by John Hawkins | August 10, 2010 11:02 am
Liberal historians have been ranking Presidents for years and of course there’s always a heavy leftward skew to their evaluations. Republicans are inevitably ranked lower than they deserve to be while Democrats are sure to be portrayed in the kindest historical light. Here’s a different take on the issue: A look at the worst Presidents of the last hundred years from a conservative perspective.
7) Herbert Hoover (R): Hoover didn’t make the list because the Depression started on his watch. After all, it’s not as if he created that problem. But, his protectionist Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act created a trade war at the worst possible time and helped lock the Depression in place.
6) Warren Harding (R): Harding was only in office for a couple of years before he died of a heart attack. The bright side to that silver lining for Harding was that much of the incredible corruption that was going on during his presidency wasn’t revealed until after his death. The worst of these ignominious adventures was the “Teapot Dome scandal,” which involved bribery and a new first in American politics — a cabinet member, Albert Fall, being sent to jail.
5) Richard Nixon (R): Not only was “Tricky Dick” Nixon impeached over Watergate, he shook the American people’s faith in our government. Given the chronic overreach of the federal government, some might say that’s a good thing. But, you generally get what you expect and if the American people don’t expect competency, honesty, and decency from our government, we’re not likely to get it.
Nixon did improve relations with China. He also put America in a position where we could have won in Vietnam had the Democrats in Congress not cut off supplies and air support to our former allies and left them to be slaughtered. Still, Nixon did a lot of damage domestically. He created the out-of-control EPA and was primarily responsible for creating the federal government’s Affirmative Action program, which codified discrimination against white Americans into the law. Additionally, he imposed wage and price controls that hurt the economy. That’s not much of a domestic legacy.
4) Jimmy Carter (D): Not only did Carter stand by and watch our ally, the Shah of Iran, get overthrown by fundamentalist crazies, he botched the Iranian hostage crisis that sprang from the overthrow in almost every way possible. It’s also worth noting that the Soviets were inspired by Carter’s naiveté to invade Afghanistan on his watch. In other words, both the war on terror and Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons can be directly traced back to Jimmy Carter’s presidency. To top off all of that incompetence, Carter gave away the Panama Canal.
Then there was the domestic front. Carter was famous for his notorious malaise speech, gas lines, boycotting the Olympics, and an economy that was so dismal it actually diminished people’s faith in the American dream.
3) Woodrow Wilson (D): Adding Wilson to this list was a tough call because he deserves a lot of credit for his leadership during WWII. Of course, the failure of the League of Nations and the Treaty of Versailles, both of which contributed significantly to WWII, also occurred on his watch.
Additionally, speaking plainly, Wilson was also a fascist. Here’s Jonah Goldberg describing American life under Wilson during WWI,
The first appearance of modern totalitarianism in the Western world wasn’t in Italy or Germany but in the United States of America. How else would you describe a country where the world’s first modern propaganda ministry was established; political prisoners by the thousands were harassed, beaten, spied upon, and thrown in jail simply for expressing private opinions; the national leader accused foreigners or immigrants of injecting treasonous “poison into the American bloodstream;” newspapers and magazines were shut down for criticizing the government; nearly a hundred thousand government propaganda agents were sent out among the people to whip up support for the regime and its war; college professors imposed loyalty oaths on their colleagues; nearly a quarter-million goons were given legal authority to intimidate and beat “slackers” and dissenters; and leading artists and writers dedicated their crafts to proselytizing for the government?
Admirable though Woodrow Wilson’s leadership may have been during WWI, it doesn’t make up for all of that.
2) Lyndon Johnson (D): You can thank Lyndon Johnson for dramatically ramping up our forces in Vietnam while simultaneously putting rules of engagement in place that made it nearly impossible for our troops to win the war. Then there was the Immigration Act of 1965, the Gun Control Act of 1968, riots in American cities, and the roots of the modern welfare state in America. While Lyndon Johnson deserves credit for the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which was signed on his watch with lots of Republican help, Johnson can also fairly be blamed for instituting an extraordinary number of bad policies during his limited time in office.
1) Barack Obama (D): It’s impossible to fully evaluate Barack Obama’s presidency because it’s not over, but he has already done a devastating amount of damage in a freakishly short period of time. Happily, there’s still some hope that the utter destruction of the American health care system that he’s trying to implement can be reversed. The socialistic takeovers of whole segments of American industries that began in the final days of the Bush Administration and expanded under Obama can also still hopefully be reversed in the coming years. Additionally, we can still hope against hope that Iran will be stopped from getting nukes, that Obama won’t lose the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and that none of his other disastrous policies like Cap and Trade will be passed. (The word “hope” comes up with Obama as often today as it did during his campaign, just in a different context)
However, Obama’s massive expansion of spending and government for domestic purposes is not only unique in American history; it came at the worst possible moment. At a time when there were genuine concerns in America and across the world that our country no longer has the intention or even the capability of paying off our debt, Barack Obama massively increased spending under the auspices of fighting a short term recession. In this case, the cure is almost certainly worse than the disease. Could America default on her debts because of what Obama is doing? Absolutely. Could this spending be the reason future generations of Americans aren’t as prosperous as their parents? Certainly. Is it possible that we’re literally experiencing the turning point that will take America from super power to economic basket case? Yes. This country is now facing its greatest moment of risk since World War II and it’s an entirely self-inflicted wound.
PS: Many conservatives will undoubtedly be asking why Franklin D. Roosevelt isn’t on this list. Had the list merely dealt with domestic policy, he would have easily been a contender for the top spot. His awful management of the economy alone, which extended the Depression for years, would merit a top 3 spot. However, FDR’s leadership during World War II was so meritorious that it simply could not be overlooked. That being said, FDR is often ranked by historians as one of America’s great Presidents. A man whose greatness on the foreign policy front is quite nearly matched by the titanic damage he did to America on the domestic side certainly doesn’t deserve that sort of honor.
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