Skip to comments.The worst president ever?
Posted on 12/07/2005 11:06:54 AM PST by woofie
PARIS -- President John F. Kennedy was considered a historian because of his book "Profiles in Courage," so he received periodic requests to rate the presidents, those lists that usually begin "1. Lincoln, 2. Washington ..."
But after he actually became president himself, he stopped filling them out.
"No one knows what it's like in this office," he said after being in the job. "Even with poor James Buchanan, you can't understand what he did and why without sitting in his place, looking at the papers that passed on his desk, knowing the people he talked with."
Poor James Buchanan, the 15th president, is generally considered the worst president in history. Ironically, the Pennsylvania Democrat, elected in 1856, was one of the most qualified of the 43 men who have served in the highest office. But he was a confused, indecisive president, who may have made the Civil War inevitable by trying to appease or negotiate with the South. His most recent biographer, Jean Clark, writing for the prestigious American Presidents Series, concluded this year that his actions probably constituted treason. It also did not help that his administration was as corrupt as any in history, and he was widely believed to be homosexual.
Whatever his sexual preferences, his real failures were in refusing to move after South Carolina announced secession from the Union and attacked Fort Sumter, and in supporting both the legality of the pro-slavery constitution of Kansas and the Supreme Court ruling in the Dred Scott case declaring that escaped slaves were not people but property.
He was the guy who in 1861 passed on the mess to the first Republican president, Abraham Lincoln. Buchanan set the standard, a tough record to beat. But there are serious people who believe that George W. Bush will prove to do that, be worse than Buchanan. I have talked with three significant historians in the past few months who would not say it in public, but who are saying privately that Bush will be remembered as the worst of the presidents.
There are some numbers. The History News Network at George Mason University has just polled historians informally on the Bush record. Four hundred and fifteen, about a third of those contacted, answered -- maybe they were all crazed liberals -- making the project as unofficial as it was interesting. These were the results: 338 said they believed Bush was failing, while 77 said he was succeeding. Fifty said they thought he was the worst president ever. Worse than Buchanan.
This is what those historians said -- and it should be noted that some of the criticism about deficit spending and misuse of the military came from self-identified conservatives -- about the Bush record:
He has taken the country into an unwinnable war and alienated friend and foe alike in the process;
He is bankrupting the country with a combination of aggressive military spending and reduced taxation of the rich;
He has deliberately and dangerously attacked separation of church and state;
He has repeatedly "misled," to use a kind word, the American people on affairs domestic and foreign;
He has proved to be incompetent in affairs domestic (New Orleans) and foreign (Iraq and the battle against al-Qaeda);
He has sacrificed American employment (including the toleration of pension and benefit elimination) to increase overall productivity;
He is ignorantly hostile to science and technological progress;
He has tolerated or ignored one of the republic's oldest problems, corporate cheating in supplying the military in wartime.
Quite an indictment. It is, of course, too early to evaluate a president. That, historically, takes decades, and views change over time as results and impact become more obvious. Besides, many of the historians note that however bad Bush seems, they have indeed seen worse men around the White House. Some say Buchanan. Many say Vice President Dick Cheney.
Richard Reeves' column appears on Sunday.
Yes, Clinton was terrible.
Carter has them all beat!!
According to a cabal on FR, Bush is the worst President in history. They now call him names worthy of D.U. and some even make suggestions that could land them a visit from the Secret Service.
The worst President was Jimmy Carter. He did more to energize the Hate America crowd than any other previous President.
Richard Reeves is a of those guys who appeals to the elitists on the Upper East Side of Manhattan and Hollywood, etc.
I always thought that Franklin Pierce was worse than Buchanan.
Hey! How about Jimmah Carter? He stunk the place out.
I have a feeling these 'historians' said similar thing to Reagan's presidency in mid 1980s.
One more thought ...
Lincoln is always named as a great President, yet it seems like some people must have disagreed at the time as they shot him.
which leads me to my new tagline
John Adams, for those damn anti-sedition laws.
Dateline Paris. Figures.
LBJ was even worse, disastrous policy in fighting the Vietnam, and the legacy of the "Great Society".
Slick, The Slacker President presiding of a Know-Nothing Do-Nothing Administration!!
Jimmy Carter in a landslide....no contest
And the press was all over Lincoln too. (Recent FR thread on it).
But he was a confused, indecisive president, who may have made the Civil War inevitable by trying to appease or negotiate with the South.
But he was a confused, indecisive president, who may have made the War on Terror inevitable by trying to appease or negotiate with the Terrorists.
So the WHOLE EFFORT of the article is to smear a dead man by alleging he was a homosexual.
The fact we had Jimmy Carter who ceeded american LAND and nearly lost the cold war is beyond notice.
How bill clinton SOLD OUTRIGHT military secrets to the chinese military is not even notice.
I'd still put FDR first all things considered. Clinton would be second. Carter gets my nod for worst ex-president. That's certainly an honor the FDR couldn't even compete for. I think we still don't fully understand all the damage that clinton has done so he could conceivably move up but right now I still put FDR first.
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