Monday, January 24, 2005

The Bad and The Reprehensible

There's been a lot of talk on the left about how bad a president Bush is historically. Many say he's the worst since Hoover or Coolidge for instance. I've been thinking about these discussions and I believe I have something to offer here. I think that we need to split our bad presidents into two categories: the bad and the reprehensible. For example, Hoover and Coolidge were bad presidents. But they didn't take actions or not take actions that led the country into a morass. Bush has. Here's a short list splitting the bad presidents into these two categories.

The Bad
John Tyler--A president without a party. Didn't have the chance to do much.
Millard Fillmore--Basically irrelevant at a time when the Senate was the most powerful body in America. Didn't do anything to stop the union coming apart, but he didn't further that either.
Andrew Johnson--OK, he sabotaged Reconstruction so maybe he should be on the reprehensible list. But a)he wasn't elected president and b)his views represented the large majority of white Americans in 1865. Even if he supports Reconstruction, I don't know how different the ultimate fate of African-Americans in America is. However, perhaps it would have been different. America really needed a president who would stand up for the rights of the ex-slaves. At the same time, he was Lincoln's fault. Lincoln chose him.
Ulysses Grant--Terrible president but mostly because he was incompetent and trusted his corrupt advisors.
Warren Harding--Really the exact same as Grant. Had the best presidential sex scandal though. Even better than Clinton.
Calvin Coolidge--Silent Cal was also Do Nothing Cal, but nothing really worse than that I guess. Kind of a bastard as a person.
Herbert Hoover--Wrong Man at the Wrong Time. Really a good man and did a lot of good before he became president. But he was a progressive at a time when the nation called for more government intervention. He became very bitter, which was too bad.

The Reprehensible
Franklin Pierce--Presided over the Kansas-Nebraska Act which did a lot to push the nation toward Civil War. Not only incompetent, but party to bringing on the war and appeasing the South.
James Buchanan--After the election of Lincoln but before he took office, South Carolina left the union. Buchanan's solution--do absolutely nothing and let Lincoln deal with it. Enough said.
George W. Bush--Don't really need to go into his misdeeds, do I.

I think Pierce and Buchanan are the only presidents as bad or worse than W. W's policies have left the country more financially insecure, economically unstable, physically unsafe, and just stupid.

Finally, three special cases.

James K. Polk. Often seen as one of our more successful presidents. He brought Oregon and the Southwest into the union. However, he lied to Congress to get support for his imperialistic campaign to invade Mexico. Sounds kind of familiar, don't it.

Richard Nixon. In some ways very successful. On the other hand, he hurt the prestige of the presidency 30 years ago and it still hasn't recovered.

Ronald Reagan. His actions weren't really that bad unless you were a union member or lived in Latin America. But he is the father of the movement that has led to W in the White House. And that is pretty damn bad.

These three are hard ones to decide. They don't quite fit into either category, but they were certainly among our more disturbing leaders.