Alibris Secondhand Books Standard

Sunday, November 09, 2008

ten worst presidents

Keith McIlWain offers a list of the Top Ten U.S. Presidents. I thought I'd offer my views on the ten worst U.S. Presidents. Nine of my ten appear on most "worst presidents" lists; I'm perplexed why the other one doesn't.

10. William Henry Harrison: This former war hero demonstrated an astonishing lack of judgment by insisting on holding his inauguration outside on a cold, rainy day. He gave a two-hour speech, then rode his horse through the streets for the inaugural parade. And he refused to wear a coat. It was all downhill from there; less than a month later he was dead from pneumonia.

9. Richard Nixon: His coverup of the Watergate breakin, and his subsequent resignation two years later, produced the politics of secrecy and suspicion that now hangs over Washington D.C. and hinders leaders of bother parties from accomplishing much of significance

8. Herbert Hoover: Had no solution to the financial crisis which struck 6 months into his presidency. Spent the rest of his term advocating volunteer efforts to combat the effects of the Great Depression. Also signed the Smoot-Hawley tariff, a tax on foreign-made goods, which spurred retaliatory taxes by other nations and further depressed the global economy.

7. Ulysses S. Grant: Appointed his friends to government posts, even when they lacked the skills and experience to do the job. Took no action against his appointees who embezzled millions of dollars of taxpayer money. Also made no attempt to stem the financial crisis of 1873 that led to the longest depression in U.S. history.

6. Andrew Johnson: After the Civil War, Johnson allowed Southern states to return to the Union even after most of them passed laws prohibiting the freed slaves from attaining full citizenship. Furthermore, Johnson vetoed the Civil Rights Act of 1866, which gave Freedmen their citizenship despite state laws. (Congress overrode his veto.) He also vetoed the Tenure of Office act, which forbade the President from single-handedly removing a Presidential appointee from office. (Once again, Congress overrode his veto.) Despite the congressional override, Johnson tried to remove Secretary of War Edward Stanton from office, and as a result became the first President to be impeached.

5. Millard Fillmore: Fillmore assumed office in 1850 on the death of Zachary Taylor, and began reversing many of Taylor's policies. Some Southern states were beginning to talk about seceding from the Union due to increased Federal restrictions on slavery. Taylor, a former military leader, had pledged to lead the army himself against rebellious slave states. Fillmore preferred a policy of appeasement that gave us the Compromise of 1850: A set of laws that expanded protection for slavery in some areas as a balance against restrictions on slavery elsewhere.

Fillmore left office in 1852 having damaged not only his personal reputation, but also his party's. He was the last Whig ever to hold the office of President. He was succeeded in office by Franklin Pierce.

4. Franklin Pierce: A "doughface" (a Northerner who supported slavery), Pierce took Fillmore's appeasement one step further. He promoted and signed the Kansas-Nebraska Act, allowing the potential spread of slavery northward beyond the boundaries established three decades earlier by the Missouri Compromise. A group of diplomats appointed by Pierce wrote the Ostend Manifesto, which advocated that the U.S. acquire Cuba from Spain — either by purchase or by force — to add to the Union as another slave state.

Pierce was such a disaster that when he ran for re-election he failed to win his party's nomination; he was, however, succeeded in office by an even worse president, James Buchanan.

3. Warren G. Harding: Like Ulysses S. Grant before him, Harding did nothing as his staff members became involved in scandal after scandal. Secretary of the Interior Albert Fall was sent to prison for accepting bribes in exchange for leasing publicly-owned oil fields to his friends. Director of the Veterans' Bureau Charles R. Forbes was convicted of fraud and bribery after embezzling a quarter of a billion dollars from his agency. Harding's personal life was scandalous, too; he had an affair with his wife's friend Carrie Phillips. The Republican Party agreed to pay Phillips an annual stipend for the rest of her life to keep the affair secret.

2. James Buchanan: A "doughface" like Pierce, Buchanan lobbied the Supreme Court to issue a pro-slavery ruling in the Dred Scott case. He angered fellow Northerners by claiming that the only way to resolve the slavery issue was to enforce its legality. In a State of the Union speech, Buchanan referred to slave masters as philanthropists. Early in his presidency, Buchanan sent the United States Army to Utah after hearing rumors that Utah governor Brigham Young was planning a rebellion. However, after the election of 1860, lame duck President Buchanan sat idly while eleven Southern states seceded from the Union. He is the only president ever to fail to hold the United States intact during his term of office.

And the single worst President in U.S. history? You'll find out in the comments. And no, it's not George W. Bush.

Labels: ,