Monday, August 2, 2021

Who Was the Worst President In U.S. History? I Nominate This One

Warren G. Harding was one of the worst they say.
His sex scandals weren't even a consideration
By that measure we'd see FDR, JFK, Bill C
and others listed as well.
When it comes to voting for the best and worst presidents in our history, one must first establish some criteria. Currently there's no doubt a large contingent who say there's no point asking the question. Trump is most obviously such an odious president that there's no point in going further with this discussion. C'est la vie.

What triggered this blog post, though, was a book title that caught my eye on with the title: The Worst President in History: The Legacy of Barack Obama


According to the promotional info on this book the author compiles more than 200 "inconvenient truths" to support his assessment including "his shocking abuses of taxpayer dollars; his bitterly divisive style of governing; his shameless usurping of the Constitution; his many scandals and cover-ups; his policy failures at home and abroad; the unprecedented expansion of government power...and more."

Now to be honest, in my opinion many of these accusations could be made against many presidents. Divisive? Abuses of taxpayer dollars? Policy failures? And as regards the last, "the unprecedented expansion of government power" I would suggest that the past 120 years of this nation has seen a continued and ongoing expansion of government power. The past three presidents have made "executive orders" a modus operandi for expanding the power of the executive branch. It's an innovation that frees presidents from bipartisan wrangling altogether. "Let's Make a Law" is practically a new program on The Game Channel.

So, I decided to ask Google and was directed to a U.S. News & World Report page that claimed it was able to identify our worst presidents.

The first listed was Zachary Taylor. His crime? He was a war hero who was utterly forgettable. He died in office and failed to complete his term, so I'm not sure he got a fair shake when it comes to making his mark. There are plenty of presidents who did more damage than that

Herbert Hoover gets the second nod, assuming we're going from worst to first. A poor communicator is his crime, as well as ushering in the Great Depression. Big problems create big opportunities for those who succeed in tackling them. Some of his decisions exacerbated, rather than alleviated, the challenges we faced as a nation. 

USN&WR gives John Tyler and Millard Fillmore a tie for 7th worst. Tyler was a defender of slavery and abandoned the party platform he was elected on. "You voted for me on this, but guess what? I am going to do my own thing now. Sorry, you losers." Fillmore's sins were greater still, beginning with the Missouri Compromise that permitted the spread of slavery. 

Warren G. Harding is tagged as sixth worst in this list. Scandals permeated his presidency I'm not sure he knew what his primary responsibilities were. "When the cat's away, the mice will play." 

William Henry Harrison died 30 days after giving his unnecessarily long inaugural address in the rain. I have a hard time saying he was a bad president. He never really had a chance to get any traction. 

Franklin Pierce. 
Franklin Pierce  is another of those presidents a majority of our citizens would be unable to identify in a final exam. It was his view that pursuing abolitionist would be a threat to the Union. Therefore, he acquiesced to the pro-slavery Southern Dems. "Staus Quo is the way to go," must have been his motto. "Don't rock the boat."

Andrew Johnson takes the #3 slot in this list. He opposed Reconstruction, was an enabler of carpetbaggers and scalawags, among other things. Ultimately there was an attempt to impeach him, but he was acquitted. These were turbulent times and it didn't help that he had a somewhat obstinate personality. Those first years after the Civil War would have been a trial for anyone.

USN&WR lists Donald Trump as #2 in this list of "worst" presidents. Whereas it's true that he never had more than a 50% approval rating, there were numerous presidents with a lower approval rating at the end of their service in the White House. Gallup Polls (measuring only since FDR) show Truman, Nixon, Carter and both Bushes to have the lowest approval ratings at the end of their tenures. In light of the ongoing media hostility toward the 45th president it's quite surprising his ratings were as high as they were.

According the this list, James Buchanan (1857-1861) gets to wear the moniker of "Worst President." He did nothing to stand in the way of the spread of slavery and set the stage for the secession by the Confederacy.

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Personally, I believe Millard Fillmore can't be far behind as an instrument of stupidity with regards to these matters. The absence of Andrew Jackson and his treatment of the Native peoples that resulted in the "Trail of Tears" seems an error somehow. 

You can probably poke a few holes in the inflated importance of Woodrow Wilson as well, in my estimation, the Ivory Tower President who really couldn't grasp the significance of many of the events unfolding in the aftermath of the First World War. His unrestrained use of propaganda to generate a hatred of Germans (our largest immigrant population) and Germany had consequences that extended far beyond his visual horizon. 

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