Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Sean Wilentz assesses Bush presiency in Rolling Stone

"'The Worst President in History?' streets Friday."

Not to in any way offset my extreme disappointment with the Bush presidency, I must protest that Bush is not in the major league of bad guys.

Here's my list of worst presidents in more or less descending order:

Abraham Lincoln - Did more to shred the Constitution in just over four years in office than any other president managed in a similar limited timeframe - making war on sovereign states exercising their rights which pre-existed the Constitution, interfering with republican institutions of government in the states he claimed were loyal (e.g., imprisoning state legislators in Maryland, exiling an Ohio congressman to Canada), conninving in the deprivation of territory of a state without its consent (the formation of West Virginia), suspending habeas corpus, and much more.

William McKinley - gets second place because the Spanish-American War was entirely unnecessary and opened the door to all the subsequent horrors of the 20th century.

Woodrow Wilson - earns third place for laying the pattern for FDR: lie to the people about your desire for war to get re-elected, nationalize key industries for the duration, get lots of Americans killed with nothing much to show for it.

Franklin Roosevelt - got us into a much bigger war than Wilson did, managed the war for the benefit of Stalin, ignored the two-term tradition of George Washigton and kept running for re-election even though he knew he was dying. The only good thing he did was to ditch the traitorous Henry Wallace for the incompetent Harry Truman in the 1944 campaign. By accepting the policy of unconditional surrender, he needlessly prolonged the war for the benefit of Stalin, Mao and company.

Harry Truman - makes the list, but not for the Inter-Korean War, per se. He dropped the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki even though the surrender terms he accepted afterwards were not materially different from the terms previously offered by Japan. The business about a million casualties in the invasion of the Japanese home islands is a red herring since Japan was facing starvation in the coming winter and both they and we knew it. Without any way to import food or fuel, we could have killed just as many Japanese by a naval blockade as we did by the nuclear bombs - probably more. He allowed the USSR to enter the war against Japan and take the lion's share of the spoils after we had already won the war in the Pacific and CBI theatres without any help from Stalin and his client Mao Tse-Tung; and, as a consequence, captured Japanese ordnance was immediately turned against our wartime ally the Republic of China; this lead to the loss of China to the communists, the loss of Tibet to the Chinese communists, and the Inter-Korean War of 1950-53 which claimed more American lives in three years than the more than 15 years of our participation in the SEA War. He also refused to enforce the rights of the US, Britain and France to highway, waterway and railway access to Berlin. And, he took only cosmetic actions to deal with the problem of Reds in our own government.

Herbert Hoover - who laid the plans for what FDR would call the New Deal before the Congress with disastrous results. FDR in 1932 emphasized his Party's differences with the GOP by running on a platform of governmental economy and balanced budgets, but actually followed Hoover's policies.

Andrew Jackson - who, despite his great service to the country in the fight over the Second Bank of the United States, set the pattern for Lincoln by his love of excessive tariffs and asserting the right of the national government to be the sole arbiter of its own powers by the threat of war against the sovereign states comprising the union.

Compared to this rogues gallery, the depradations of LBJ, Nixon, Clinton and Bush pere et fils pale in comparison.


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