The Gospel Truth

The Worst President? | June 25, 2010

When they don’t know what else to write about historians will play games like who was the best president or what would have happen had… I have even seen a book about Virtual History.

Scores of books have been written on such subjects.

Of course they are all very subjective and often deviate from the reality of American life.

Over a year ago my perspicacious granddaughter, who was still months away from her 7th birthday, asked me out of the complete blue—Daddy Bee, who do you think was the worst president?

I have no idea why she asked me this or what discussions she had heard at home.  Perhaps she listens to NPR.

I proceeded to explain that I thought the current president was making a good claim for that dubious distinction.

Were she to ask me today, I would have a whole lot more information to pass on to her.

Granted that as I have stated most of these historical rating games are mostly subjective but all of them revolve around a special kind of relative criteria. One man’s king may be another man’s knave.

To fully understand the selections, one must know the criteria.

THE BEST PRESIDENTS?

In the case of the “best” presidents, the answers usually start with Lincoln, Washington, FDR, Teddy Roosevelt and probably Thomas Jefferson.

Three of the top five exercised a good deal of federal power and helped advance the size of government, especially FDR and Lincoln.

Lincoln’s interpretation of the U. S. Constitution helped to precipitate a war that quite possibly could have been avoided.

FDR used his expansion of power in time of economic crisis to promote and expand government, much to the detriment of America’s economy.  he was saved by the bells of WW II.

His desire to join the British and the Russians in a world war cost billions and nearly a half a million American lives.

As a result we replaced Hitler with Stalin and a 50-year Cold War.

Andrew Jackson often makes the list because of the unilateral way he handled disputes with Indians, recalcitrant soldiers and unfriendly foreign diplomats.  He usually shot or hanged them.

Ropes or Bullets

Teddy Roosevelt had some of that relentless fire in him, as evidenced by his near-sighted charge up San Juan Hill in Cuba(TR had 22 pairs of replacement glasses sewn in his military tunic in case his main pair got broken or lost.)

He used his presidency as a “bully pulpit.”  And when that didn’t work, he put on the iron gloves.

He’s the kind of Republican that liberals can relate to.

One president who revisionists are starting to praise is Grover Cleveland, the only president to serve two terms that were not consecutive.  He was a fiscal conservative who resented spending someone else’s money.

Both parties could use someone like that today.

Ronald Reagan was by far the best president in my lifetime.  No one is even in second place.

The Best in my Lifetime

However he was only half successful.  He did rescue the nation from Jimmy Carter’s malaise and he made people proud to be Americans again.

Arguably he also helped to end Soviet Communism by bankrupting them in the Arms Race and his support of the mujahideen, including a wealthy rebel, named Osama Bin Laden, made Afghanistan a Russian Vietnam.  Geopolitics is very complicated.

But Reagan failed to curtail spending and mistakenly tried to compromise with Tip O’Neil and his band of cronies.  The Democrats renege on their promises to cut their profligate spending while Reagan signed a tax increase in 1986.

Woodrow Wilson, the bane of Glenn Beck’s existence, often makes the top echelon.  After Lincoln, and TR, Wilson, the only president with a Ph.D.—that should have disqualified him right there– was the third big government president.

The Bane of Glenn's Existence

Wilson’s Progressive philosophy of using big government ends to enact Jeffersonian ends of rights, compassion and material benefits invariably led to the welfare state and 100 years of American self-destruction.

His foreign policies helped to engineer two world wars that killed millions of people.

Other than that, I can’t say much about him.

Woefully Unprepared

Personally I believe that until the current occupant at 1600 Pennsylvania, and the Georgia peanut farmer, Truman was probably the most inept and least prepared president we ever had.

Of course he was better than Henry Wallace, FDR’s second veep.

I would take Wallace with his purebred socialist ideas, way ahead of President Obama.

Truman was like the Joe Biden of his era–plain clueless, though in honesty it was all by FDR’s design and not a personal limitation, like Biden.  Stalin knew about the bomb before Truman did.

Unfortunately Truman was ruthless in his relations with the Republicans and was apparently unaware that the Executive branch was riven with Communists.

This was more FDR’s color-blindness for the color red.

Not to pop anyone’s balloons–more qualified historians have done–but McCarthy was right!  Of course I mean Joe, not Gene.

Several card-carrying members, ousted by the 1990’s publication of the KGB archives, known as the Venona Dispatches, clearly identified Harry Dexter White, Lauchlin Currie and Alger Hiss, among others as Soviet agents.

Many of us are still waiting for the left’s apology for having allowed America’s infiltration by people intent on destroying our country.  I will not hold my breath.

THE WORST PRESIDENTS?

The worst presidents often have to do with scandal.   Richard Nixon would have been impeached had he not resigned.

Ford’s pardon, which probably did the country a good deed, cut off Gerry Ford’s career at the ankles.  Ford personified dullness but he did veto a lot of harmful legislation in the wake of Democratic demagoguery and the Watergate Scandal.

Both Warren Harding and U.S. Grant’s administrations were adrift in a sea of corruption, though neither man, especially Grant was personally corrupt.

While Grant had his corrupt cabinet members, the Teapot Dome scandal rocked Harding’s administration.  A premature death mercifully handed the presidential baton to the dour but efficient Calvin Coolidge, who no one ever called cool!

Of  course there was Harding’s fruitful tryst on the floor of the Senate with his girlfriend, Nan Britton, but he wasn’t president then.

One of the Worst

I judge a president’s success by how much harm he causes to the country.

I would put LBJ in the worse than most categories because he probably did more harm than anyone, save Wilson.

Johnson’s War on Poverty was precisely that–a war on poor people.  It impoverished the black community by substituting a welfare check for a husband in the home.

The black family was actually stronger during slavery and the Great Depression according to Alan Keyes.

Johnson’s Vietnam War, without a set plan for military exit or victory, broke the back of fiscal conservatism, which had been revived for a moment at least under Kennedy.

His total disregard for the economic principle of guns and butter has led us to the brink of bankruptcy in 2010.

Lost Both Wars

I think Clinton did a lot of harm, but most of it was confined to the White House.

He did encourage other Democrats to take the low road in defending him but he could have wreaked far more harm on the economy.

George W. Bush did that for him and was an even bigger disappointment than Nixon.

Tell me whom do you think was the worst and or best president?

Stay tuned for Part II and my full answer for the worst president in history for my granddaughter.

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5 Comments »

  1. Best President: Ronald Reagan, The American Patriot.
    Worst President: Barack Obama, Communist and Kenyan citizen, elected by Democrats, and Socialist Communists, Hates America, World Leading Promoter of Abortion, Leading Racists is the US, Illegally sitting as President of the USA.

    You have really hit another Nerve BB, thanks for the opportunity to choose.

    Comment by Jim Vondras — June 26, 2010 @ 4:07 pm

  2. […] PDRTJS_settings_901330_post_491 = { "id" : "901330", "unique_id" : "wp-post-491", "title" : "Worst+Presidents", "item_id" : "_post_491", "permalink" : "http%3A%2F%2Fbrucetheeconomist.wordpress.com%2F2010%2F07%2F05%2Fworst-presidents%2F" } Are liberal/progressive presidents the worst presidents? Some apparently think so. […]

    Pingback by Worst Presidents « Brucetheeconomist's Blog — July 5, 2010 @ 1:10 am

  3. You suggest that, without Roosevelt’s poor judegement, we could have or should stayed out of WWII and that the war just replaced Hitler with Stalin. It seems worth noting that had the Axis prevailed, the US would have been the only free nation facing the Japanese empire in the east including most of Asia except Siberia and Nazism stretching perhaps from Spain to the Pacific coast of Siberia. Can anyone seriously say that is better than the cold war with the US and allies in Europe and Japan facing the Soviet Union and Red China. I think the Cold War that Reagan won was on a template put down by Truman, who you seem unimpressed by.

    Comment by brucetheeconomist — July 5, 2010 @ 1:31 am

  4. The presidency has always been an impossibly conceived position. We need to have a separation of head of government and head of state. Either the figurehead part of the presidency or the governing part of the executive office suffers. There has never been a satisfactory presidency due to this tension.

    Comment by michael — August 6, 2010 @ 12:53 am

  5. Dear Michael:

    Very interesting idea. I am trying to “visualize” just what you mean. Certainly not the British system, which combines the legislative branch with the executive. You would further divide the powers of the executive if I understand what you are saying. Would they both be elected? Seemed like it would increase the chances that make actual government nearly impossible. I think part of our problem is that the gradual accumulation of power by the central government has ignored the Constitution and its limiting apparatus.

    I do not think it possible to have a popularly elected presidency without this tension. In fact that tension has existed between big government and the Constitutionalists before the ink was dry in 1789.

    Can you name any country that has a system like you suggest? BB

    Comment by bbprof — August 6, 2010 @ 3:38 am


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About author

After graduating from Holy Cross, Bill Borst earned an MA in Asian History from St. John's University and a Ph.D in American History from St. Louis University. (1972) A former New Yorker, he taught for many years in the St. Louis area, while also hosting a weekly radio show on WGNU from 1984-2006. He currently is a regular substitute for conservative Phyllis Schlafly on KSIV radio. (1320) He is the author of two books on social history, "Liberalism: Fatal Consequences," and "The Scorpion and the Frog: A Natural Conspiracy." He just retired as the Features editor of the Mindszenty Foundation Monthly Report. In his 11 years from 2003-2013 he wrote nearly 130 essays on Catholic culture and world affairs. Many in St. Louis also know him as the "Baseball Professor," because of a course that he offered at Maryville College from 1973-74. It was arguably the first fully-accredited baseball history course in the Midwest.The author of several short books on the old St. Louis Browns, he started the St. Louis Browns Historical Society in 1984. In 2009 his first two plays were produced on the local stage. "The Last Memory of an Ol' Brownie Fan," ran six performances at the Sound Stage in Crestwood and "A Perfect Choice" ran for two performances at the Rigali Center Theater in Shrewsberry. His third play, "A Moment of Grace," ran six performances at DeSmet High School in January of 2011with First Run Theater in January of 2011. He is currently working on a 4th play, "A Family Way," which is a comedy about a happy dysfunctional family. He can reached at bbprof@sbcglobal.net

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