who is the worst President in US history?

G.W.Bush. Res ipsa loquitur

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.

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!

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 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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?


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?”

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.

Ambassador Joseph Wilson, even.

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.’

Millions of slaves and great damage to the United States don’t count as reasons, eh? Convenient.

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. :stuck_out_tongue: 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.

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

  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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

“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.