What's the most damaging thing a lame duck president has ever done?

One issue with the US election process is that the election is held in November, but the newly elected president - if the incumbent isn’t re-elected - doesn’t take office until the middle of the following January. This gives a newly not re-elected president several weeks to make problems. Maybe through ineptitude. Maybe in a fit of pique…

Thus far, what’s the most damaging thing a president who either was completing their second term or being ousted after just one term, has done between early November and mid-January?

Hmm, I think G Ford, pardoning R Nixon might count. You could easily make the argument that by skating on all consequences, future presidential shenanigans were pretty predictable.

If I can escape my illegal actions by simply installing a compliant VP, we can both get away with lots of crap, scot free.

We’ll still get our pensions, security protection, intelligence briefings and called ‘president’, not so bad really!

Can’t argue that the Nixon pardon shifted what is normal but it wasn’t while Ford was a “lame duck”.

I don’t see the Nixon thing. Ford wasn’t a lame duck when he pardoned Nixon, and Nixon wasn’t a lame duck when he appointed Ford as VP to replace Agnew.

I know that there have been some controversial last minute pardons as some presidents were leaving office, but can’t think of any that were truly “damaging”.

Are we restricted to the current, shorter lame duck period? The new term used to start 4-March.

Not that I have pre-XXth (1933) examples; I’m just clarifying the scope.

Bush Sr. sent troops to Somalia in Dec 1992 and 82 Americans were killed

The Bush White House consulted with President-elect Bill Clinton and his staff, as I recall, and they did not object to the Somalia mission. There was a broad bipartisan consensus that it was a necessary humanitarian intervention. American combat deaths occurred, unfortunately, on Clinton’s watch.

James Buchanan said in late 1860 that secession was illegal, but that he was powerless to stop it. Hard to top that one.

President Alan Alda declared war on Canada. :sunglasses:

Nope. If someone’s got an example from back then, have at it.

Doing a little research, it seems that most acts by lame duck presidents just involve political machinations.

There is an example of when an incoming president did do something that harmed the country and the lame duck president. But he didn’t do it to specifically harm the country. That was a byproduct of his decision and he went on to be one of the most respected presidents.

[Lame duck (politics) - Wikipedia]

We’ve had some bad presidents in these 256 years but I don’t believe that any of them were ever as hateful, spiteful and vain to believe that they should intentionally harm the country because they lost. Trump will be exceptional in that regard should he lose.

Outgoing Clinton staffers removed the “W” from some of the White House keyboards to celebrate Dubya’s arrival.

See, Democrats spitefully harm the country too.

Well, that is kind of a matter of semantics. Nixon could be seen as a lame duck of sorts as of 20 January of '73. In four years, his political career would be done as a christmas goose.

Between the time Lincoln was elected and he took office, seven states announced they were seceding from the Union and formed the Confederacy. Lame-duck James Buchanan responded by saying “The power by force of arms to compel a State to remain in the Union” was not among the “enumerated powers granted to Congress.”

See post 7, KC.

Nixon was a lame duck when he nominated Ford for VP in that he could not run for the Presidency again; he was not a lame duck in the narrower sense of being in office between the last election on his watch and the inauguration of his successor.

Point taken. Yes I was thinking specifically of the period between Election Day and Inauguration Day.

Not sure many here want to use that definition since it can be used to distinguish between Obama’s last SC nomination and Trump’s next.

Errrrr? 18 killed and 75 wounded. Technically those casualties happened under Clinton’s administration, although the intervention began under Bush.

A greatly exaggerated story. That exaggeration is itself a destructive thing, but done by an incoming administration. Cite: The 'Class Act' E-mail - FactCheck.org

Perhaps others exaggerated the story. But what I said was -

Outgoing Clinton staffers removed the “W” from some of the White House keyboards

…and that is confirmed by your own factcheck link

GAO: Damage, theft, vandalism, and pranks occurred in the White House complex during the 2001 presidential transition. Incidents such as the removal of keys from computer keyboards

And in your smug desire to correct my ignorance, you seem to have entirely missed the point of the joke I was making - which was precisely to highlight such minimal damage done by Democrats, when Republicans are trashing the Constitution.

Not if he makes a SCOTUS nomination, as seems possible but unlikely, after losing the election this year.