Worst President Ever?

Matt Yglesias expresses some displeasure at the idea expressed by both Harry Reid and Hillary Clinton that George W. Bush is either "the worst" or "one of the worst" Presidents in U.S. history. Though he says Iraq has been "super-bad," he cites the Afghan War as one example of something Bush didn't totally screw up. In his mind, this is all about feeding the base with "rhetoric that's pleasing to the ears."

Now, I don't know if Bush will ultimately rank as the worst President ever. There were a few in the nineteenth century that were pretty damn horrible. And Herbert Hoover basically drove the country off a cliff, which I think at least qualifies him as the worst President of the twentieth century. Bush still has a few years left to do some more damage, anyway.

What I don't get is how Yglesias can overlook the Katrina debacle. The government is still literally counting the bodies down in the Louisiana, with the number currently at 1,420. Could Bush have stopped it? Not all of it, certainly, but he didn't need to be yucking it up over birthday cake with John McCain while people were dying. I think that's the kind of thing that puts someone in the running for the 'worst ever' trophy.

And in the case of the one thing Yglesias offers up in Bush's defense -- the war in Afghanistan -- there's no evidence to suggest that Bush handled it better than President Gore would have. I absolutely agree that some military action was necessary after 9/11. But Bin Laden wasn't captured or killed, which was at least one of the top goals of the operation. And as John Kerry wouldn't let anyone forget in 2004, he was essentially allowed to sneak out the back door at Tora Bora. Besides, it's not as if that war's completely over for us yet anyway.

Point being, I'm not sure whether or not Bush has a lock on the 'worst ever' title. As the polls show, it's widely agreed that he's pretty damn bad. But what's the point of criticizing leading Democrats for criticizing Bush? I'm pretty sure Reid and Clinton can find time in their days to criticize the President and further "policies that will benefit the country." This is the type of tsk-tsk'ing we've come to expect from the "liberal" pundits of the establishment. Do we really need it bleeding over into the blogs as well?

Tags: Blogosphere, Republicans (all tags)



One of the worst

As awful as Bush is, Andrew Johnson was worse.  Actively reinstatitng the old order of the South during Reconstruction with their atrocious mistreatment of African-Americans was a bigger crime.  Bush is certainly one of the worst but I don't think he's going to be able to surpass Johnson unless he starts a nuclear war or starts mass arresting dissents.

by Monkey In Chief 2006-03-18 12:27PM | 0 recs
Re: Worst President Ever?

In defence of Hoover, he was following the prevailing economic wisdom at the time that the budget must always be balanced.  Remember Keynes' ideas of deficit spending during recessions/depressions emerged in the 30s, with FDR basically coming up with the same ideas on a completely pragmatic basis.

Before the Great Depression, Hoover had made his name as an engineer overseeing some impressive public works.

I strongly believe Bush will rank at the same level or below Buchanan, currently ranked worst President ever, the guy whose inaction led to the Civil War.  God knows what is going to happen to this country, that historians will ultimately lay at Bush's feet.  Maybe the end of our constitutional republic and the emergence of a police state, that'll beat Buchanan easily.  Or an economic depression to rival what Hoover was blamed for.  Or environmental catastrophe and galloping desertification leading to a collapse of food supplies, due in part to a failure to tackle global warming and curb wasteful water practices.  Or an energy crisis due to turmoil in the ME.  

Or all of the above.

by Taylor26 2006-03-18 12:30PM | 0 recs
Re: Worst President Ever?

What I think Yglesias is criticising is not that the likes of Reid badmouth Bush, but that their doing so is a fraudulent displacement activity to give their followers the feeling that Dem leaders are making progress in attacking the GOP machine.

Whereas all they are actually making is - smoke.

As I mentioned earlier, Reid has made something of a habit of the practice. What Weisberg calls (piece linked in mine) spasms of random aggression.

Reminds me of one of the relentless Janeane Garofalo's catchphrases: red meat for the dopes. No doubt Reid and Co figure: it seems to work for Bush, why not give it a try?

As for criticising Dems - that's wrong when Lieberman does it. Yglesias, I'd say: not so much.

(But, having got onto the worst president topic: I'd rather think it was one the ones between Van Buren and Lincoln. Though if I was Buchanan in a balloon debate, I'd have a bloody good go at LBJ: Great Society, certainly; but Vietnam? Sixty thousand Americans dead, God knows how many gooks...)

by skeptic06 2006-03-18 12:48PM | 0 recs
Re: Worst President Ever?

I think George W. Bush is a serious contender for the worst president ever. Buchanan was quite bad, but I'm of the belief that the Civil War was probably going to happen regardless of what anyone did. Sure Buchanan didn't help matters, but I don't think the full blame should be laid at his feet.

Most bad presidents (Buchanan, Carter, Hoover, Andrew Johnson, etc.) fail because they mishandle a difficult situation. Bush's failures are of a completely different nature. To be sure, he has done his share of mishandling (Afghan War, Katrina), but the greatest failures of his presidency are because he recklessly pursued foolhardy policy, like the tax cuts and the Iraq War. Because of the former, our economy is headed down a path to ruin: we're deeply in debt and facing both a demographic shock because of rising health care costs and the aging of the baby boomers and an energy crisis because of the looming threat of peak oil. Because of the latter, we've alienated our allies, compromised the trust in our intelligence services, put a stain on any claim to moral leadership, weakened our military, strengthened our enemies, and killed and seriously wounded tens of thousands of soldiers and Iraqi civilians. And neither the tax cuts nor the Iraq War were at all necessary. Any halfway decent president would have recognized the dangers manifest in such reckless policies and dismissed them entirely. Put another way, the tax cuts and the Iraq War were entirely optional.

And we haven't even discussed how thoroughly corrupt this administration is, and how casually they toss aside basic traditions of American governance. They've advanced a legal theory that says the president can do whatever he wants regardless of the actions of Congress or the courts, and they've used this power to spy on Americans, imprison people without trial or counsel or even evidence, and torture. They blew a CIA agent's cover, imperiling national security, in order to punish her husband for damaging them politically. And then there's the small matter of stealing the 2000 election.

It's as if Bush, Rove, and Cheney actively studied the bottom of the presidential barrel and took the worst from all of them. They combine the corruption of Grant and Harding with the incompetence of Carter and Hoover, the malignant partisanship of Andrew Johnson, and the contempt for democratic values of Richard Nixon. The worst of it is that while previous presidents have failed because they didn't know how to do what's best for the country, or had a bad idea of what the best would be, Bush has failed because he has no concern whatsoever for the good of the country, and has sought only to gain and hold power and use it to enrich his friends and crush his enemies (his domestic enemies. If only he showed as much cunning and zeal in pursuing the nation's enemies). This is what happens when you put a gang of sociopaths in charge of the country.

by Gpack3 2006-03-18 01:36PM | 0 recs
Re: Worst President Ever?


Camp David Agreement, peace between Egypt and Israel, Sadat saying "This is all Jimmy's show...."

The guy who instituted the reforms that brought the military back from the shambles it was in post-Vietnam?

The guy who consistently supported international human rights, letting Somoza go down the toilet rather than prop up a dictator?

Presided over peaceful handover of Panama Canal?

FYI in Europe at least they liked Carter more than they liked Americans in general.  You'd regularly hear some yahoo citizen on the BBC saying "We should nuke Iran" and just be thankful at least the guy in the WH had a brain.....

by Taylor26 2006-03-19 12:08AM | 0 recs
Re: Worst President Ever?

Has Matt Ygnoramous seen Afghanistan? If doing Afghanistan was right, I'd hate to see wrong.

by shmooth 2006-03-18 02:08PM | 0 recs
Yglesias has his head up his ass

Afghanistan is a complete and total disaster.

In Afghanistan America had the chance to lead the world.

In Afghanistan America had the opportunity to "win hearts and minds" by committing to rebuild a Muslim nation and help save it's people.

In Afghanistan America had the change to catch and crush al Queda.

In Afghanistan America had the opportunity to draw in support from surrounding nations.

In Afghanistan America had the chance to show it was better, more caring, compassionate, humane, and smarter then the enemy.

Instead... we got Iraq.

Explain to me how Bush did anything... anything at all... right in Afghanistan.

Explain that to me because in Afghanistan Bush had the opportunity to lead the entire world.

Instead... we got Iraq.

by Andrew C White 2006-03-18 02:26PM | 0 recs
Re: Worst President Ever?

I just read the whole thread on TPM cafe and it was very interesting.  I think Yglesias is missing a political point.

Compared to the other forty presidents, Bush is likely not the worst.  The two worst are two presidents that have tended to get high marks from historians, Andrew Jackson and Woodrow Wilson.  Their records on civil rights were somewhere off the scale of atrociousness.  Jackson actually committed genocide, in defiance of a Supreme Court ruling.  Wilson jailed his political opponents, and his maneuvering to take the country into WWI was as cynical as anything Bush did over Iraq, probably with worse long term consequences.  There attititudes towards the African-American population were what you would expect.  I have half a mind to start a public campaign to get Jackson off the $20 bill.

James Buchanan appointed a Secretary of War, who moved federal weapons into arsenals in the South as fast as he could during the secession crisis.  The seceding states took over those arsenals, and this guy wound up as a Confederate general.  I don't think Rumsfeld has been giving weapons to our enemies.

Andrew Johnson almost singlehandedly sabotaged any idea of giving the newly freed slaves their due rights as citizens.

However, most people's memories in the US don't go back before World War II, and it was a very different country then and the president had a very different job.  There is a strong case that the current incumbent is the worst president since World War II.  So Yglesias is being disingenuous, since there is no problem with Bush's opponents calling him the worst president within memory.

by Michels 2006-03-18 02:43PM | 0 recs
Re: Worst President Ever?

 I don't think Rumsfeld has been giving weapons to our enemies.

He handed them the best ideological weapon ever devised against America: widespread, indiscriminate torture of Arab by Americans. I'm pretty sure that counts.

Anyway, you can point to problems with a lot of former US presidents of many different eras, pre-and-post WWII, but I still believe Bush comes out on bottom. No president before has ever failed in such multivariate and technicolor fashion, and certainly none has failed so stridently while in full control of the press and all three branches of government.

Things lost on his watch:

  • Lost the WTC
  • Lost bin Laden
  • Lost New Orleans
  • Lost America's financial independence to China (we haven't begun to see the repurcussions from this)
  • Lost what remained (after ol' Greed-is-Good Reagan) of America's moral leadership (ask citizens of any other country...)

Here's a partial list (from AMERICAblog poster BloggingBitch) of reasons Bush is worst president ever. Can you seriously make a claim for Buchanan or Johnson having even a quarter of the depth of pure badness? I think sometimes we forget the amount of actionable treason Bush gets away with due to outrage overload. Not all of this list is coherent of course, but there's stuff missing...

~How many people affected in Hurricane Katrina
~Lack of the use of swift boats in the Katrina Rescue effort
~No air drops to Superdome
~Orders to shoot people over a loaf of bread that was taken from a store
~Explosion heard 2 days after the storm passed and THEN the levees gave way
~GOP holding votes open
~Last throes comment
~Stuff happens comment
~Mission accomplished (100 dead at the time)
~Medicare reform Bill
~Class-Action Reform Bill
~Medicare not allowed to broker prices for prescription drugs
~Condi shoe shopping
~We don't torture, we send detainees to other countries to not be tortured
~Democrats are muzzled on all legislation
~Lobbying is well out of control
~Ohio elections
~Katherine Harris
~Journalists targeted in Iraq
~Oil not paying for the war
~Not being treated as liberators
~Patrick McHenry claiming we hate America (Schiavo case)
~Ethics committee gutted
~FDA will approve anything (except emergency birth control)
~Attack on Social Security
~President flipping off the camera
~No child left behind is not paid for
~Refusing aid after Katrina
~Red Cross not allowed to assist after Katrina
~Fema is way too bloated and does nothing that the DHS can't do
~Cutting aid to NYPD and FDNY that are affected form the cleanup effort when they were told that the air was safe to breathe
~Tax cuts to those that don't trickle it down
~3 Trillion Dollars more in debt
~No help in NOLA until Bush arrived (then it stopped again when he left)
~Abu Ghraib
~Italian reporter shot up
~Bolton recess appointment
~No legislation passed that big money hasn't backed
~Documented reports of Bush's Grandfather (Prescott Bush) bankrolling Adolf Hitler
~Buying the Iraqi press
~Wanted to bomb Al-Jazeera
~No water or electricity in Iraq
~Cindy Sheehan shunted
~Harriet Miers
~Jessica Lynch
~Soldiers serving well after their agreed enlistment time
~President won't hold press conferences
~President only speaks to cherry-picked audiences
~Plame Outing
~Scooter Libby
~Spy in Cheney's office
~Jean Schmidt
~Wage stagnation
~Halliburton in New Orleans and Iraq
~Outsourcing of jobs
~Money printed in Iraq
~Yellow Cake
~No victory gauge
~No armor for soldiers either Iraqi or American
~Outsourcing the building of Marine 1 Helicopters
~Fighter jets sold to Pakistan by W...on a Saturday
~No accuracy in unemployment rate reporting
~SEC has become a joke
~Hedge funds aren't regulated
~No war strategy
~Downing Street Memos
~Borrowing from the communists
~$330,000 a month to Chalabi
~Bush housing Saudis
~Where's UBL
~Flew UBL's family out of the country after he bombed us
~No border security
~Gas prices
~Home heating prices higher than ever in history
~IRS auditing churches
~Price of war way underestimated
~Closed session of Senate accomplished nothing the GOP said it would
~Pre-war intel was/is fixed
~Alabama voted for Jeff Sessions (how can that be?)
~Environmental laws absolutely gutted
~Middle class forgotten all-together
~Redistricting to rig elections
~Patriot Act
~Civil rights eroded/gutted
~Treatment of Michael Schiavo
~GOP votes against EVERY inquiry of wrong-doing
~9/11 commission ignored completely
~Programs for the neediest gutted
~Education budged harshly slashed
~Terror alerts subsided after Keith Olbermann finally exposes the coincidences
~Every document is classified
~Most secretive president ever
~Interstates inadequate for mass evacuations
~What was the Noble cause
~Everyone in NOLA have life insurance(?)
~Blaming Tenet for the "slam dunk" comment and then awarding Medal of Freedom
~Elderly deaths went way up during the Social Security Savagery
~Dems can't add amendments to legislation
~Over 60% of elections won by less than 4%
~Sensenbrenner walked off with the gavel during Patriot Act hearing
~Tax cuts to ship jobs away
~Soldiers getting Purple Heart collections
~Fox News isn't biased
~Veterans benefits cut
~No exception for soldiers in the Bankruptcy Reform Bill
~Internet threatened with regulation
~Every shopping bag at Wal-Mart is made in Singapore
~Still ignoring NOLA
~Creating immigration laws that take affect in 5 years
~Pat Robertson and James Dobson tell their congregation how they should vote
~Jerry Falwell too
~Corruption is the norm
~No timetable for when the debt will be paid
~DOW was at 11,770 when Bush took office 5 years ago
~Dollar is losing value
~Haven't defined what is/isn't torture for all to hear
~Trade agreements are not even close to fair
~Ports left unprotected
~Definition of a terrorist is ever so vague
~GOP claims to have different degrees of Neo-Cons (but they all vote exactly the same)
~Swift-Boating John Kerry
~What is the Skull and Bones Society?
~Drownie was kept on the payroll
~Drownie was never fired
~Newt touring with Hillary
~How many soldiers in an Iraqi Batallion?
~Max Cleland was treated like a piece of shit
~Why were helicopters used to find the people, trying to escape the rising waters, pounding on their roofs from inside their attics?
~5 deferments
~Nuclear option
~Ethics committee couldn't get Cunningham 2 years after it was known that his house was sold to a defense contractor for $700,000 over it's value as he lived on that contractor's yacht
~20% tax on land phone lines
~12% on cell towers
~Diesel fuel is 50 cents higher than gasoline
~Home by Christmas
~Establishing a democracy and not a Republic?
~Jeb doesn't have FEMA woes
~War profiteering
~Health care
~Armstrong Williams
~Sure quote Lieberman a lot
~Caspian Sea pipeline
~If it's a Reform Bill or Deregulation Bill the result is never better quality or more affordability
~Cheney said he was glued to the TV all week like everyone else
~Christian values never reflected in legislation
~Jeff Gannon
~Nobody accountable for anything
~Smoking in the rotunda
~Loaded SCOTUS
~Chuck Hagel was CEO of ES&S
~Offshore accounts of members
~No mistakes come to mind
~Haley Barbour told us FEMA was there on Tuesday
~No scandals given credence
~Math is spun (math don't lie)
~Government is largest in over 200 years
~Looking under a desk for WMD's
~Non-combative protestors arrested
~Soviet Gulags
~Opium export in Afghanistan up 2000%
~Hannity is a Pussy
~Ready for a Category 6?
~Global warming ignored
~Hans Blix
~Pakistan earthquake money
~Private prison stockholders
~George H W Bush runs Pharma
~Ambassador to the Vatican?
~Rush never busted on possession charges
~Bill Bennett
~Joe Wilson
~Indian Casino lobbying for how much?
~We aren't safer
~SCOTUS chose our President
~Carnival cruise line contract after Katrina
~Able Danger
~Ken Lay
~Harken Energy
~Rupert Murdoch
~Blatant over-charges in Iraq and NOLA
~Bird Flu vaccine for only 20 million
~Spying on us
~infiltrating churches and peaceful rallies

by lightyearsfromhome 2006-03-18 06:09PM | 0 recs
Afghanistan: unnecessary war

Greg Mortenson, author of 'Three Cups of Tea', has built 50 schools in Pakistan and Afghani villages over the past 12 years. Interviewed on WNYC, he said that Mullah Omar called a Taliban council and they voted to hand Bin Laden over to the Americans. Because there were no diplomatic channels open, however, Omar had no way to contact Washington.

This squares with everything else we know about the incompetence of the Bush administration. It's also highly likely that Bush never wanted to capture Bin Laden, and that any contact from Mullah Omar would have been ignored anyway.

The subsequent mess in Afghanistan, as pointed out above, makes any claim for the Afghani war as a plus for Bush obscenely ludricrous.

by d52boy 2006-03-18 04:19PM | 0 recs

Bush is the worst president ever for one simple reason: He has done more than any other president to destroy our republic and CROWN HIMSELF KING.

by MNPundit 2006-03-18 08:07PM | 0 recs
Re: Worst President Ever?
Yesterday, My wife and I were playing Taboo with some friends we had over for dinner. My wife and I are African-American, there was a couple from Peru, a Russian and a French Canadian. The clue given was 'The Dumbest Guy on the Planet'. EVERYONE (both teams) shouted "GEROGE BUSH".
No lie.
The guy giving the clue was Republican.
by xodus1914 2006-03-19 05:42AM | 0 recs
How is everyone forgetting Harding?

And the horrible three years of scandal, corruption and destruction of international organizations.  

The way that Wilson led the country into war was certainly reprehensible, but it is hardly definite how things would have turned out otherwise.  I doubt that things would have been fought to a stalemate.  Here is an equally likely scenario:

Russia would have collapsed just the same, germany would have signed the treaty of Brest-Livostk, lined up all its troops on the western front, and overrun France, the Netherlands, and Belgium.  This leaves Germany in a stronger position than it was in at any point during WWII (no eastern front, no Allied capacity to perform signficant bombing campaigns).  Wilhelm II was clearly no Hitler, but noone could predict hitler's rise, and this outcome is clearly a gigantic strategic disaster.

Wilson's government was also the one moderating force at Versailles, as all the other nations wished even harsher retribution.  Versailles might have even worked had the Republicans in the US congress not prevented the US from signing it.  

There is clearly no definiteness about any of this, but still... the worst president list has to run something like:

A. Johnson

It still enrages me that Grant is still on the $50.  There are about 10 presidents not on bills more deserving.

by Valatan 2006-03-19 10:16AM | 0 recs
Re: Worst President Ever?

The thing about Bush is that he is bad on so many different fronts. For example, Grant's administration was incredibly corrupt, but Grant didn't torture people, launch a foreign war, fumble a major domestic crisis, trash America's reputation around the world, shred the constitution, etc.

All of Bush's competitors for the "worst ever" are one-note-Johnny's, royally screwing up one (or two) things but otherwise being mediocre at worst. Bush is a competitor for worst in almost every area of governance. While you might find someone who was worse in some regard or other, the breadth of depravity and incompetence hands Bush the "worst president ever" award by a wide margin.

It isn't even close, folks.

by shargash 2006-03-19 10:57AM | 0 recs


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