Who was or is "the Worst American"?

The flip side of this thread, who would you vote to be the worst American, which is to say the American who has had the most negative effect on the nation’s image, people, welfare, etc… This is more of an imho, but I’ll post it here because debate is probable. In order to keep it from getting hopelessly out of hand in the first few posts, I’ll make one groundrule:

YOU CANNOT NOMINATE ANY LIVING PRESIDENT OR EX-PRESIDENT- I’m not saying that Bush or Clinton etc. aren’t terrible, just that we don’t 300 pages of Bush v. Clinton slamming. Otherwise you can nominate anybody, living or dead, president or otherwise, liberal or conservative, but please give a brief justification of your answer.

There are many who come to mind of course, but the two I’ll go with are:

Joe McCarthy- so obvious that I almost added him to the exclusions- it’s almost more of a debate as to who was the “Second Worst” American. His literal destruction of lives and careers to advance not even his own cause so much as himself, his blatant lying and hypocrisy, his persecution of people’s private lives while he himself was an alcoholic and probably a closet-case, his use of his equally evil right-hand buttboy Roy Cohn [who persecuted both Jews and gays even though he was both] to rig the trial of Ethel Rosenberg to ensure the death penalty (she arguably deserved a prison sentence, but that’s all- her husband was guilty but that there’s no unperjured evidence that she was involved) all lent his very name to denote a Sejanus like reign of terror devoid of any “decency”.

Jefferson Davis- I do not believe that owning slaves or even being a pro slavery advocate necessarily made a man evil, but Davis has other considerations, most rooted in his stubborness and arrogance. His refusal, even after July 1863 when it was clear to anyone but a madman that the Confederacy could not win the war, to even consider treaty talks that involved emancipation cost thousands of his countrymen on both sides their lives. His order to kill any black soldier found in a Federal uniform led not only to wanton murder but to the horrors of Andersonville. His orders to Johnston to keep fighting after Lee’s surrender was insane (luckily Johnston had the good sense to send him a polite “and the Dapple Grey you rode in on” and surrender [several times, but that’s another story]). His own cowardly flight (note: I am aware that he did not don a woman’s dress to avoid capture) rather than biting the bullet like Lee (who did not know that he would ride away from Appomattox Courthouse a free man) did- he would have had so much more dignity and respect in history had he surrendered himself rather than try to break for Cuba. His aristocratic arrogance (the man took slave servants to Westpoint) shot his own cause in the foot as he wouldn’t advance one of the most brilliant generals in history (N.B. Forrest) due to the man’s indigent birth. I just can’t stand him (or even the fact that Beauvoir has a “Presidential Library”).

Benedict Arnold comes to mind.

I’m not sure I’d put him at #1, but Tim McVeigh deserves consideration. I could explain why, but I don’t think I really need to.

Hey, just because he’s gay and was in the Navy doesn’t mean he’s EVIL…

Oh, you mean this guy. Carry on.

(Sorry- couldn’t resist- when I teach Bibliographic Instruction classes one of the assignments I always give them in learning Boolean and how to narrow focus is to have them construct a search that finds articles only on the gay Timothy McVeigh.)

I’m going to nominate that arrogant, Indian-killing, economy-crashing motherfucker, Andrew Jackson.

Ronald Reagan. Reasons being:

#1) His policy of let the rich get richer, and maybe a little of that will trickle down to the poor. And attitude that has been a cancer on the republic, and the Republican party, since then. It is amazing how Reagan actually makes Nixon look good historically. Yeah, Nixon was a crook. But quite moderate economically.

#2) Reagan’s authoritarian bias, and in particular at least appearing to push for shoving the religious right moral agenda on the nation. Reagan should be doubly condemned for playing the religious right like a harp from hell to get his screw the poor and make the rich richer agenda through. While Reagan may have walked the walk and talked the talk of the religious right, when it came to real life politics he was more than happy to sell them out in favor of his rich backers. Had Reagan actually wanted to advance the cause of the religious right, he’d have needed to do some political horse trading on the economic side to get enough political support to do it. Reagan sold out the religious conservatives.

Reagan and Jackson are both ex-presidents. I think that makes them illegible, though the wording in the OP is a little ambiguous, and might just mean living ex-presidents.

Anyhoo, I’ll go for Kissinger (technically a German, but close enough) for the secret bombings of Cambodia, support of Pinochet and other unsavory characters, etc.

I’ve always thought it one of recent history’s richer ironies that the president who really began the “Family Values” era was the only divorcee ever to hold the office (with a toddler grandchild by his first wife he had never even seen). His deregulation of the S&L led to a disaster that will never be paid off and if he truly didn’t know about Iran-Contra while it was happening (and I don’t believe he did) I find it more horrifying than if he had directly ordered it.

I am having trouble thinking of an american who would be extremely destructive. There is probably some foreign policy wank who was a really bad influence, but the best I can come up with it Kissinger. his support for human rights abuses was not only a violation of what the US claims to stand for, but a violation of what the public stands for, close to 80-90% of americans support promoting human rights as a major part of US foreign policy. It also helped create a very cynical attitude about the US about our foreign policy, having a war for 14 years to defend a corrupt dictator while conscripting people against their will will do that, not to mention the support of numerious latin american dictators and the bombing of cambodia.

Whoever was involved in telling the US to stall on the Rwanda issue is probably no. 2. It is my understanding that the US held up the UN so that they couldn’t do anything about it.

I don’t see any ambiguity. If he didn’t want us talking about any Presidents at all, he wouldn’t have qualified the phrase with the word “living.” Ergo, it’s ok to talk about dead Presidents.

“Otherwise you can nominate anybody, living or dead, president or otherwise, liberal or conservative, but please give a brief justification of your answer.”

That specifically allows dead presidents.

Richard Nixon comes to mind.

Woodrow Wilson?

I am very liberal, and Wilson was trying to do the right thing, but by being among the first world leaders to explicitly support the right of each group of people on -earth to enjoy the fruits of “sovereignty” (I think he called it “self-determination”), he inadvertantly jump-started the seeds of many wars, and the problem is only getting worse today. Of course I support democracy and minority empowerment, but the deadly focus on autonomy (and national borders) by this group or that (be it religious, cultural, lingustic, whatever) has gotten totally out of hand.

I don’t believe in his heart Reagan really cared that much about “Family Values”.


“He spoke of family values and saw abortion as something that offended his religious values and his sense of the autonomy of the individual again. And yet he signs into law the abortion, the liberal abortion statute in California, because he’s also a practical politician.”

Reagan’s core beliefs were right wing economic ones, combined with the idea of the USA as a dominant military power. He just used the religious right for his own political advantage.

I’m gonna nominate Karl Rove. I wouldn’t nominate his boss even if it was allowed, because without Rove, he wouldn’t be President. Rove’s entire career has been one long assault on the Democratic process. He viciously attacked people and ruined their lives with lies, and took great pleasure in doing so. His approach to electoral politics is to do everything possible to circumvent the democratic process. He undoubtedly was the architect who engineered the theft of the 2000 Presidential election. He has been a disaster for America.

In the article which inspired this thread, many of the people apeared to be there only because the respondants like them. Now, in the same spirit, since I don’t like him, I would have to nominate John Wilkes Booth.

A few robber barons come to mind (Jay Gould & Jim Fisk specifically) for shaking if not toppling the economy for personal gain, but the problem is that it was less any individual than the entire laissez-faire system and all of the men and women who were good at manipulating it. I would nominate Grant, but his sins were far more of omission than commission.

It’s so damned annoying when actors express their political opinions.

I see most of my picks have already been done.


I would like to add another. James Dobson. He might not look like it yet, but I suspect he will show up as one of the worst of the lot.

Also, Oliver North

Nathan Bedford Forrest, founder of the Ku Klux Klan.