"Any philosophy worth considering must attempt to account for the existence of evil in the world." ~ Elie Kedourie
Worst President Ever? You Might Be Surprised
He shut down newspapers, imprisoned editors, and forced reporters to toe the official US government line long before the PATRIOT Act. Then he attacked US cities and burned them to the ground. Who was he?
He lied to US voters, sided with one European imperial state against another, and plunged neutralist America into a disastrous war that cost 320,000 American casualties. Who was he?
He promised voters the dawning of a new age in America . Instead he secretly dealt with a pair of dictators, providing weapons to both sides (while lying to Americans) and encouraged a murderous war between the two nations that cost nearly a million casualties. He also funded and encouraged repressive Central American regimes that killed thousands, murdering American citizens along the way. He spent trillions of taxpayer dollars on new weapons for enemies that no longer existed. Who was he?
If you answered Lincoln, Wilson and Reagan'among the most 'respected' presidents in high school history books-- you know your American history well.
Lincoln, the 'Great Emancipator.' Wilson, the 'Peacemaker,' the vocal proponent of the League of Nations . Reagan, 'The Great Communicator,' the mythical fighter of World Communism. At least that is how US history books portray them, among the Best Presidents Of All Time.
But how would they fare on any list of Worst Presidents Ever? Would embattled George Bush or disgraced Bill Clinton fare worse (or better) than Lincoln, Reagan or Wilson, and why?
Wouldn't it be safe to say that once in power, ALL American presidents embrace a cruel conceit, to some degree, that whatever dictatorial power they wield is right? George Bush is thus no worse than Woodrow Wilson, certainly no worse than Nixon, Reagan, Clinton or LBJ.
What Defines A Bad President?
'The criteria to use is to what degree has a president diminished sovereignty of the individual states, how aggressive was his administration in an interventionist international foreign policy and what assault of destruction did his minions do on honest money and national debt,' wrote Sartre.
'However . . . each successive administration build upon the tyranny of the past . . . Abe Lincoln was the worst. He killed the last hope of a genuine Republic.' Among Sartre's list of others: Hamilton, Wilson, FDR, LBJ, and Clinton.
What appears to make GWB worse, at present, is his surrounding cast of scoundrels. By appearances, no one among his retinue seems to have the scruples of a gnat. But were those courtiers of Bill Clinton (Madeline Albright) much better? Indeed, one respected leftist writer claims Clinton was far worse than George W. Bush.
The Worst Of The Worst
A list of The Worst Presidents Ever would be impossible to compile precisely. How would you arrange it and by what criteria? Short term or long term harm to the Republic? The number of US citizens killed and the trillions of taxpayer dollars funneled from the poor to the rich? The repudiation of humane principles (war crimes) and moral values? The betrayal of public trust and the blatant disregard for future generations? The crass enrichment of cronies? Or all of the above?
George Smith wrote: 'At my present level of understanding, I give Lincoln the edge over Wilson as the worst president in American history. Wilson is a close second because of the damage done in 1913 (Federal Reserve Act) . . . We shouldn't forget the behind-the-scenes work of people pushing for government privileges, such as J.P. Morgan, who used their immense financial power to restructure government in their favor.'
Smith added, 'Focusing on the president, therefore, can be misleading. We know Wilson signed the Federal Reserve Act into law, for example, but the Fed was the brainchild of others.'
What would be foremost on any list of presidential failings and felonies, high crimes and misdemeanors?
'I'd say the most important issues are expanding the state, advancing the ideology of statism, and body count,' wrote historian Anthony Gregory. 'Concerning this last one, my list of the top few worst presidents ever is an exclusive club of those who killed hundreds of thousands of people. Not so coincidentally, but helpful for our purposes of evaluation, those who killed a lot of people also tended to be the ones who eroded liberty, expanded the state, and encouraged statism the most.'
Gregory listed such luminaries--beginning with the worst'as Woodrow Wilson, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman (a tough call!), Lyndon Johnson, William McKinley, George W. Bush, Teddy Roosevelt, James Polk, James Madison, Herbert Hoover.
Lincoln made every list of everyone I asked. And yet, unlike our present leader, Lincoln expressed more than a little remorse for his war, more than a little sorrow, attempted more than a little reconciliation, extended more than a little graciousness to the vanquished 'enemy' than the current president. No lengthy torture sessions or inquisitions or imprisonments of thousands of Southerners years after their capitulation. While the worst US president in history may be the one that afflicts the republic at any given time, the best one appears to be one who governs least'or least effectively, in a historical sense.
A president who starts no wars, sends no troops, drops no bombs, raises no taxes, expands no government, spends no fortunes, steals no elections, curtails less liberties while allowing freedom a free reign, would qualify as among the best. Have we ever had ONE of those?
Footnote: How dangerous was it to threaten the Federal Reserve bankers? To get elected, Wilson secretly sided with a cabal of international bankers to form the Federal Reserve in 1913. When JFK announced he would rescind the privileges of the Federal Reserve in 1963, and return the monetary system to the US Treasury, JFK was shot out of office a few months later. Some historians believe there was a connection.