany's government go, I stand by my assertion that the Nazis came to power despite Wilson, hardly because of him. There's a compelling argument that a socialist revolution was in the wings in Germany during the final days of the Great War, and the Kaiser would not have been long in power in any event. In that case, the imminent German victory over the Allies would have quickly led to some pretty serious instability in a sizeable portion of the world. All these alternate history scenarios are fun to think about, if not particularly useful to the discussion at hand.
And I can definitely see your point about laying blame for the deaths in subsequent wars at the feet of Wilson's abandonment of isolationism, but that's a pretty controversial topic. I mean, could ANY president have kept the US as isolationistic (?) as the founding fathers had intended? I think that its a little naive to assume that would have happened ad infinitum. What about blaming Fillmore for Perry's actions in Japan? And McKinley's prosecution of the Spanish-American War? Dewey in Manila and Commodore Perry certainly "intervened in shaping the political landscape of sovereign nations abroad," so I think its a little blinkered to blame Wilson for an unavoidable and pre-existing process.
All in all, I see your points (I think), but I don't feel its fair to single Wilson out as the "Worst... President... Ever" based on idealistic criteria that other presidents violated in much more egregious ways.

Montresor
10-07-2003, 06:58 PM
I should have said "I'm willing to respect your opinion about the Zimmerman Telegram and your right to hold it," because I'm going to need some more convincing evidence before I buy it.

kgriffey79
10-07-2003, 07:40 PM
Originally posted by Guinastasia
[b]kgriffey79, dude, you're citing Rush freaking Limbaugh?

Dude, I'm citing the IRS statistics, on Rush's site. What's wrong with that?

pantom
10-07-2003, 09:20 PM
Montresor, my answer to people who defend Woodrow is this: could history have turned out any worse?
If not, we could have at least saved those 50000 American soldiers, not to mention all the wounded, by simply following George Washington's original advice. How hard would that have been, really?
BTW, the reason the Zimmermann letter had such resonance in the first place is that we had already interfered in Mexico's politics, because of, you guessed it, Wilson. The guy was a serial intervener.

pkbites
10-07-2003, 09:51 PM
Originally posted by plnnr
I'll thank you to sign over all of your Social Security benefits to me then, since you must be morally adverse to using them.

I've got a better idea. Let me keep the money taken from me over the years and invest/do what I see fit.. I am not a failure who will have to rely on the government for support when I retire.

Austin Tateous
10-08-2003, 06:25 AM
It's so refreshing to see a nice open debate with so little brains and so much prejudice. It reinforces the notion that the left is simply sheep being led by the media. To suggest Reagan or George W. Bush are the worst presidents is ridiculous.

Reagan defeated the Soviet Union. He revitalized the economy, and brought hope and pride back to the U.S. The deficit was purely a result of the Democrats controlling bot the House and the Senate. Iran Contra was certainly not a positive, but on an historical basis is barely worth a mention.

The utter BS of GW Bush wrecking the economy is also ridiculous. The nation was already in recession when he took office, as a result of the excesses of the Internet bubble. Also I am unsure what the erudite participants in this bbs would have a president do after 9/11. Grab our ankles and let terrorism destroy our country? If GW follows through on the war on terrorism, he will end up being one of the best presidents.

I for one did not like Clinton, but to place him at the bottom would also be ridiculous. Clinton was the hindmost, he always led from public opinion polls, which means he mostly agreed with the middle. Never being great, but never really screwing up. He did nothing to address the growing terrorist threat and made poor responses to terrorist acts. He tried to burden us with Universal Health Care but failed. However, even with his absence of morals and lack of leadership, he certainly wouldn't be in the bottom five.

By the way, if any of you care what actual historians believe, check these out. As others have mentioned, FDR hurt our country horribly with all of his social programs, but on the basis or strength of leadership and dealing with crisis, he was one of the best. And to suggest Lincoln was the worst, when nearly every poll of respected historians places his at the top, is another example of pure stupidity. "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." All of you who believe that the war on terrorism will fight itself, appear to be the same who believe that any historical problem, slavery, World War I, II, Afghanistan, Gulf War I, II, will just go away as long as you ignore it.


1948 Poll conducted by Arthur M. Schlesinger of 55 historians, published in Life Magazine on November 1, 1948

Great
1. Abraham Lincoln
2. George Washington
3. Franklin D. Roosevelt
4. Woodrow Wilson
5. Thomas Jefferson
6. Andrew Jackson

Near Great
7. Theodore Roosevelt
8. Grover Cleveland
9. John Adams
10. James K. Polk

Average
11. John Quincy Adams
12. James Monroe
13. Rutherford B. Hayes
14. James Madison
15. Martin Van Buren
16. William Howard Taft
17. Chester A. Arthur
18. William McKinley
19. Andrew Johnson
20. Herbert Hoover
21. Benjamin Harrison

Below Average
22. John Tyler
23. Calvin Coolidge
24. Millard Fillmore
25. Zachary Taylor
26. James Buchanan
27. Franklin Pierce

Failure
28. Ulysses Grant
29. Warren G. Harding



1962 Poll conducted by Arthur M. Schlesinger of 75 historians, published in The New York Times magazine on July 29, 1962

Great
1. Abraham Lincoln
2. George Washington
3. Franklin D. Roosevelt
4. Woodrow Wilson
5. Thomas Jefferson

Near Great
6. Andrew Jackson
7. Theodore Roosevelt
8. James K. Polk
9. Harry Truman
10. John Adams
11. Grover Cleveland

Average
12. James Madison
13. John Quincy Adams
14. Rutherford B. Hayes
15. William McKinley
16. William Howard Taft
17. Martin Van Buren
18. James Monroe
19. Herbert Hoover
20. Benjamin Harrison
21. Chester Arthur
22. Dwight D. Eisenhower
23. Andrew Johnson

Below Average
24. Zachary Taylor
25. John Tyler
26. Millard Fillmore
27. Calvin Coolidge
28. Franklin Pierce
29. James Buchanan

Failure
30. Ulysses Grant
31. Warren G. Harding



1982 Poll conducted by Chicago Tribune of 49 historians, published in the Chicago Tribune magazine on January 10, 1982


1. Abraham Lincoln
2. Franklin D. Roosevelt
3. George Washington
4. Theodore Roosevelt
5. Thomas Jefferson
6. Andrew Jackson
7. Woodrow Wilson
8. Harry Truman
9. Dwight Eisenhower
10. William McKinley
11. James Polk
12. Lyndon Johnson
13. Grover Cleveland
14. John Kennedy (tie)
14. John Adams (tie)
16. James Monroe
17. James Madison
18. Martin Van Buren
19. John Quincy Adams
20. William Taft
21. Herbert Hoover
22. Rutherford Hayes
23. Gerald Ford
24. Chester Arthur
25. Benjamin Harrison
26. Jimmy Carter
27. Calvin Coolidge
28. Zachary Taylor
29. John Tyler
30. Ulysses Grant
31. Millard Fillmore
32. Andrew Johnson
33. James Garfield
34. Richard Nixon
35. Franklin Pierce
36. James Buchanan
37. Warren Harding
38. William Harrison

Austin Tateous
10-08-2003, 06:51 AM
Here is a link to another rational list.

http://ragz-international.com/pres.pdf

plnnr
10-08-2003, 08:13 AM
"I am not a failure who will have to rely on the government for support when I retire."

Neither are many of the millions who do receive Social Security benefits. Let's hope that your aren't hit by a bus before you retire and injured such that you're permanently disabled - you may find you need those Social Security benefits that only loser need.

pkbites
10-08-2003, 10:08 AM
Originally posted by plnnr
Let's hope that your aren't hit by a bus before you retire and injured such that you're permanently disabled - you may find you need those Social Security benefits that only loser need.

Your very post proves my point about how those programs cause dependance. Instead of planning for such an ill-fated thing to happen (as I have) most people depend on having this Ponzi pyramid scheme to rely on. 70 years of this have made us soft.

plnnr
10-08-2003, 10:44 AM
Congratulations on your foresight. Unfortunatley, there are many folks who have the foresight, but don't have the financial ability to put away enough money to live off of should they become disabled. They aren't "soft," they just don't make enough money to do much more than make ends meet.

pkbites
10-08-2003, 10:55 AM
Originally posted by plnnr
They aren't "soft," they just don't make enough money to do much more than make ends meet.


:rolleyes: Sigh.

Geez. Duh,....um.....maybe they would have it if they weren't being taxed to the hilt. Just keep proving my point, why don't ya?:p Federal income tax, state income tax, sales tax, property tax, gas taxes, taxes, taxes, taxes, taxes, taxes.

Listen, I'm not the only guy that opposes these programs and believes, as a free people, we'd be much better off without them.
And if you think you're going to convince me otherwise, well, you're going to be sitting at those keyboards for a long, long, long, loooooooooooooooong time.
And I gotta get back to work. One of my overtaxed clients is on the phone.

smiling bandit
10-08-2003, 10:55 AM
Congratulations on your foresight. Unfortunatley, there are many folks who have the foresight, but don't have the financial ability to put away enough money to live off of should they become disabled. They aren't "soft," they just don't make enough money to do much more than make ends meet.

That is a total fallacy. People are more than intelligent enough to save. And, should people become disabled, its perfectly appropriate for society to pay for some help. But there is no reason that ordinary citizens must pay in to support the current elderly, who had plenty of time to save and the vast majority of whom lived quite well.

If someone foolishly spends all their money, perhaps they should have though a bit better beforehand. People today, as always, are sometimes willing to spend now and not think about the future. Making ends meet is a lot easier if you don't buy frivolous things.

pantom
10-08-2003, 10:58 AM
There's nothing particularly enlightening about your lists, Austin, other than that Presidents who won wars, or more properly had wars won while they were President, rate highly with these historians. Wotta surprise that is.
Wait a second while I pick myself up off the floor.
There now. Wilson & Dubya had the same problem: a disproportionate military response to a problem. The rational thing for Wilson to have done is what George Washington did when faced with a similar problem from France: engage in a limited naval war. In response to the Zimmermann letter perhaps massing some troops along the Mexican border might have been appropriate. Sending hundreds of thousands of troops to Europe was a disproportionate and inappropriate response, but Presidents like war; it gives them power.
Ditto for Dubya. Afghanistan was appropriate; Iraq not. But given a police and intelligence problem like terrorism, it's not surprising that a power-hungry President would prefer war over covert action any day, even to the extent of trashing the very intelligence agencies you need to solve the problem at hand.

scotandrsn
10-08-2003, 11:16 AM
Originally posted by Austin Tateous

Reagan defeated the Soviet Union. He revitalized the economy, and brought hope and pride back to the U.S. The deficit was purely a result of the Democrats controlling both the House and the Senate.


If I recall correctly, the Soviet Union was still up and running as of the end of Reagan's term in January 1989. He certainly outspent them on Weapons of Mass Destruction during his term.

As for revitalizing the economy, he revived the "trickle-down" theory from before the depression, the idea that giving money to the people who already have it evenutally benefits everyone. That formed part of the reason that Harding is considered a failure by so many of your historians, and Coolidge not much better. It buoys the economy for a coulple of years, then there's a great crash. Worst one happened in 1929. The next worst one happened in 1987. Who was president?

Reagan brought no hope and pride to a single individual I met in the 1980s who took one minute to think about the condition the nation was in at the time. He was very popular amongst the mindless yahoos I knew, who had their hope and pride for America as effectively restored by a Miller Genuine Draft commercial as by anything Reagan ever did.

Iran Contra was certainly not a positive, but on an historical basis is barely worth a mention.

After entering office by denouncing Carter's handling of the first Iran hostage crisis, saying he would never deal with terrorists, when anyone with a brain cell can tell from the hearings that he made a secret deal with the dictator of Iran to keep Americans held captive by college students with guns until he won the election, you want to tell me that selling them more weapons in return for the release of more hostages, then filtering the money to the Contras when Congress had expressly declared it illegal for him to do anything of the kind, is barely worth a historical mention?

I want a puff of whatever you've been smoking.


The utter BS of GW Bush wrecking the economy is also ridiculous. The nation was already in recession when he took office, as a result of the excesses of the Internet bubble.

Certainly. And his plan for recovery was the same ghastly trickle-down theory that has failed our nation twice before. At least the earlier presidents had the brains to pull this scam when the economy was still somewhat afloat. Giving money to the rich has never once pulled us out of a deep recession, but Shrub decides it's time to give it another go. And I'm supposed to admire him why?

[Also I am unsure what the erudite participants in this bbs would have a president do after 9/11. ... If GW follows through on the war on terrorism, he will end up being one of the best presidents.

And what a big if that is. What does an Iraqi land grab have to do with a war on terrorism? Afghanistan's gone to hell in the interim. You know Afghanistan don't you? Where the 9-11 terrorists had their central command?

As others have mentioned, FDR hurt our country horribly with all of his social programs, but on the basis or strength of leadership and dealing with crisis, he was one of the best.


At least FDR and his "horrible" social programs knew how to find the country's way out of an economic crisis, which is more than Bush will ever know.

Montresor
10-08-2003, 12:53 PM
I think that the whole Zimmerman Telegram thing has been blown out of proportion; it was no more a "smoking gun" than the sinking of the Lusitania. Rather, it was just one MORE indication that, even though we weren't at war with Germany, they essentially were already at war with us.

pantom's suggestion that the threat of war with Mexico could have easily been forestalled is just more pursuit of a red herring. Sure, we could have gone to war with Mexico AGAIN, and in fact almost did shortly before war broke out in Europe, but Mexico was in a state of near-total anarchy and really was not a serious threat circa 1917. Sure, Germany didn't realistically stand to gain anything from Zimmerman's proposal, but they sure weren't running much of a risk by extending it. So the US joins in the war? It was going to happen anyway.

The real reason that Wilson didn't have any choice was because of Germany's repeated renewal of their commitment to unrestricted submarine warfare. The German Navy demonstrated time and again that they were willing and able to disregard traditional rules re. noncombatants and civilian shipping (admittedly due to some compelling tactical limits of submarines themselves). This put Wilson in an untenable situation, as it would have done to ANY president in office at the time. To put it bluntly, the only way he could have avoided going to war with Germany would have been to forbid ALL American vessels, civilian or military, to enter or leave ANY foreign port for the duration of the war. That's a little much to ask, I think, and I'm not going to blame Wilson for his decision.

Heck, if you really want to blame him for any mistakes that hindsight reveals, you should jump on his failure to go to war promptly after the Lusitania's sinking in 1915, when public opinion was unified and the influx of US troops on the battlefield would have made a decisive difference, undoubtedly saving many lives by shortening the war.

Again, I'm not really that crazy about Wilson; lord knows I ain't happy about what happened to civil rights in this country during WWI, and I'm not really that familiar with his administration aside from the aspects dealing with the war. I just don't think its fair to call him "the worst president ever" because of a naive commitment to isolationism. He was a decent man who did an honest and sincere job to keep the country out of war and to restore peace to Europe. When he did commit the nation to war, it was because the alternative was simply not acceptable; let's not forget, also, that he didn't railroad the country against its will. Congress was overwhelmingly in support of his actions, and what political opposition was raised had very little to do with isolationism or pacifism.

Besides, all this beating up on Wilson takes the limelight away from the real winner in this contest, Warren G. Harding! Innefectual and comical at best, criminally negligent at worst, and one of our nation's most hilarious public speakers (through no intention of his own).

Oh, finally thanks to Mehitabel for the thoughtful welcome. It's nice to finally be involved instead of just thinking of clever things I could have said...

pantom
10-08-2003, 09:48 PM
Montresor, I have no idea what you mean by this sentence: "pantom's suggestion that the threat of war with Mexico could have easily been forestalled is just more pursuit of a red herring." The comment I made about Mexico was in the context of Wilson being a "serial intervener", and in the context of trying to explain why the Zimmermann letter had such power to persuade. Allow me to elucidate.

From the site http://ragz-international.com/history_of_the_united_states6.htm:
Woodrow Wilson, an idealist and humanitarian, disliked imperialism and rejected dollar diplomacy. He hoped to establish benevolent relations with other nations and wanted the United States to serve as a force for good in the world. However, in 1913, the United States landed marines in Nicaragua to ensure that its choice for Nicaraguan president would remain in power. The Wilson administration then drew up a treaty with Nicaragua that reduced the country to virtual dependency. In addition, U.S. troops occupied Haiti in 1915 and the Dominican Republic in 1916. American business interests continued to prevail in Latin America.
Finally, Wilson came close to involving the United States in a war with Mexico. In 1913, two years after the Mexican Revolution, Mexico's new president was assassinated, and a reactionary general, Victoriano Huerta, took control. Wilson refused to recognize Huerta's unjust regime. Many Mexicans who disliked Huerta, however, also resented Wilson's intervention in Mexican affairs. Both sides were poised to fight in 1914, when a confrontation between American sailors and Huerta's forces broke out at Veracruz. Wilson accepted the mediation of Argentina, Chile, and Brazil, but then supported Francisco "Pancho" Villa, a bandit, until Villa crossed the border and massacred Americans. Wilson sent U.S. troops to pursue Villa in 1916. The United States withdrew in 1917, which ended American involvement but left a legacy of distrust in Mexico and Latin America.

So, even before WWI, we have Wilson sending U.S. forces into Nicaragua, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and, importantly, Mexico.
Four freakin' countries already, but of course he was only warming up. The Big Show was just around the corner.
On to WWI: as I said, and you carefully ignored, the situation was exactly analogous to the situation George Washington faced with France in the 1790s. I got my timing a little off: the limited naval war happened when his successor, John Adams, was in office. As to Washington, he insisted on and got a strict neutrality with France during his term, which enraged Jefferson, and it was in the context of his insistence on that neutrality that it becomes useful to understand his comments in his Farewell Address about the U.S. having strictly commercial relations with other nations. He was speaking from experience.
That passage was also the one in which he famously said "Europe has a set of primary interests which to us have none; or a very remote relation. Hence she must be engaged in frequent controversies, the causes of which are essentially foreign to our concerns. Hence, therefore, it must be unwise in us to implicate ourselves by artificial ties in the ordinary vicissitudes of her politics, or the ordinary combinations and collisions of her friendships or enmities."
That wise advice was of course ignored by Wilson. Having given into temptation on four different occasions prior to Germany's renewed attacks on our shipping in 1917, there was no way he was going to pass up another opportunity to "make the world safe for democracy". Unlike Washington and Adams before him, for the first time in the history of this Republic he sent troops to fight in Europe on one side of a European conflict.
As I said in my post above, while there is no way to know how different the world's history after out involvement in World War I would have been, it's very hard to imagine it turning out worse than it did. A quick summary of the aftermath is in order.
Five different European countries suffered from hyperinflation, as this table, from http://www2.sjsu.edu/faculty/watkins/hyper.htm shows:

Germany: 1920-1923, 3.25 million percent
Russia: 1921-1924, 213 percent
Austria: 1921-1922, 134 percent
Poland: 1922-1924, 275 percent
Hungary: 1922-1924, 98 percent

After this came the rampant speculation of the late 1920s. After that came the Great Depression, the rise of hypermilitarism in Germany, Japan, and Italy, and of course World War II.
On top of all of this, just to add some icing to this remarkably bloody cake, Wilson sent American troops into the nascent USSR to fight in their civil war, on the royalist side. (From http://www.mmmfiles.com/archive/civilwar.htm "At the end of may, 1918, and before he had learned of the fighting between the Bolsheviks and the Czechs, Wilson told a British representative that he was prepared to "go as far as intervention against the wishes of the Russian people knowing it was eventually for their good, provided he thought the scheme had any practical chance of success." ", proving that the road to Hell is indeed paved with good intentions.) Including World War I itself, that's six distinct instances of military intervention in the affairs of other countries, on two different continents. I believe that constitutes a record. It certainly constitutes a complete, utter, absolute and total rejection of Washington's doctrine of non-interference.
He was by far the most dangerous and certainly the worst President we have ever had. He has provided the excuse to every power-hungry, war-mongering President who came after him, up to and including the current vomitacious example. A few more well-intentioned Presidents like him, and we might as well give up the ghost.

Montresor
10-09-2003, 12:28 PM
Originally posted by pantom
Montresor, I have no idea what you mean by this sentence: "pantom's suggestion that the threat of war with Mexico could have easily been forestalled is just more pursuit of a red herring." The comment I made about Mexico was in the context of Wilson being a "serial intervener", and in the context of trying to explain why the Zimmermann letter had such power to persuade. Allow me to elucidate.

I was speaking of my own conviction that, while the Zimmerman telegram was probably real enough, it was never intended as anything more than a long shot, Hail-Mary pass by Germany. Germany knew that we were almost in the war anyway, and Japan and Mexico never really had any plans to take the idea seriously. Its real impact, at most, was to galvanize public opinion behind the idea of war.

And while I have serious doubts about how realistic it would have been for the US to get involved with the Great War in a "limited naval" fashion, I will at least propose that this avenue of involvement would have limited the US' ability to attempt to influence peace negotiations, which if taken seriously by the Allies may very well have mitigated the laundry list of tragedies which followed the war.

I think the major issue here is that I don't share your deep-seated philosophical opposition to the very idea of interventionism. I think isolationism was a wonderful idea, and I deeply wish that it was at least considered as an option in contemporary foreign policy, but I'm not willing to condemn Wilson in such a wholehearted manner. I feel, as I stated above, that he was inherently a decent and moral man who found himself at the head of a nascent world power and felt he owed a moral obligation to the citizens of the nation and world.

I think its a tad disingenuous to take Wilson to task as you did in your cite above while completely ignoring the preceeding paragraphs which speak of the interventionist policies pursued in the Western Hemisphere by other Progressives like Roosevelt, Monroe, and Taft (who was responsible for getting us embroiled in Nicaragua; placing all the blame for that on Wilson is not unlike blaming Nixon for getting the US mixed up with Vietnam). To say nothing, again, of Fillmore (opening Japan) and McKinley (the freakin' Spanish-American War! The US Navy in Manila!).

And finally, pantom, even the paragraph you quoted above describes Wilson as "an idealist and humanitarian, (who) disliked imperialism and rejected dollar diplomacy." I believe that to be quite accurate, and I feel your assesment of him as "far the most dangerous and certainly the worst President we have ever had," "power-hungry (and) war-mongering," is very unfair and not borne out by your own references.

As I said above, however, I can certainly appreciate your philosophical opposition to the very idea of American overseas military involvement. I also agree that its net effects have been very unfortunate, ethically and politically, for the world at large.

But its important to remember that World War One was, as Niall Ferguson so succinctly put it, a mistake. It should never have happened, and it changed the entire world and the course of history for every person on the planet, in ways that are still happening.

While I respect the ethical strength of your position, and agree with it to a large degree, I think that Wilson is an arbitrary and undeserved target in this debate. I also question whether or not we're ever going to reach any agreement on this issue...

pkbites
10-09-2003, 01:20 PM
Originally posted by scotandrsn
At least FDR and his "horrible" social programs knew how to find the country's way out of an economic crisis, which is more than Bush will ever know.

So FDR's socialism is justified by an incompentent who doesn't come along for another 60+ years?

You do realize that the depression went on for several years during FDR's reign, right?

pantom
10-09-2003, 05:18 PM
Montresor: I'll agree to disagree.
Good debate, btw. You've got a future here in GD. How you managed to lurk without posting is beyond me; it shows a self-restraint that I sure lack.

Montresor
10-10-2003, 01:04 PM
Originally posted by pantom
Montresor: I'll agree to disagree.
Good debate, btw. You've got a future here in GD. How you managed to lurk without posting is beyond me; it shows a self-restraint that I sure lack.

Wow, such tact and graciousness... I certainly do appreciate it. I still think you're wrong, of course, but its quite decent of everyone here to be so accepting of debate and discussion, without undue personal rancor.
And I wouldn't say self-restraint per se; I have a rewarding hobby of angry-letter-writing, directed at local government bodies and newspaper columnists, that keeps my anger at a reasonable level.

Esprix
10-10-2003, 02:59 PM
Can't say about presidents, but I can offer up that Thomas Jefferson is generally considered one of the worst vice presidents (at least according to Bland Ambition (http://search.barnesandnoble.com/booksearch/isbnInquiry.asp?isbn=0156131404)). That factoid amuses me to no end. :D

Esprix

pantom
10-10-2003, 08:01 PM
"...airtight alibis back to junior high.": that's about right, I suppose.
I like golf, but I'm not exactly what you'd call good at it. I wonder if I could still make Veep?

elfkin477
10-11-2003, 01:32 AM
While he may not be the worst of all, Franklin Pierce has got to rate pretty high on the worst-of list. When you're the only president from your state and school children in said state are taught that you are one of the antecent causes of the civil war and also utterly inept at the job, you've got to be a pretty bad president...

BrainGlutton
10-11-2003, 05:11 PM
Posted by pkbites:

So FDR's socialism is justified by an incompentent who doesn't come along for another 60+ years?

You do realize that the depression went on for several years during FDR's reign, right?

No, pkbites, FDR's socialism is justified because it was socialism. To the extent it was socialism at all, that is. It was really Keynesianism more than anything else. As for the Depression continuing during his administration, it would have been even worse if he had just left the healing process to the free market.

pkbites
10-12-2003, 12:55 PM
Originally posted by BrainGlutton
Posted by pkbites:
As for the Depression continuing during his administration, it would have been even worse if he had just left the healing process to the free market.


Cite?

BrainGlutton
10-12-2003, 04:19 PM
Posted by pkbites:

Cite?

We're talking about hypothetical situations; how can cites be relevant? Just look straight at what the New Deal accomplished: It provided lots of Americans with jobs outside the market system, and it extended electric power and public services to regions that had never known them. All that planted seeds for later prosperity even if things didn't turn around right away. It also provided the conditions that made it possible for us to win World War II -- an effort, by the way, which required temporary "war socialism" on a scale far vaster and more pervasive than the New Deal. Do you honestly believe the private sector could have accomplished as much, if Hoover had been re-elected in 1932?

pkbites
10-12-2003, 05:27 PM
Originally posted by BrainGlutton

We're talking about hypothetical situations


There is nothing hypothetical about the excessive government and taxation we have here. Excessive government that was greatly endorsed by FDR. Hoover isn't completely off the hook though: his tax increases helped kill off what was left of the economy, helping to usher in FDR to balloon the over all size of the federal government.
The debate probably ends here. I stated who I felt was the worst President, and why. Nothing will change my mind.
(at least not until Howard Dean is elected.:D )

ebm2
10-12-2003, 09:45 PM
slaverey was surely contracting as folks were being sold down the river will evidence . the soil was wearing out ,new lands had to be opened.Lincoln opposed the Mexican War as a congressman. Therfore I would like to put James K Polks name in nomanation for the worst.This war almost guaranteed the civil war which 'fretted' many latter administrations.

also I recommend biographical pursuit of Hebert Hoover.
among other things he could have been pres earlier if he had ran and he and his wifes treatise on mining is probably the most significant scientific work by an american politico ,if that is the right word,since Ben Franklin.