Don’t know much about history

The gay wizard has a piece up about historians’ rankings of presidents. I wonder a little bit about these rankings, whether they have too much of a Big Ten bias or put too little emphasis on strength of schedule and so on, but I do like to contemplate just how bad George W. Bush was. Maybe I’m too much of an optimist about this, but I think that the public will be reluctant to elect an overt idiot anytime soon, no matter how much millionaire pundits tell us we’d all like to have a beer with said idiot.

Bush comes in buck naked last among two-term presidents, and fifth from last among all presidents.

210 replies
  1. 1
    BGinCHI says:

    If Bush had been smart enough to invent a fake girlfriend he could have rocketed up the charts.

    Clinton’s BJ hoax was a stroke of genius.

  2. 2
    Ben Franklin says:

    Maybe I’m too much of an optimist about this, but I think that the public will be reluctant to elect an overt idiot anytime soon

    Nothing is more unreliable than the populace, nothing more obscure than human intentions, nothing more deceptive than the whole electoral system.

    Marcus Tullius Cicero

  3. 3
    Schlemizel says:

    I wish I shared your optimism about the unelectability of morons.

    The sad fact is that American voters have demonstrated the memory span of May Flies. It would not surprise me at all to she Boy Blunders dumber brother run and even get elected in ’16.

    I have no gone out to hte link but I can’t imagine the one-termers that would rank behind W. No President, even the little 5 that proceeded Lincoln ever did as much damage to the nation as that useless sack of shit.

  4. 4
    Steeplejack says:

    [. . .] millionaire pundits tell us we’d all live like to have a beer with said idiot.

    Fix’d.

  5. 5
    Punchy says:

    Nate Silver is gay? Fo realz or is that just his Fox chyron nick?

  6. 6
    Cassidy says:

    As long as no one is wearing the wrong type of dress, it’s all good.

  7. 7
    dmsilev says:

    No, there is no presidential equivalent to Value Over Replacement Player, the baseball statistic that accounts for both the quality of a player’s performance and the amount of time that he served. (I’d nominate Millard Fillmore as the presidential equivalent of Mario Mendoza).

    Heh.

  8. 8
    Doug Galt says:

    @Steeplejack:

    Thanks

  9. 9
    CaptainHaddock says:

    I like Ike, but not sure what pushes him up to #8 on the list other than the interstate system.

  10. 10
    red dog says:

    What no b b bangs. Lets find out how many 1st ladies wore bangs as it relates to a presidents ranking. You know, important stuff.

  11. 11
    RP says:

    I think Ike at 8 makes a hell of a lot more sense than Wilson at 7.

  12. 12
    Chris says:

    Well, based on Sarah Palin and Mitt Romney, I’d say one party at least insists on nominating nothing but idiots. Odds are sooner or later one will get in.

  13. 13
    Snarki, child of Loki says:

    It’s just another reason to hate the BCS.

    PLAYOFFS! That’s what we need!

  14. 14
    Kristin says:

    I appreciate that scholars recognize how shitty GW Bush was. Sometimes, I’m like, “did we sound as crazy during Bush’s presidency as the wingnuts do now?” It’s nice to have some confirmation that we were right to think Bush was the worst.

  15. 15
    RP says:

    And Clinton seems too low. I’d put him in the 12-14 range.

  16. 16
    Kristin says:

    I appreciate that scholars recognize how terrible GW Bush was. Sometimes, I’m like, “did we sound as crazy during Bush’s presidency as the wingnuts do now?” It’s nice to have some confirmation that we were right to think Bush was the worst.

  17. 17
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    Nixon should be rated higher, Reagan lower. Nixon, despite being a crook, did, after all, go to China.

    William Henry Harrison didn’t have enough time in office to be actually rated, so ranking him below the vile shitstain deserting coward is unfair. OTOH, you can actually debate if Buchanan was worse than the deserting coward.

  18. 18
    Poopyman says:

    @red dog: Forget about the bangs, what about the lip-synching?

    Stories seemed to change through the day. A Marine Band spokesman confirmed late Tuesday that its musicians just mimed playing their instruments during the National Anthem. But he said he could not say whether Beyonce was lip-syncing or actually singing — and, if she was, whether her mike was on.

    I predict a congressional inquiry before all is said and done.

  19. 19
    Kristin says:

    Sorry for the double post; mobile said it couldn’t be posted, so I removed the profanity and tried again. Now I can’t edit.

  20. 20
    dmsilev says:

    @red dog:

    What no b b bangs. Lets find out how many 1st ladies wore bangs as it relates to a presidents ranking. You know, important stuff.

    From The Onion: Michelle Obama Not So Keen On President’s New Bangs

  21. 21
    Grumpy Code Monkey says:

    As a person, Nixon was a venal, petty, bigoted sonofabitch who would be burning in Hell if I believed in Hell. But as President, he was pretty damned effective, and surprisingly “liberal” in some respects (he established the EPA, and was one of the only presidents to treat drug abuse as a public health issue as much as a law enforcement issue). Of course, you also had the secret bombings and the Watergate coverup, so it’s not like he belongs in the top 10 “Good” (in the moral sense) Presidents, but I don’t think I’d rate him at 29, either.

    Similarly, I can’t quibble with Reagan being ranked 10th by the effectiveness standard, even though I loathe him the most of any president during my lifetime (yes, more than W).

    By the “effectiveness” standard, I expect to see Obama ranked fairly high in the coming years.

  22. 22
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @dmsilev:

    Michelle is not wrong to be unkeen on those bangs.

    They don’t look as bad as Senator Tribbleonhishead, but they’re pretty bad.

  23. 23
    MoeLarryAndJesus says:

    @CaptainHaddock:

    Ike sent troops into Little Rock to enforce desegregation, ended the Korean War, completed the integration of the military, created HEW, expanded Social Security coverage, and resisted the right-wing Republicans publicly. He also appointed Earl Warren and William Brennan to the Supreme Court.

    He was the last admirable Republican President.

  24. 24
    jibeaux says:

    The gay wizard

    It’s Neville, isn’t it.

  25. 25
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Schlemizel: I contend that the early part of this century was a high water mark for a conservative movement that had been working hard since the early 60s. This does not mean that the right won’t win victories, but I see a pendulum swing back to the left starting to happen.

    Of course, I tend to be more optimistic than some around here.

  26. 26
    Jim, Foolish Literalist says:

    It’s always baffled me that there’s debate about whether Bush II was the worst. I’m not a historian, but my understanding is however badly they handled the crises they faced, neither Hoover nor Buchanan actively created the mess the country was in during their tenure the way Bush did. Even Nixon didn’t create Vietnam. And, I was but a dewy-eyed lad, but it seems to me that five years after he left office, Nixon was still reviled, Bush (in the eyes of the media and too much of the public) is now back to amiable and well meaning dunce with bad luck.

  27. 27
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @jibeaux:

    LOL.

    Apparently, Neville is not gay..he got married to a female classmate, IIRC.

  28. 28
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Jim, Foolish Literalist:

    Buchanan sat on his fucking hands as the nation deteriorated into actual Civil War.

    That’s a pretty high standard of suckitude for a President.

  29. 29
    mclaren says:

    @CaptainHaddock:

    I like Ike, but not sure what pushes him up to #8 on the list other than the interstate system.

    How about: he refused to get us into Vietnam even though his advisors insisted on it; he declined the wonderful opportunity to attack Soviet-controlled Europe and set off global thermonuclear war after the USSR invaded Czechoslovakia in 1956; and he warned the country about the growth of the military-industrial complex in his farewell address after turning down the most looney-toone military proposals of the 1950s, including a nuclear-armed manned military base on the moon?

    That enough for ya?

  30. 30
    halteclere says:

    @MoeLarryAndJesus: And unlike W, Ike didn’t fuck up a growing economy by getting involved in a war in a far-off land. JFK decided to make that mistake.

    Edit: Dammit, Mclaren beat me to it. Were you reading my post as I created it?

  31. 31
    Alex S. says:

    @Punchy:

    He is.

    I’ve always wondered why John F. Kennedy was so high on the list. It’s always been more about what he represented than what he was. James Polk should get his slot. I think that Reagan and Bush II will slide down as the conservative historians of this generation die off. Reagan’s foreign policy was a mess. His fiscal policy a disaster. Some give him points for defeating the Soviet Union by exploding the military budget or something… I think it would have collapsed anyway. He also represents a sort of turnaround after the difficult 70’s, but on the one hand, the recovery was bought by an exploding deficit and created by feeding on the revolution of IT, spearheaded by japanese innovations. Bush II probably belongs at place 40.

  32. 32
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @mclaren:

    after the USSR invaded Czechoslovakia in 1956;

    Hungary.

    Czechoslovakia was in 1968.

    However, your point that he avoided the opportunity is well taken. Eisenhower had seen war first hand, unlike, oh, I don’t know, someone recently in the White House. Name is on the tip of my tongue…

  33. 33
    bemused says:

    @dmsilev:

    Love this.

  34. 34
    Downpuppy says:

    Reagan at #10 raises all sorts of questions. How bad were the next 33? What are they measuring? What are they smoking?

    There are so, so many things nearly forgotten. Dumping the mentally ill on the streets. His total loss of attachment to reality. The endless run of grifters – Meese, Watt, Burford, etc. Just trying to guess what California car saleman was actually running the country.

    Other than Wilson’s last year, the Reagan administration seems to have been our only regency period. Even Bush occastionaly stood up to Cheney. Maybe if we just started calling it the Meese administration…

  35. 35
    👽 Martin says:

    I wonder a little bit about these rankings, whether they have too much of a Big Ten bias or put too little emphasis on strength of schedule and so on, but I do like to contemplate just how bad George W. Bush was.

    Ranked 9 below Nixon. I think they’ve factored for strength of schedule accordingly. They’re putting a lot of credit on Nixon that is able to hold against his criminal behavior, impeachment, resignation, and policies such as price/wage freezing, Vietnam and so on. Nixon did his fair share of good, but to be ranked below those deeply unpopular-in-hindsight actions really has to sting. It’s almost to suggest that Bush had no positive contribution whatsoever, which is slightly harsh, but only slightly.

  36. 36
    David in NY says:

    @bemused: Bangs sort of make O look like Bobby Jindal.

  37. 37
    Napoleon says:

    @Alex S.:

    Here is the comment I posted on Silver’s site on Kennedy:

    Re: Kennedy, not to defend where they placed him but, if memory serves, he died later during his term then any other president who died in office (a subset of which would be one-term presidents). In fact, again by memory, the vast majority of presidential deaths have been early in the term the president was serving. That actually gives them more to judge him on then the others.

    Also at work maybe that some significant chunks of his pending legislation was passed in the wake of his death (IMO which would not be fair to credit to him, but they maybe doing it unconsciously).

  38. 38
    Woodrowfan says:

    on the other hand Ike used the CIA to topple popular reform governments in Guatemala and Iran, and set up the whole Bay of Pigs disaster. And he set the table for Vietnam. Plus there’s that whole kept Nixon on the ticket thing. I think somewhere between 8-10 is fair. A lot of good, some bad, some “meh”. More good than bad overall.

    I’d rank Jackson a hell of a lot lower. Destroying the 2d Bank of the US put a hell of a lot of people in poverty and then there’s the whole Indian genocide policy. If he’d had hung Calhoun though I’d rank him higher!

  39. 39
    eemom says:

    I do like to contemplate just how bad George W. Bush was

    Of course, it’s very far from the worst thing he did, but I was explaining to my kids the other night how the essence of Bush’s utter fucking stupidity and incompetence was exemplified by his appointment of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court.

    I really don’t mean to be a lawyer snob (this time at least), but judging by some of the comments after Robert Bork’s death, I think a lot of folks here don’t realize just how outrageous that was. The woman was a Texas real estate lawyer who got into the WH by sucking up to the Bush family. She had zero intellect, zero accomplishment, zero scholarship, NOTHING. To appoint someone like that to the Supreme Court of the United States is almost literally the equivalent of sending a manicurist into an OR to do brain surgery.

  40. 40
    NonyNony says:

    @Grumpy Code Monkey:

    But as President, he was pretty damned effective, and surprisingly “liberal” in some respects (he established the EPA, and was one of the only presidents to treat drug abuse as a public health issue as much as a law enforcement issue). Of course, you also had the secret bombings and the Watergate coverup, so it’s not like he belongs in the top 10 “Good” (in the moral sense) Presidents, but I don’t think I’d rate him at 29, either.

    Nixon didn’t create the EPA – Nixon signed the law that Congress handed him to create the EPA. He could have vetoed it, but for political reasons it would have been a bad idea for him to do so.

    The reason why Nixon’s presidency has a lot of good liberal results is because his Congress was still stuffed full of New Deal style Democrats and he was willing to bargain domestic policy in exchange for a free hand on foreign policy. Had Congress decided to work hard to disrupt what he wanted to do in Vietnam or Cambodia, he would have shut down their policy initiatives. Likewise, if he’d stepped on their domestic agenda, they would have thrown a monkeywrench into his plans for southeast Asia and Europe.

    I get annoyed at this kind of Presidential dick-length comparisons. Too much focus on “Great Men Of History” and not enough on what they had to work with. Lincoln and FDR do deserve their high marks for being handed big piles of shit and turning the country around, but so do a lot of other people who get ignored just because they were not in the Oval Office at the time. Likewise, Buchanan and Pierce deserve low marks for being handed piles of shit and smearing it all over the country, but so do a lot of other people whose hands ended up covered in feces but weren’t the President. It isn’t like the President is a goddamn king, but these kinds of surveys always lead historians to rank Presidents by their time in office the way they would rank kings, and it’s annoying.

  41. 41
    patroclus says:

    @CaptainHaddock: I just visited the Ike library in Kansas – it was very hagiographical, but it did include a lot of what he did, which was very informative. Intervening in Little Rock; excellent appointments to the SCOTUS, the Bank Holding Company Act, the Interstate Highway System, NASA, NATO, the Civil Rights Act of 1957, the D.C. Voting Rights amendment, Alaska and Hawaii. Now, much of this were accomplishments of Sam Rayburn and the Dems, but they worked together.

    Not so much on Iran, Guatemala and United Fruit, the U2 and other stuff…

  42. 42
    WarMunchkin says:

    @CaptainHaddock: Little Rock, Arkansas?

  43. 43
    Triassic Sands says:

    “…I think that the public will be reluctant to elect an overt idiot anytime soon…”

    I confidently predict it won’t happen before 2016.

    You have way too much confidence in the American people. You may be right that the public will be “reluctant,” but I don’t think that will stop them with the right combination of events, conditions, and candidates.

  44. 44
    Ruckus says:

    @Villago Delenda Est:
    Would it have been better had he not come back?

  45. 45
    Mike E says:

    @Kristin: Whenever posting via droid, I refresh first to see if my comment took.

  46. 46
    Forum Transmitted Disease says:

    I like Ike, but not sure what pushes him up to #8 on the list other than the interstate system.

    @CaptainHaddock: Others have commented on his accomplishments; I’d just say he was the last decent human being to hold the office and probably the most effective person who’s held it.

    My only quibble is with Reagan. #10? Let’s try “bottom 5” and work our way down.

  47. 47
    patroclus says:

    If Obama gets immigration reform, climate change legislation, a gun control bill and gets the economy going again, he’ll rank very high, considering his first term accomplishments. If he doesn’t, he’ll rank slightly above the middle of the pack.

  48. 48
    Ruckus says:

    @Jim, Foolish Literalist:
    Agreed.

    And if nothing else he is at least the worst in the last 110yrs

  49. 49
    Alex S. says:

    @Napoleon:

    It’s difficult… Which successes should count towards Kennedy, which ones are Johnson’s? Or Bay of Pigs, does Kennedy deserve a part of the blame? Similarly, Vietnam. Should Kennedy get credit for the moon landing, or the Great Society? Should Kennedy get credit for not starting a nuclear World War during the Cuban Missile Crisis? I’m having a hard time calculating Kennedy’s influence.

  50. 50
    TooManyJens says:

    @Villago Delenda Est: Of course, if Rita Skeeter’s insinuations about Dumbledore’s improper interest in Harry are any indication, the wizarding world may not be too welcoming of gay people. We never saw any “out and proud” wizards. I don’t know if I’d take marriage as proof — especially for someone from one of the old wizarding families.

    (Topic? What topic?)

  51. 51
    Belafon (formerly anonevent) says:

    @jibeaux:
    @Villago Delenda Est:

    He marries Luna.

  52. 52
    BGinCHI says:

    Fuck Rand Paul.

    http://talkingpointsmemo.com/a.....?ref=fpblg

    God I hate that hair-permed foot-stomping teenager glib.

  53. 53
    ...now I try to be amused says:

    @BGinCHI:

    Clinton’s BJ hoax was a stroke of genius.

    I say it didn’t make a lick of difference.

  54. 54
    Woodrowfan says:

    @patroclus:

    I think the U2 should be listed as a good thing. Being able to see what the Soviets were up to before we could use satellites reduced the chance of war because we could see that Khruschev’s claim to be turning out missiles “like sausages” was all bluster.

  55. 55
    burnspbesq says:

    @Punchy:

    Nate Silver is gay?

    And if so, why should I care?

  56. 56
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Ruckus:

    It probably would have, although I suspect that all that conniving would have been revealed over time. Of course then we’d have had the glory of a convicted felon in the White House in the personage of Spiro T. Agnew, bribeoholic.

  57. 57
    mdblanche says:

    How did Garfield get ranked so much better than WH Harrison?

    And shouldn’t Cleveland be ranked twice?

  58. 58
    burnspbesq says:

    @mclaren:

    Why does it not surprised me that you can’t tell the difference between Czechoslovakia and Hungary?

  59. 59
    patroclus says:

    @Woodrowfan: Agreed. But I was referring to the Gary Powers incident, which tanked a summit, which Ike lied through his teeth about (thereby undermining U.S. credibility) and which poisoned relations for years, which indirectly led to the Berlin Wall and the Cuban crisis.

    Ike wasting two weeks disputing Monty’s memoirs also wasn’t a plus…

  60. 60
    TooManyJens says:

    I wasn’t alive when Eisenhower was President, but damn it, I miss him anyway. I miss sane Republicans.

  61. 61
    Ruckus says:

    @Villago Delenda Est:
    Ahhhh Spiro. I was thinking of that when I wrote it and decided that one crook for another, trade off or trade down? Alas we will never know. Or have to find out.

  62. 62
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @TooManyJens:

    (Topic? What topic?)

    BJ, where tangents thrive and multiply!

    I think Dumbledore’s interest in Harry was the farthest thing from sexual, in that his confrontation with Voldemort was his central passion…as a means of compensating for his missteps as an arrogant young wizard.

    Harry was a means to that end.

  63. 63
    TooManyJens says:

    @Villago Delenda Est: I completely agree about that.

  64. 64
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @patroclus:

    Ike wasting two weeks disputing Monty’s memoirs also wasn’t a plus…

    Monty was an ass in the George Patton weight class.

  65. 65
    Woodrowfan says:

    @patroclus: fair point. I was thinking in terms of gathering intelligence and not the Powers incident. I love telling my classes that story though.

  66. 66
    Jim, Foolish Literalist says:

    @TooManyJens: One of my favorite bumper stickers of the Bush era: “I MISS IKE” in big caps, with “Hell, I miss Harry” underneath.

  67. 67
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @burnspbesq: Some people have difficulties differentiating various elements of the old Austro-Hungarian Empire.

  68. 68
    Bobby Thomson says:

    @Villago Delenda Est: That doesn’t mean anything, of course.

    Albus Dumbledore, on the other hand, is out of the closet.

  69. 69
    Mike E says:

    I currently have several pictures of my favorite president in my wallet ;-)

    He did it all, way back in the Wood Age of our experiment in democracy. I’d fault him for keeping slaves and setting off the Whiskey Rebellion (which inevitably lead to NASCAR, look it up) but then again, how many figures in history were like that; of their time, yet ahead of it?

  70. 70
    SatanicPanic says:

    @Villago Delenda Est: Buchanan was absolutely the worst, no question. GWB was only the worst in the last 150 years.

  71. 71
    Jim, Foolish Literalist says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: Don’t go rhapsodizing about Bohemia, now. We’re not done bashing Bush. At least I’m not.

  72. 72
    Kip the Wonder Rat says:

    @mclaren: He also set us up the Iran debacle and for several South and Central American debacles, fruits that ripened (pun intended) long after he left office.

    As for decrying the military-industrial complex, he possibly is the original Republican to practice the whole “repentance after it’s too late to personally do anything about it” wheeze. However, I don’t know that anyone else would have done better.

    But he did do some of the good things others have written about.

  73. 73
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Bobby Thomson:

    That doesn’t mean anything, of course.

    You are correct, sir.

    I give you the example of Marcus Bachmann.

  74. 74
    patroclus says:

    @Villago Delenda Est: No doubts there (about Monty). But Ike calling all his ex-generals to Gettysburg and demanding that they all personally refute every single detail in Monty’s memoirs would be like Obama demanding all his ex-Illinois Senate colleagues coming to the WH for two solid weeks to personally refute something George Ryan did or didn’t do while Illinois governor. It’s a matter of proportion.

  75. 75
    Napoleon says:

    @Alex S.:

    All great points and questions.

    I personally think he should be around average, or slightly better the average (say, 16-19 range).

  76. 76
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @patroclus:

    Point taken.

    It indicates how pissed Ike was at Monty, though.

    Arrogant fuck. (Monty, not Ike).

  77. 77
    Chris says:

    @Grumpy Code Monkey:

    Similarly, I can’t quibble with Reagan being ranked 10th by the effectiveness standard, even though I loathe him the most of any president during my lifetime (yes, more than W).

    I suppose it depends whether you define “effectiveness” as “getting your agenda passed” or “making meaningful and positive changes to the nation.” If it’s the former, every Gilded Age president belongs at the top, since they had no agenda other than allowing the robber-barons and political bosses who’d bought and paid for them to run amok with as little restraints on their power as possible. Which is basically the category Reagan and Bush belonged in.

  78. 78
    Xantar says:

    @Forum Transmitted Disease:

    I’d just say he was the last decent human being to hold the office and probably the most effective person who’s held it.

    I’m going to ask for clarification of what you mean here. All the succeeding presidents were not decent human beings? Ok, I’ll grant you the Republicans after Ike were terrible, and Kennedy and Clinton had numerous extramarital affairs. But Jimmy Carter?

  79. 79
    Steeplejack says:

    My prez-fu is weak, but I’m surprised to see Theodore Roosevelt rated at No. 4. What’s his claim to greatness? Trust-busting?

    Ditto Woodrow Wilson at No. 7. I thought his reputation was in decline because of racism.

    This list is making me want to read up on some of the lesser known presidents. James K. Polk at No. 11, ahead of Lyndon Johnson? Hmm . . .

  80. 80
    👽 Martin says:

    @patroclus:

    and which poisoned relations for years, which indirectly led to the Berlin Wall and the Cuban crisis.

    Actually, Kennedy deserves as much or more credit for those things as Ike. Not to deflect off of Ike, but if we’re going to ascribe domestic blame for Khrushchev’s behavior, there’s quite a bit to spread around (Bay of Pigs, refusal to demand open borders in Berlin, a poor Vienna summit, etc.). I’m not sure any president should move up in the rankings over the handling of the Soviet Union. I think we mostly cocked it up from start to finish and came out on top due to unavoidable economic and political superiority. Yeah, there were lots of positive course corrections along the way, but holy shit did we fuck a lot of chickens along the way.

  81. 81
    handsmile says:

    Unaware that Franklin Pierce (@#42) rated such opprobrium from historians of the American presidency. I had thought the debate was waged between Buchanan (@#43) and A. Johnson (@#39) as the lowliest holder of that office.

    Though not sharing Doug Galt’s roseate view of the American electorate, I’d like to believe that Dick Cheney’s front man will be the worst president of my lifetime (which includes the reigns of Nixon and Reagan). While Bush was both evil and stupid (confounding that perennial question), I don’t expect to see his toxic legacy historically rated lower than that of Johnson, Harding (@#41) or Buchanan.

    I do continue to be surprised, however, that Dubya remains such a pariah in the political/media spheres, with no serious effort at rehabilitation even among the usual contrarians. Such ostracism/revulsion should happily be sufficient to scuttle the presidential candidacy of his younger brother.

  82. 82
    SatanicPanic says:

    @Chris: Yeah, I’ve never got that either. I don’t see what his big accomplishments were. At best he was a sort of JFK figure who had mostly symbolic importance.

  83. 83
    Downpuppy says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: It’s a lot easier if you remember that Cisleithania sits on Tranasleithania & Bosnia-Herzegovina is the impacted region.

    Also, you need an alliance with Russia, or Turkey & Italy will carve you up in 4 turns.

  84. 84
    Chris says:

    @Alex S.:

    Reagan’s foreign policy was a mess. His fiscal policy a disaster. Some give him points for defeating the Soviet Union by exploding the military budget or something… I think it would have collapsed anyway.

    It would have. Most Soviet historians, I believe, credit the fall in oil prices as the beginning of the end. That and the death of Brezhnev and Suslov in the early eighties, which gave an opportunity to the reformers who’d been kept down for the previous twenty years and ultimately led to glasnost and perestroika.

    The Reagan groupies’ interpretation – “he challenged them to an arms race in order to bankrupt them because he knew capitalism was more efficient than socialism!” – is a pretty fucking ridiculous notion when you consider arms racing had already been a thing for thirty years before Reagan came along.

  85. 85
    Higgs Boson's Mate says:

    @handsmile:

    Such ostracism/revulsion should be to scuttle the presidential candidacy of his younger brother.

    Any scuttling would depend on the whims of the memory-challenged American voter and our bizarre media. The optimist in me hopes that you’re correct. The pessimist wouldn’t bet against Jeb’s chances.

  86. 86
    TooManyJens says:

    @Steeplejack: For TR, don’t forget establishing the national park system.

  87. 87
    Mike E says:

    @Steeplejack: T Rex was a badass, kind of the Godzilla of presidents. Sorta the mental picture the Nuge has of himself while, uh, conscious.

    Teddy was the first president to own a car, fly in an airplane, ride in a tank, and dive in a submarine.

  88. 88
    Another Halocene Human says:

    Forget Kennedy, I think Woodrow Wilson is waaaaaaaaaaay overranked.

    Unless you’re a white supremacist or just hate Haitians for some reason. Then he’s the bestest preznit of evers.

    ETA: I see I’m not the only one on this thread. @RP:

  89. 89
    Another Halocene Human says:

    @Chris: Even Democrats buy into this ridiculous mythology. It’s infuriating.

  90. 90
    Another Halocene Human says:

    @BGinCHI: Win.

  91. 91
    Downpuppy says:

    @Steeplejack:
    The class struggle view of American History has a lot of relevance, and the 2 Roosevelts are critical.
    “Trust busting” is shorthand for breaking the lock on power of a plutocracy that was even more stifling than the one we’re dealing with now. Worker suppression in those days had become a shooting war.

  92. 92
    Keith G says:

    Others have already gotten there, but it is foolish to trust the public.

    But to give the public a bit of a break, Al Gore was no great prize as a candidate or a leader.

  93. 93
    dmbeaster says:

    @eemom:

    the essence of Bush’s utter fucking stupidity and incompetence was exemplified by his appointment of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court

    It was so stupid that we tend to forget about it. But it really does sum up the man – cronyism over even minimal competence, and zero understanding of the significance of what he was doing. Gonzalez as AG also fits the bill, but not with the ramifications of Myers.

  94. 94
    Hawes says:

    Curious that Silver uses Electoral College when assessing second elections and not popular vote. Obama is only the third president since Andrew Jackson to win 51+% of the popular vote twice. Maybe it’s because popular vote tallies were hard to come by before Jackson, but it’s a curious choice.

    Also, Jefferson and Madison are overrated as Presidents because of their contributions to political thought and the founding of the country. As chief executives from 1804-1816 they were pretty lame.

  95. 95
    patroclus says:

    @Steeplejack: TR gets the credit for creating the national parks and leading the conservation movement (which later morphed into today’s environmental movement). He also put teeth into the Sherman Act and the ICC (with Payne-Aldrich) and definitely deserved his trust-busting rep. “Pedicaris alive or Rishouli dead” may have been an imperialistic battle cry, but it also established the U.S. as a Great Power (albeit not wuite a superpower yet). Mostly, though, TR invigorated the Presidency, which had languished in the post-Lincoln era.

  96. 96
    Hawes says:

    @jibeaux: It’s Dumbledore, obviously

  97. 97
    BGinCHI says:

    @…now I try to be amused: I see what we did there.

  98. 98
    Kristin says:

    @Mike E: Thanks! That is a practice I will adopt. :)

  99. 99
    Schlemizel says:

    @RP:

    Wilson was horrible!

    He sent the Marines into Haiti to overthrow a democratically elected government and return the black citizens back into slaves for white plantation owners.

    He ordered the firing of all black Federal employees and barred their hiring.

    He ordered the segregation of the US Army

    He got suckered by Briton & France in 1918 and sold out the Middle East and SE Asia as well as setting up the conditions that led to WWII – all 3 things caused us untold millions of needless deaths from 1938 right on through to today.

  100. 100
    Napoleon says:

    @Xantar:

    Maybe not Ford. And I would mention Obama as a decent human being. Maybe the best in my life (going back to JFK).

  101. 101
    Chris says:

    @Jim, Foolish Literalist:

    And, I was but a dewy-eyed lad, but it seems to me that five years after he left office, Nixon was still reviled, Bush (in the eyes of the media and too much of the public) is now back to amiable and well meaning dunce with bad luck.

    The reason Nixon is so universally reviled in the history books (as opposed to, say, McCarthy, who to this day has plenty of groupies) is that conservatives don’t see him as “one of their own” (nor does anyone else) – he was a big spending Keynesian who expanded the size of the federal government more than anyone since FDR, and a lot of it was in programs that benefit “these people.”

    If he shared the faith with McCarthy, Goldwater and Reagan (and W), you would definitely have seen an effort to rehabilitate his image just as you have with all these guys.

  102. 102
    maya says:

    I’ve actually seen two presidents in person in my life:

    1952 We were assembled outside on the main drag, Northern Blvd in Long Island. Ike came zipping by our grammar school in a motorcade standing and waving in the back seat. This was before the election.

    1980. My flight to Orange County, from SFO was delayed, with no reason given. After about an hour a couple of limos pulled up on the tarmac and a whole bunch of sunglass sporting SS guys came out of them and ushered someone up a side door to the boarding ramp.
    It was Nixon, just back from a trip to China. Even though he was in disgrace with the American public, he did try to contribute something to make amends. I give him some credit for that. When I saw him on the plane, sitting towards the front of steerage (this was a commuter flight, no 1st Class) I was taken by how freakin’ old he looked. Lots of people came forward to get his autograph, I didn’t. When we arrived in OC, all us passengers got off first. Reason: There was a small crowd at the airport waiting to cheer him as he exited last with that two armed wave of his. OC was always Repo country and he was living in San Clemente.

  103. 103
    Hawes says:

    @mdblanche: Garfield’s death at least meant something and gave us the Pendleton Act and civil service reform.

  104. 104
    patroclus says:

    @👽 Martin: Both Ike and JFK were inveterate cold warriors, which, in retrospect, seems WAY overblown. Vietnam is the classic case, which they both mishandled. But there was a LOT of pressure on Ike to bail out the French at Dienbienphu and Ike resisted it, so I think he deserves credit for that. And JFK, despite his faults, never went Tonkin Gulf on Vietnam like LBJ did. The irony, of course, is that Diem was a celebrated visitor to D.C. in 1957, giving a well-received speech before a joint session of Congress, and a mere 7 years later, he was dead in a U.S.-encouraged coup – it’d be like the U.S. supporting a Polish coup after celebrating Lech Walesa.

  105. 105
    Chris says:

    @Woodrowfan:

    Destroying the 2d Bank of the US put a hell of a lot of people in poverty and then there’s the whole Indian genocide policy.

    I never understood what that whole debate was about (of course I haven’t read nearly as much about pre-Civil War politics). What was it about the National Bank that made people want to abolish it?

  106. 106
    Another Halocene Human says:

    @RP: How much would it have sucked to have been a Black Democrat in the early 20th century forced to vote for a vile white supremacist because he was good on economic issues? (Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover blowed chunks and none of them paid more than lip service to civil rights or addressing lynching, though most voting Blacks stayed Republican until FDR, who only offered half a loaf.)

    @Kristin: I took great pleasure in the fact that historians were writing the epitaph on King George the Worst way back in 2004. The GOP was none too pleased about that neither.

    @Villago Delenda Est: OTOH, you can actually debate if Buchanan was worse than the deserting coward.

    Agreed.

    Was sad to see Garfield ranked so low. He opposed the corrupt patronage system, got shot, and then died of sepsis because 19th century American doctors had never heard of washing their fingers.

  107. 107
    Schlemizel says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    HEY! I didn’t earn the nickname ‘eyeore’ by accident!

    It was nice to see JC post the list of things that are getting better but my inclination is toward pessimism. Life has taught me to expect the worst and rarely has disappointed me

  108. 108
    Hawes says:

    @Mike E: Yeah, but Washington freed his slaves in his will, which Jefferson, Madison and Monroe conspicuously did not.

  109. 109
    Disco says:

    Did you know that Nixon invented the EPA? I use that factoid all the time to argue that he wasn’t an asshole. Nevermind that everyone’s already heard it a thousand times.

    Still, the photo of him bowling and of him with Elvis are perhaps my two favourite presidential photos.

  110. 110
    patroclus says:

    @Schlemizel: He definitely did all that you say, but Sam Rayburn and the Dems (working with Wilson) also created the Fed, the Federal Trade Commission, passed the Clayton Act, enacted women’s suffrage, set up the Panama Canal as an open waterway on a non-discriminatory basis, enacted the first modern securities regulation (on the railroad industry), estabished the judicial systems of the Philippines and Puerto Rico and promised them independence/commonwealth status and championed the leagus of nations after prevailing in WWI.

    Of course, there was also Prohibition, the Espionage Act, the Palmer Raids etc…

  111. 111
    Hawes says:

    @Another Halocene Human: Things that came out of Wilson’s presidency: The Federal Reserve, the Federal Trade Commission, the income tax, downward tariff reductions, woman suffrage, the Clayton Anti-Trust Act, the Jones Act which finally guaranteed eventual freedom for the Philippines, the Adamson Act that created an 8 hour workday for railroad workers. The Workingman’s Compensation Act.

    Wilson also created the idea of the president as a figure like a prime minister – the head of his party in the legislature.

    Yes, he was a racist. So were Teddy Roosevelt, Thomas Jefferson and even Abraham Lincoln.

    He wasn’t perfect, but Wilson has a hell of a record to run on before you even get to World War I.

  112. 112
    Napoleon says:

    @Chris:

    What was it about the National Bank that made people want to abolish it?

    As Ron Paul. Basically him and his ilk are still carrying that flame all these years later except that the National Bank is effectively what we call the Federal Reserve.

  113. 113
    Hawes says:

    @Chris: The Bank was run by wealthy easterners and it forced a monetary contraction after a bubble caused by rampant overspeculation in western lands. Jackson and others got wiped out in the Panic of 1819.

    And Nicholas Biddle was like Lloyd Blankfein without the self-effacing personality and common touch.

  114. 114
    Another Halocene Human says:

    @burnspbesq:
    plonk.

    Damn, that felt good.

  115. 115
    SatanicPanic says:

    @Hawes: Wilson’s racism was exceptional for his era, Lincoln’s (which is disputable) and Jefferson’s were not.

  116. 116
    Napoleon says:

    @Hawes:

    And Nicholas Biddle was like Lloyd Blankfein without the self-effacing personality and common touch

    Best line of the day here.

  117. 117
    Chris says:

    @patroclus:

    And JFK, despite his faults, never went Tonkin Gulf on Vietnam like LBJ did

    There’s that, but I think the biggest argument in his favor was the fact that he had enough sense to decline the opportunity to go to war with the Soviets over Cuba (and he was under a lot more pressure to do that than Ike ever was over Hungary). “Not blowing up the world” is a pretty good resume item in an age when so many people were eager to (and one of them ran for president in the very next election).

    Similarly with Reagan, the one thing I would give him credit for is having the sense to sit down and negotiate with Gorbachev and recognize him for what he was. A small thing, perhaps, but I’m not at all sure that the current crop of lunatics would have had that much sense.

  118. 118
    Disco says:

    @Chris:

    Can you imagine if Reagan had met with Gorbachev in 2013? He’d be impeached and tried for treason.

  119. 119
    patroclus says:

    @Chris: The 2nd BUS was headquartered in Philadelphia and Southerners and Westerners (Tenn. and Ky.) claimed that it only provided credit to big state banks in the wealthier (old money) states, and ignored yeoman farmers, who had to deal with varying currency values and constant boom-and-bust cycles. In today’s parlance, it represented and served only the 1% and was a vast concentration of wealth that was at variance from the democratic principles of America. It wasn’t a central bank, it was just a large bank that made profits only for the already wealthy, and it was the only federally chartered institution displacing local banks and local/state interests. Also, the critics did NOT like Nicholas Biddle, the CEO, who was regarded as a Federalist, long after the Federalists had lost all power and influence for allegedly treasonous behavior during the War of 1812. McCulloch v. Maryland was not well regarded – it was viewed as a John Marshall retaliation against TJ.

    Plus, the Jackson opponents passed a recharter during the 1832 election, thinking that forcing Jackson to veto it would doom his Presidency – it instead got him re-elected and he felt that he had to let the charter lapse later because it was so central to his re-election efforts.

  120. 120
    West of the Rockies says:

    @Villago Delenda Est: He also oversaw (is that too strong a word?) the establishment of the EPA (back when even Republicans valued the environment). Oh, and he was on Laugh-In. Sock it to me.

  121. 121
    West of the Rockies says:

    @Jim, Foolish Literalist: Did we ever learn who was responible for those damned “Miss me yet” billboards that surfaced a few years ago? The answer should have been a resounding “NO!” Christ, is anyone pining for the good ol’ days of GWB? (Of course, the answer is undoubtedly yes.)

  122. 122
    Another Halocene Human says:

    @Hawes: While I admit those are impressive accomplishments, don’t try to whitewash him with this:

    Yes, he was a racist. So were Teddy Roosevelt, Thomas Jefferson and even Abraham Lincoln.

    Bullshit. Woodrow Wilson was probably the most virulent racist to ever inhabit the white house including Buchanan. He not only believed in white supremacy, he believed that Native Americans and African Americans were physically and mentally inferior and had made no contributions to culture. One of his quirks was spelling “okay” “okeh” because he was flogging the notion that the word, of West African origin, was actually Cherokee (or “Cherokee” given that it was popular for Southeastern whites to claim spurious Cherokee heritage in a bid for spurious authenticity).

    He invaded Haiti and fucked their shit up in pursuit of a continental colonialist agenda, and he turned a deaf ear to the entreaties of third world nations after WWI to ensure a fairer process when the Western powers pulled out.

    Jefferson’s sin was not being a racist but being selfish and cowardly. Lincoln was a radical who was politically cautious. I can call him a radical with confidence because his notions on religion and philosophy were far out of the mainstream. Teddy was the Jesse Ventura of his time. Fun fact: when the national parks were created, some of the sites had been privately operated. Teddy was not the one who fired the Black tour guides. That happened many years later.

    Wilson also was responsible for segregated housing by creating redlining! What a great accomplishment! More race riots can be attributed to this single act than any other since the end of the Civil War, I think, when Wilson made a white household’s financial well-being literally contingent on them running off their Negro neighbors. The decade of racial terror that followed his reign is no doubt deeply connected to this.

    Our Sainted Southron achieved in the North what “culture” and heavy hints from the Jim Crow South had not been able to, despite court victories like Plessy–de facto segregation. CONGRATULATIONS! Woot!

  123. 123
    Chris says:

    @Disco:

    Which is ironic when you consider that the enemy leaders we’d be talking to today don’t pose even a fraction of the threat that the old Soviet Union did. There is no modern equivalent to Reagan talking with Gorbachev – it’s more like Reagan talking to Ceaucescu or Castro.

  124. 124
    MomSense says:

    @West of the Rockies:

    I think about 27% are pining for the good ole days of GWB.

  125. 125
    West of the Rockies says:

    @Belafon (formerly anonevent): Okay, this is really going off-topic, but I be they’d raise some pretty nice children. Mom (Luna) would be a bit whacky but sweet, honest and creative. Dad would be a bit of a putz but honest, kind, and solid when the chips are down. Somehow, I’m guessing Hermione would be a bit of a Tiger Mom.

  126. 126
    patroclus says:

    @Chris: Agreed, and the main thing in JFK’s favor was the negotiation and ratification of the Atmospheric Test Ban Treaty (with the Soviets). Hiroshima and Nagasaki were not the only atomic bombs dropped on the earth – there were many other “tests” which destroyed the Bikini atoll and a lot of other locations. If all nuclear powers had continued to do that, Planet Earth would not have survived very well.

    And, of course, there was Boynton v. Virginia, which led to the abolition of discrimination in public accomodations – without that, and the freedom Rides and RFK’s administrative petition to the ICC, there would have never been a Civil Rights Act of 1964.

  127. 127
    West of the Rockies says:

    @burnspbesq: We have a bingo. I sometimes wonder if “So what do you do for a living?” is slowly being replaced by, “So what’s your sexual orientation?”

  128. 128
    Steeplejack says:

    @Schlemizel:

    He ordered the firing of all black Federal employees and barred their hiring.

    Not true. Debunked with a quick reading of Wilson’s Wikipedia article.

    As for Wilson’s segregationist policies in the Army, it’s not clear whether this was instituted by him or was just a continuation (and intensification) of previous policies.

  129. 129
    Chris says:

    @patroclus:

    Ah, thanks. You see, I thought the National Bank was really just a regular central bank, which is why I was puzzled by the amount of rage against it. That does put a rather different spin on it.

    @Another Halocene Human:

    This is not at all to dispute what you were saying about Wilson, but wasn’t he in fact pretty much in keeping with the spirit of his times? It was my understanding that the Progressive movement of the era, while good on economics, was fucking awful on racial and religious issues.

  130. 130
    JPL says:

    Hillary is back for round 2. You can stream online or watch on Cspan 3..

  131. 131
    Schlemizel says:

    @mclaren:

    How about he overthrow the democratically elected government of Iran, laying the ground work for much of our pain there? Or his excellent work in undermining free elections in Viet Nam thereby setting the conditions that got us into the war? And the most excellent work his State Dept. did in creating the conditions that allowed Castro to blossom?

    The Dulles boys were the forerunners of the likes of Cheney and Rumsfeld.

    EDIT: @Woodrowfan: you beat me too it. a lot of Ike’s crimes have been lost in memory – he set the table for many, if not most of the disasters charged to later Presidents.

  132. 132
    trollhattan says:

    @Downpuppy:
    The more I “reflect” on Reagan the worse he and his administrationcabal of criminals seem in retrospect.

    Given he didn’t “bring down the Soviet Union” or “fix the economy” (the most common lies about him) and did put lunatics on the Supreme Court and trash the federal government and ruin the environment, WTF are we supposed to applaud him for–giving an inspiring speech at the Challenger memorial?

  133. 133
    Another Halocene Human says:

    @Steeplejack: My prez-fu is weak, but I’m surprised to see Theodore Roosevelt rated at No. 4. What’s his claim to greatness? Trust-busting? Ditto Woodrow Wilson at No. 7. I thought his reputation was in decline because of racism.

    Remember, we’re talking about historians. They trend conservative as a group.

    I’m actually relieved this thread didn’t turn into something like the history discussions I overhear at work, where white male consumers of mass-market history thrillers (have read some, interesting but very, very biased) confidently expound on shit they know nothing about, while the less confrontational of the Black people wander over to the side and start whispering about how boneheaded and illogical some of Mr. Knowitall’s claims are.

  134. 134
    FlipYrWhig says:

    Kennedy is going to keep being higher than he should be until the 1960s finish working their way through the snake of the American body politic. Kennedy is like a hepcat’s George H.W. Bush.

  135. 135
    Another Halocene Human says:

    @West of the Rockies: Did we ever learn who was responible for those damned “Miss me yet” billboards that surfaced a few years ago? The answer should have been a resounding “NO!”

    Some dumb GOP donor but my first reaction to the image was that it had to be sarcastic. Just seeing the smirking chimp made me all the more grateful for Obama and Pelosi.

  136. 136
    JoyfulA says:

    Don’t know much geography—

    And Mamie Eisenhower made bangs fashionable in the fifties.

  137. 137
    Shalimar says:

    Maybe I’m too much of an optimist about this, but I think that the public will be reluctant to elect an overt idiot anytime soon, no matter how much millionaire pundits tell us we’d all like to have a beer with said idiot.

    Perry’s immediate collapse last year at the first hint that he is a moron suggests that you are correct.

  138. 138
    mdblanche says:

    @Another Halocene Human: You and 73% of the rest of us.

  139. 139
    Another Halocene Human says:

    @handsmile: I don’t expect to see his toxic legacy historically rated lower than that of Johnson, Harding (@#41) or Buchanan.

    Really? I mean, Buchanan sucked, but Johnson has been getting a rehab lately (to be fair, Americans who lived through his presidency ranked him lower than Nixon) and Harding? Harding was as sucky as W on economics/corruption/domestic issues but without starting two unnecessary foreign wars. You’d think that would count for something.

    Harding had teapot dome and Bush had Minerals Management. AND outing CIA agents to stifle dissent. AND Abu Ghraib. AND detaining “enemy combatants” and assorted unlucky shmoes at Guantanamo without trial to try to hide the fact that most of them were unlucky shmoes who should never have been sent there. AND extraordinary rendition. AND the PATRIOT Act.

  140. 140
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @Shalimar: I’m never going to stop thinking that Perry would have had a better chance to beat Obama than Romney did. And if we weren’t in a time of economic pressure/crisis, Perry would be stronger still. I mean, sure, he’s a gigantic idiot, but that little flaw hasn’t stopped many politically ambitious people, has it?

  141. 141
    mclaren says:

    @Alex S.:

    I’ve always wondered why John F. Kennedy was so high on the list.

    Not blowing up the world in the Cuban missile crisis counts for a lot.

    Can you imagine if Dubya had been preznit? Or that fuckwit Reagan?

    We’d be crawling through radioactive bomb craters today, hunting for unrusted cans of food to open with our primitive tools…

  142. 142
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Chris: The Progressives were very mixed on racial and religious issues. Harold Ickes, FDR’s Interior Secretary, is in many ways a Prog archetype. He was president of the Chicago NAACP, desegregated the national parks, drank, and swore. Clarence Darrow is another icon. OTOH, Wilson was also a solid progressive.

  143. 143
    Another Halocene Human says:

    @Downpuppy: Trust-busting made the 20th century possible.

    Shit was getting real at that point in American politics. Rockefeller and the other monopolists had gone too far.

  144. 144
    Chris says:

    @Schlemizel:

    I blame Ike for costing us public support in the third world. The Iran coup was especially egregious if you compare it with Truman’s policies – he refused to help the British and was sympathetic to Mossadegh, a democratically elected nationalist. Would have been nice if we’d tried to identify and support him and people like him throughout the third world instead of becoming the new British Empire. Instead we basically made it so that there could be no third option between communist revolutionaries and colonial puppets.

    @trollhattan:

    Given he didn’t “bring down the Soviet Union” or “fix the economy” (the most common lies about him) and did put lunatics on the Supreme Court and trash the federal government and ruin the environment, WTF are we supposed to applaud him for–giving an inspiring speech at the Challenger memorial?

    Making white people with racial hangups comfortable with their prejudices again. That’s by far the single biggest factor in explaining the love for him. (We’re not supposed to applaud, but then we’re not his audience).

  145. 145
    Downpuppy says:

    @Another Halocene Human: That was AJohnson, not Lyndon – the only survivor of his era is Woodrow Wilson Smith.

  146. 146
    trollhattan says:

    @FlipYrWhig:

    I was truly concerned about Perry when he was still cooling his boots and twirling his six-shooters down in Texas. After all, they money-bombed us once with an unknown governor so I assumed they could do it again.

    Then, he entered the race and opened his yap, and my concerns melted away (I didn’t even know he was at war with Rove, at the time).

    Unlike Willard, who avoided the cameras as much as possible (possibly, just possibly understanding he doesn’t project well unscripted) Perry seems to love him some facetime with the cameras and would have gaffed himeself to death in no time flat. Obama would have crushed him and perhaps swept up a couple dozen House seats in the process.

  147. 147
    Schlemizel says:

    @SatanicPanic:

    I’ll disagree for this reason. Buchanan was limited by his times. He really was mostly powerless to prevent the war that the slave holders so desperately demanded.

    Boy Blunder was a series of unforced errors. The destructive useless tax cuts, the pointless invasion of Iraq, The gutting of so many regulations – it just goes on and on. He could have easily not done all of those things. JB really did not have that many options. That he chose bad ones only sped the inevitable.

    George Worthless Bush is in a league of his own.

  148. 148

    @eemom:

    I think a lot of folks here don’t realize just how outrageous that was.

    I’m disappointed her nomination didn’t go forward. I’d rather she be on the Court than Alito.

  149. 149
    handsmile says:

    @Steeplejack:

    Re Woodrow Wilson
    Yes, his reputation had been to fray among American historians of both the left (racism) and right (internationalist foreign policy). John Milton Cooper’s authoritative 2011 biography refuted, recontextualized, and recast that debate. For example, Cooper presented evidence of Wilson’s personal racism in both domestic and foreign affairs, but ground it in contemporaneous notions of class and racial identity.

    Re James Polk
    Let me recommend Robert Merry’s A Country of Vast Design: James Polk, the Mexican War, and the Conquest of America (2009). The title is a bit misleading: it presents a useful overview of the Polk presidency as much as an account of the Mexican War and America’s “manifest destiny.”

  150. 150
    trollhattan says:

    @Chris:

    I’ll certainly give you that. Reagan and Lee Atwater–the team that keeps on giving, from the crypt.

  151. 151
    Another Halocene Human says:

    @Schlemizel: He got suckered by Briton & France in 1918 and sold out the Middle East and SE Asia as well as setting up the conditions that led to WWII – all 3 things caused us untold millions of needless deaths from 1938 right on through to today.

    Yup. So tired of the visine tears over his unfinished great project, the League of Nations. The ME in particular got FUCKED. Britain and France should take some blame here too, but it’s an outrage that the US went along with that shit with not single concrete national interest at stake.

    The only interest was kissing the English aristocracy’s ass, something American arrivistes were EXTREMELY dextrous at during that historical period. Fuck them also, too.

    And fuck Wilson’s hand-wringing at the killing of German-Americans by pro-English mobs. Not like he did fuck all to stop it. He was only upset because his aryans were killing other aryans, anyway.

  152. 152
    Schlemizel says:

    @Xantar:

    Since Ike also had extra marital affairs he can’t count Kennedy’s, Reagan’s, Poppy’s or Clinton’s against them without holding Ike to that standard.

    On that note it seems to me that Presidents who screw around are by and large much more effective than those we think didn’t.
    FDR – Kennedy – Reagan – Clinton: Team Screwed around
    Nixon – Carter – Boy Blunder: Team didn’t
    B-{D

  153. 153
    Chris says:

    @Another Halocene Human:

    It’s interesting that while the early Progressive Era was all about trust-busting, the New Deal and liberal consensus eras kind of backed off from that; it was about regulating, not breaking, the megacorporations. Big business didn’t do badly out of the liberal years once they’d settled down with the idea of turning a profit in cooperation with big government and big labor (which is basically the Detroit Treaty in a nutshell).

  154. 154
    mclaren says:

    @Schlemizel:

    Alas, you have a point. On the other hand, no huge disasters occurred during Ike’s presidency of the kind that befell, say, LBJ or Hoover or Dubya. So when we start weaseling around with “but he laid the groundwork for the big problems that occurred later,” well, now we’ve veered off course, into the realm of pushing off the consequences of actions. And where do you stop with that?

    If Ike laid the groundwork for the problems we had later with Iran, didn’t FDR lay the original groundwork for all that at the Yalta conference? And didn’t Woodrow Wilson really create the entire problem with Iran in the first place, by slicing and dicing Iran from the previous Persian empire and chopping up nations in Mesopotamia and stitching them into present-day Iran in such a way as to protect British oil interests in the mideast? Iran used to be called Persia, you know, and it encompassed Iraq plus Iran plus parts of Armenia, plus a lot more territory besides.

    I mean, once you start blaming people for “laying the groundwork,” where do you stop?

    That’s why I think we have to avoid that kind of stuff. If you want to get hard-core, you can blame Monroe for laying the groundwork for American buccaneer world-gangsterism with the Monroe Doctrine. The Domino Effect arguments that got us into Guatamala and Iran and Viet Nam were really just extensions of the Monroe Doctrine – pre-emptive efforts to avoid foreign invasions of U.S.-controlled or U.S.-protected soil.

  155. 155
    Another Halocene Human says:

    @Hawes: Jefferson couldn’t. His slaves were security on his enormous debts. He couldn’t even provide legal manumission to his own children, instead allowing them to run away. Some have suggested Hemings had a deal with Jefferson on this.

  156. 156
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @trollhattan: OK, but I think Perry is SO gaffe-prone that he becomes gaffe-proof. No one would care what he said about anything. He’d be just pure, undiluted tribal id. The media would say that they wanted specifics, and he’d say “Stick it where the sun don’t shine” or something, and that would be that. I mean, come on, imagine yourself as a Republican, then after you’re done shuddering and vomiting, think of who you’d rather vote for, Rick Perry or Mitt Romney.

    (I kept thinking he was going to come back and start winning primaries. I was very surprised when he dropped out.)

  157. 157
    gene108 says:

    @SatanicPanic:

    GWB was only the worst in the last 150 years.

    Historians underestimate how much Bush, Jr. benefited from the social safety net put in place by FDR, LBJ, the creation of the Federal Reserve, etc.

    He was insulated from the worst effects of his incompetence by other institutions and programs.

    I’d move Harding ahead of Bush, Jr.

    The main knock against Harding was the corruption and graft in his Administration.

    Bush, Jr. had plenty of corruption and graft in his Administration, but Harding didn’t preside over the worst attack on U.S. soil by a foreign entity, launch us into a war based on lies and bungled another war to the point that it’s become the longest war in U.S. history.

    In short, sure Harding’s cabinet were crooks, but they did little lasting harm to the country other than line their own pockets.

  158. 158
    SatanicPanic says:

    @Schlemizel: That’s fair, but the results for the nation were, at least in the short term, much worse than what even what Bush did to us. If he’d even had the foresight to prepare militarily, the war could have been a lot shorter.

  159. 159
    Another Halocene Human says:

    @patroclus: estabished the judicial systems of the Philippines and Puerto Rico and promised them independence/commonwealth status

    That’s worked out real great for Puerto Rico. It was only a good deal if you think the people who live there don’t matter.

  160. 160
    Schlemizel says:

    @Hawes:

    not to quibble but Wilson was against suffrage.

  161. 161
    Jay C says:

    @handsmile:

    Pierce, IMHO, deserves the generally low ranking he gets from most historians: he was an undistinguished politician with virtually no record to run on, and was nominated mainly because none of the more able Democratic candidates were able to agree amongst themselves. Pierce was elected mainly by superior Party discipline, especially in the South, where he was regarded as the perfect “doughface” – a Northerner sympathetic to the South and slavery: which designation he thoroughly earned while in office (he was also a supporter of secession and the Confederacy during the CW). Oh, and Pierce had a severe alcohol problem besides; even by the hard-drinking standards of 19th-Century America, he was scorned as a lush and a hack. Heckuva job, Frank….

    His successor Buchanan, btw, wasn’t much better on policy grounds (another “doughface”, though smarter, and less of a boozehound): even in an era of weak Executives, he managed to embarrass the office of President by chronically backing pro-slavery initiatives in Congress. And then sit around and dither when Secession finally hit the fan.

  162. 162
    Schlemizel says:

    @patroclus:

    If yuo listen to the taped phone calls with McNamara LBJ tried mightily to expose the Gulf fraud. He was buffaloed into it during an election year by sharp operators in the Pentagon.

    Yes, he lacked the moral courage to call it a lie and take his lumps but it was mos def not his idea, his plot or his doing.

    Thats damning with faint praise I guess.

  163. 163
    Jamey says:

    @mclaren: Hungary. But it wasn’t over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor, either.

    Ike was moderate in all senses of the word and his unquestionable effectiveness as the Supreme Allied Commander (a position that demanded far more leadership and management abilities than strategic vision [though Ike had that, too, in spades].) Ike was incredibly principled and pragmatic in using his immense credibility. Also, too, his farewell address.

  164. 164
    johnny aquitard says:

    @Alex S.:

    Should Kennedy get credit for not starting a nuclear World War during the Cuban Missile Crisis?

    No. I don’t give props for people who have to solve problems of their own creation, especially when the failure to do so was nuclear war.

    Kennedy provoked the Soviets into that crisis when he deployed mid-range nuke missiles in bases near the USSR. IOW, the Cuban Missile Crisis was the result of the Soviets predictably responding in kind.

    And his own advisers did predict it. They warned him, recognized it as an unnecessary provocation that would likely result in something exactly like the Cuban Missile Crisis. D’oh!

    I think Kennedy was not a great president, certainly not no. 9. I agree with Nate that Kennedy’s ranking might be due more to his potential.

    The other pres I would dispute the ranking for is Reagan. I think its impossible to give him a definitive ranking until we know just how much of the Reagan presidency was really Reagan. I think his Alzheimer’s was far worse than his staff let on. I suspect a lot was done in his name while he was incapacitated. Iran-Contra comes to mind.

    I can’t hold him responsible for what was done while he was incapacitated with Alzheimer’s. I just don’t know when that point occurred.

    I do hold him responsible for hiding it and not resigning. There surely was a point when he was told he had early Alzheimer’s, while he was still capable of decision making. That was when he had the responsibility to everyone in the world to resign, and he whiffed it.

    And that is enough for me for him to be among the worst presidents.

  165. 165
    Schlemizel says:

    @West of the Rockies:
    Yes, it was some rich @sshole business clown from Minnesota. I forget the name

  166. 166
    Alex S. says:

    @Chris:

    Agreed about the progressive movement of the time. Some progressives made the ultimate step and applied the scientific method to racial issues, i.e. they wrote the Bell Curve of their time. There is a branch of the early progressive movement that leads, for example, to the futurists of Italy and fascism.

    @mclaren:

    I think both Reagan and Bush were pretty tame when they were confronting capable enemies. It’s one thing to invade Grenada or to topple the sanctioned Hussein regime, but in the end, Reagan sat down with Gorbachev – Bush never confronted China – and he let North Korea get nuclear weapons.

  167. 167
    Chris says:

    @gene108:

    He was insulated from the worst effects of his incompetence by other institutions and programs.

    That’s true. I think the entire conservative movement of the last fifty years has benefited from that immensely. Even if they’ve whittled away a lot of the society the New Deal left us, there’s still a lot of it left which ensures that we’ve never had to live with the full blast of what conservative politics would mean.

    Easy for us to fantasize about our independence and self-madeness and all that shit when we’re living in the shadow of a liberal system that’s been here for so long we don’t even realize it’s there.

  168. 168
    Schlemizel says:

    @Steeplejack:

    I’d have to do some digging but in one of my history book there was a copy of the executive order by which he called for the dismissal of all blacks. I believe he was prevented from accomplishing his goal but he tried.

    Like crediting him with womens suffrage, it not what happened as much as what he was responsible for.

    BTW – wikipedia may not be the idea source

  169. 169
    Another Halocene Human says:

    @SatanicPanic: Wilson’s racism derived from a novel scientific racism, much more radical and extreme than the racism which had preceded it. The drastic changes he enacted domestically and in the entire hemisphere with the power of his office are indicative of this.

    He was the product of segregated Southern universities which sought intellectual justification for the vast inequality and brutality of the Jim Crow state. Rather than grave injustice they rebrand their brutality as necessary and kind. They also were evangelists who sought to spread apartheid out of the South and into the entire United States. With Wilson they found their most effective champion.

    Within Wilson’s very small milieu his views were the accepted norm but that does not mean they were the blandly typical views of any American at that time. For example, the labor movement was split into different factions, the smaller, wealthier AFL unions tolerating discriminatory unions in their midst (not all AFL unions were white male only, but many of them were), while the IWW (foreshadowing the Communist movement) rejected racial, language, religious, and gender discrimination, one of the first unions to admit women as equal members (in some of the industries they organized, they did the same jobs). And IWW, though heavily immigrant, was a massive union.

    Pretty sure it was Wilson’s administration that imprisoned Wobblie leaders and handed them death sentences for sedition. Big friend of labor.

  170. 170
    West of the Rockies says:

    @Schlemizel: Well, they sure used a chimpy-enough picture for those billboards, didn’t they? I still get pissed off just at the sound of that arrogant, stupid voice: “I have earned political capital, and I intend to spend it.”

  171. 171
    Hawes says:

    @SatanicPanic: I would disagree that Wilson’s racism was atypical for his era. The period between the end of Reconstruction and World War II was the most racist period in American history. We invented eugenics during this time period. Warren Harding invited Klan leaders to the White House. Almost any person of note during this period endorsed the idea that white Anglo-Saxons were superior to blacks, Jews, Slavs and Asians. Not excusing it, but that was the context of the time.

  172. 172
    SatanicPanic says:

    @gene108: I think people are going to look back at GWB and marvel at how he got away with using 9/11 to his benefit. That still makes no sense to me.

  173. 173
    Chris says:

    @Alex S.:

    There is a branch of the early progressive movement that leads, for example, to the futurists of Italy and fascism.

    Yeah, that’s one of the few solid things Jonah Goldberg builds on to create his whole theory of “liberal fascism.”

  174. 174
    Schlemizel says:

    @mclaren:

    Ike gets the blame for Iran because the nation had righted itself & held free and fair election. But the oil companies didn’t like the results so Ike sent the Marines & seated the Shah.

    Yes, the deal to end WWI did its damage but there was a later point when it could have been averted.

    Truman sent troops to support the French in Viet Nam around ’48 so he bears some blame kind of. OTOH – there was a treaty and the establishment of free and fair elections in the early 50’s. The problem was Ho would have won, Dulles could not tolerate that so Ike sent the Marines in ’56 to stop the election & put us on the path to war. Truman and Wilson did a bad thing Ike did the disastrous thing.

    Thats the dividing line in my mind

  175. 175
    Steeplejack says:

    @Schlemizel:

    I’m not defending Wilson, and I’m not saying that Wikipedia is the ultimate arbiter of truth, but when you make outlandish claims that don’t stand up to five minutes’ scrutiny it undermines your other points (and your credibility).

  176. 176
    patroclus says:

    @Another Halocene Human: Well, it worked out well for the Philippines and the Panama Canal Zone – they eventually got independence 40 and 60 years later. Puerto Ricans have varying views on commonwealth status, but they’ve voted on it multiple times and neither statehood nor independence have ever prevailed. Of course, “commonwealth status” means something different than it did a half century ago – then, it included constant bombing of their islands, racism, maltreatment; now, hopefully, it is far more benign.

  177. 177
    Another Halocene Human says:

    @Chris: It was my understanding that the Progressive movement of the era, while good on economics, was fucking awful on racial and religious issues.

    A lot of working class white men back then believed “they took er jerbs” as fervently as some do today.

    Wilson was highly educated. He knew better… or should have. Instead, he chose to buy into a philosophy that ratified the status quo in the Jim Crow South, and did his darndest to spread the cancer of segregation everywhere.

    We can talk about Jefferson owning slaves until we’re blue in the face, but Jefferson did not go around penning philosophical defenses of the slave-holding system. He prostituted his values in his personal life, but not intellectually or politically. I believe he privately believed that slavery could not endure for long.

    And Black people were citizens, too, or have we forgotten that?

  178. 178
    handsmile says:

    @Another Halocene Human:

    I yield to no one in my implacable hatred of George W. Bush for his crimes against humanity, both foreign and domestic. But he had eight years in which to unleash and expand his range of nefarious activities.

    Warren Harding’s shameful administration lasted less than 30 months, with nary a one in which scandals were not exposed (remember at that time there was an actual oppositional press.) With Bush’s larger historical record to sift through, “conservative” (as you describe them) historians have yet to render a conclusive judgment. As much as I might believe he deserves Clio’s bitterest condemnation (perhaps arguably as much as Buchanan), “I don’t expect to see” that verdict within the next two generations.

    ETA: The “Johnson” of my #81 comment above referred to Andrew, not Lyndon.

  179. 179
    patroclus says:

    @Schlemizel: Well, I agree that LBJ was not directly responsible for the Tonkin Gulf lies – they were ginned up by the military. Nonetheless, in response, he ordered a VAST increase of military personnel to be sent to Vietnam, which metastasized into a very long unnecessary war. Which was unlike Ike, who avoided a further commitment during Dienbienphu and JFK, who avoided escalated hostlities over Cuba. It more resembled Wilson, who did NOT avoid invading Haiti and Nicaragua and Mexico etc…

  180. 180
    Another Halocene Human says:

    @Chris: I think the state/municipally owned and chartered monopolies had a lot to do with that. By trust-busting and showing control over charters it paved the way for lower levels of government to institute what they considered to be rational–but highly regulated–monopolies. Electric power, water, and streetcar service were examples of chartered monopolies whose finances and profit margins were carefully policed. Well, that is until a lot of cities actually squeezed the streetcar (traction) operators out of business… and there were other shenanigans… but the electric co’s remained in that state until libertardian idiots got control of things in the 1990s and introduced California to the joys of 3rd world power service. Free markets rock!

  181. 181
    Roger Moore says:

    @Hawes:

    Garfield’s death at least meant something and gave us the Pendleton Act and civil service reform.

    Which, for some reason, always get credited to him rather than to Chester Arthur, who was actually president at the time. If Arthur got the credit for civil service reform, I think he’d rank a lot higher on the list.

  182. 182
    handsmile says:

    @Jay C:

    Appreciate your reply! For Pierce to earn the current historical distinction of “worst but for Buchanan” means that I should learn more about him. Fortunately, his Encyclopedia Wikipedia entry lists a standard biography. Buchanan’s perfidy I’m better acquainted with.

  183. 183
    Another Halocene Human says:

    @johnny aquitard: I can’t hold him responsible for what was done while he was incapacitated with Alzheimer’s. I just don’t know when that point occurred.

    Was he in control of his faculties and the presidency when he busted American labor unions in 1981?

    And I would not push Iran-Contra on someone else. Looking at his campaign speeches that shit came straight from the top. Of course, maybe he had forgotten by the time it was all over but the shouting.

    He was a puppet by term two from what I remember, like John Gill in “Patterns of Force”.

  184. 184
  185. 185
    patroclus says:

    @Another Halocene Human: Well, it took a LONG battle to get those monopolies to be regulated well; primarily because they formed holding companies off shore (out-of-state) which were impervious to state and local regulaton. The fight to get the Public Utility Holding Company Act passed was perhaps one of the greatest legislative battles and Sam Rayburn and FDR finally got that done in 1935 – subjecting holding companies to the public interest and providing federal backing for state regulation. As you say, that was undone somewhat a decade or so ago.

    In addition, the Motor Carrier Act of 1935 (also a Rayburn/FDR thing) did sort of the same thing for buses and trucks. Included therein was a prohibition against undue discrimination in interstate commerce and it was that provision which, finally, was breathed life into in Boynton v. Virginia in 1960, which then led to the Freedom Rides and RFK’s administrative petition to the ICC, which then led to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Motor Carrier Act could thus be labeled the first real Civil Rights Act, given what happened a quarter century later.

  186. 186
    Paula says:

    Lincoln is easy to like now, but even in the late stages of the war he was plenty unpopular for sending a lot of American boys to their graves.

    FDR’s war was more popular when he was alive, but there were actual Socialists at the time who thought he was a sellout to the social and economic elites. Also, if you or your fam were interned, you’re probably justified in hating his ass to kingdom come.

    Dubya liked to read about Lincoln too, because he probably imagined himself as doing a necessary evil for the preservation of the Union. You may think he’s the worst ever, but only by degree. What the firebaggers miss in their critique-by-proximity-to-Bush-policy is that there’s a whole lot of history and institutional will before that set him up to have the policies he did, esp. in “wartime”. What made Dubya distinctive was his incompetence and his overreach.

    Suffice it to say, such rankings are relative to who makes them and when they’re making them.

  187. 187
    gene108 says:

    On Reagan, whether you agree with his policies or not, he did change the politics of this country for more than a generation.

    I’d liken him to Andrew Jackson in the way he changed the politics of the country, though some of his economic policies created an immediate mess – the S&L scandals, exploding the debt and deficit – while others took more time to materialize as problems, such as huge income inequality and increased rates of poverty.

    His utter dismantling of his Democratic opponents in 1980 and 1984 forced the Democratic party to change in the wake of his victories.

    Reagan had an impactful 8 years in office, for better or worse, so I can see him having a high rank among Presidents.

  188. 188
    Schlemizel says:

    @Steeplejack:

    Can’t find the order at the moment but this is from the USPS historical sight:
    Shortly after the April 11 cabinet meeting, cabinet members Treasury Secretary William G. McAdoo and Postmaster General Albert S. Burleson segregated employees in their departments with no objection from President Wilson.(10) Segregation was quickly implemented at the Post Office Department headquarters in Washington, D.C. Many African American employees were downgraded and even fired. Employees who were downgraded were transferred to the dead letter office, where they did not interact with the public. The few African Americans who remained at the main post offices were put to work behind screens, out of customers’ sight

    The segregation implemented in the Department of Treasury and the Post Office Department involved not only screened-off working spaces, but separate lunchrooms and toilets. Other steps were taken by the Wilson Administration to make obtaining a civil service job more difficult. Primary among these was the requirement, begun in 1914, that all candidates for civil service jobs attach a photograph to their application(12) further allowing for discrimination in the hiring process.
    – – – – – –
    In thinking about it he may not have issued an executive order, it may just have been a memorandum. I also tried to google the EO but came up blank.

  189. 189
    Chris says:

    @Another Halocene Human:

    He was a puppet by term two from what I remember, like John Gill in “Patterns of Force”.

    Just one corollary – from what I understand it’s SOP for Republican Presidents to let their cabinets, or at least the most powerful people in them, run their departments however they like. Eisenhower did it with the Dulles brothers and Bush did it with Cheney and Rumsfeld. Reagan was the same kind of leader, I think – I remember from Colin Powell’s biography that he allowed his underlings to run the show to a degree that made even them uncomfortable.

    The figurehead thing might not have been limited to his Alzheimer’s is what I’m saying.

    Great Star Trek episode, also too.

  190. 190
    Another Halocene Human says:

    You could as easily excuse W with “it was the times” as Woodrow Wilson. After all, majorities supported the PATRIOT act, invading Afghanistan, even invading Iraq, and were pissing their pants about Islam(ists). A majority of dumbfuks thought lowering taxes would raise revenues, that gubmint was too big, and that SUVs were the bee’s knees.

    Claiming Wilson (btw, was a college professor when few went to college at all, even the most racist backcountry or working class shmoe would not have been able to articulate the kind of racism he was about) is cloaked in the veil of his times is idiotic. Previous presidents never felt compelled to do what he did. Plenty of prominent Americans loudly denounced some of his antecedents, the invasions of formerly Spanish territories in the Spanish-American war.

    The history is complex. I’ve argued before here that African-Americans suffered from backlash against their increasing economic (primarily) success in the 1890s. Academic racism goes back decades and influenced a lot of (primarily educated) people.

    Wilson’s worst crime was to change the reality on the ground, to break up integrated neighborhoods. The US government actually reversed itself on this not long after he was gone but the damage persisted for generations.

    I’m sure he also moved the Overton window on race. Mencken, for example, was informed in all seriousness by academics that words he had attributed to African origins could not be and he published the “corrections” in his 2nd and 3rd editions. Mencken early in his career taunted anti-Semites and Southern racists, only to become one of them. Republican Northerners had long held onto a veneer of pushing for equality. What changed? Finding out their mortgage was going up in price because they lived near a Black community? Segregation being pushed at the highest levels? Throwing blacks under the bus for good in order to win elections?

    One of my ancestors was a contemporary of Wilson. He said NO to wage discrimination based on race, and he put his money where his mouth was. No, not everyone thought as Wilson did. Not everyone believed in segregation. No, Wilson does not get the “everyone was doing it” free pass. No, no, no.

  191. 191
    patroclus says:

    @Another Halocene Human: I agree – WW should not get a pass. When D.W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation was shown at the White House, Wilson remarked that it was so terrible and so TRUE. This was, of course, the film that not only was egregiously inaccurate, it also led to the rebirth of the KKK. Griffith, himself, was wildly criticized at the time and he took it somewhat to heart – his very next film was “Intolerance” which was actually somewhat liberal for its time. Wilson had no such change of heart or policy – his racism continued on and on – through Versailles and thereafter.

  192. 192
    Steeplejack says:

    @Schlemizel:

    The problem was Ho would have won, Dulles could not tolerate that so Ike sent the Marines in ’56 to stop the election & put us on the path to war.

    Jeezy-creezy, where do you get your history? Do you have any source for this at all?

    Yes, there were American military advisers in Vietnam in the 1950s attached to the Military Assistance Advisory Group (MAAG), but that’s a far cry from “Eisenhower sending in the Marines.” And Ngo Dinh Diem canceled the 1956 reunification election in October 1955.

    I don’t want to descend into a nitpicky rehash of the minutiae of Vietnamese history, but some of your “facts” are veering toward the “colorful, convenient to my argument and I read it somewhere on the Internet” zone.

  193. 193
    West of the Rockies says:

    @FlipYrWhig: I sort of think that Perry is done. I can’t imagine anyone truly taking him seriously as a presidential candidate or even Senator from Texas. Anyone know what Perry’s current approval ratings are in Texas? I know he prayed away the drought and all (tee-hee), but is he still a hot commodity?

  194. 194
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Another Halocene Human: One gets the impression you are rather down on Wilson.

  195. 195
    Steeplejack says:

    @handsmile:

    Thanks for the book recommendations.

  196. 196
    Steeplejack says:

    @Schlemizel:

    As I said before, I’m not saying that Wilson was not a heinous racist, and I don’t have any problem with the accuracy of the stuff you quoted (which seems to come from, or at least be phrased the same as, the Wikipedia that you disdain). But none of that adds up to: “He ordered the firing of all black Federal employees and barred their hiring.”

  197. 197
    dance around in your bones says:

    I was just reading an old thread and saw Siubhan Duinne, Maude, sharl and Steeplejack asking about me. I’m still around and reading here every day (I have this weird OCD kind of compulsion to read every thread in order so as not to miss anything, so I get behind) but haven’t been commenting as much.

    I’m either extremely busy with the 3 grandkids (ALL boys age 6 and under)or kinda exhausted.

    This whole thing with Gex and Kate stirred up a lot of memories and emotions for me, and I remember how kind everyone was here when I went through the same thing. I appreciate you guys so much.

    Of course, at the end of an almost 200 comment thread I bet no one will see this, Ha!

  198. 198
    Steeplejack says:

    @dance around in your bones:

    Good to see you, end of thread or not!

  199. 199
    Jay C says:

    @handsmile:

    You’re welcome. And anyway, I’ll use this reply to advance yet another “ranking” of Presidents: even just in this blogthread, we can see where opinions (like with Woodrow Wilson) can vary. So instead of a 1-43 ranking as to their relative “success/failure” in office, I think Presidents ought to be classified into groups: I. Excellent; II. Better-than-average; III. Average-to-mediocre; IV. Bad.

    I’ve left Presidents from Jimmy Carter onward off the list: I think they are still too close to “contemporary” for proper analysis of their Administrations; also WH Harrison and Garfield: they weren’t (IMO) in office long enough to do much. In no particular order:

    I. Washington, Lincoln, TR, FDR

    II. Ford, Truman, Polk, Eisenhower, Jackson, Wilson, LBJ, Cleveland, Madison, Jefferson, Monroe

    III. Nixon, Kennedy, Coolidge, Taft, Van Buren, John Adams, McKinley, Grant, JQ Adams, B Harrison, Arthur, Taylor, Hayes

    IV. Hoover, Harding, A Johnson, Pierce, Buchanan, Tyler, Fillmore

    Outside of Bush 43 earning a place in Group IV, I’m unsure as to who else might end up where….

  200. 200
    dance around in your bones says:

    @Steeplejack:

    Thanks, Steeplejack. I suppose I’ll emerge out of lurk mode at some point – maybe spill some more bizarre secret history if I get buzzed enough ;)

    Lately politics just exhausts me. SO glad Obama got re-elected, though. Whew!

  201. 201
    phoebes-in-santa fe says:

    @Schlemizel: Reagan screwed around? Really, I’d have thought Nancy would have had his balls for breakfast.

  202. 202
    mclaren says:

    @johnny aquitard:

    I do hold him responsible for hiding it and not resigning. There surely was a point when he was told he had early Alzheimer’s, while he was still capable of decision making.

    Your point about not praising JFK for problems of his own making (Cuban missile crisis) is a good one. Inasmuch as you’ve hit Reagan hard on the Alzheimer’s issue, how do you feel about Woodrow Wilson getting brainfried with a stroke and then letting his wife pretty much act as substitute president for his second term?

    The collapse of the League of Nations and all the rest of that can largely be laid to Wilson’s incapacitation by stroke. If Reagan deserves to get slammed (and I think he does), doesn’t Wilson deserve it ten times as much for not resigning after his stroke?

  203. 203
    phoebes-in-santa fe says:

    @Jay C: Gerald Ford in group 2? I’d have put him in group 3.

  204. 204
    mclaren says:

    @Jay C:

    Good calls. I’d put Madison and Jefferson in group I and demote Teddy Roosevelt into group III. Roosevelt oversaw the horrific Philippines campaign where torture and mass murder were practiced with abandon. Waterboarding was first used by American soliders not in Iraq, but on the Philippine insurectos in 1901.

    During his court-martial, Waller testified that he had been under orders from the volatile, aging Brigadier General Jacob Smith (“Hell-Roaring Jake,” to his comrades) to transform the island into a “howling wilderness,” to “kill and burn” to the greatest degree possible—“The more you kill and burn, the better it will please me”—and to shoot anyone “capable of bearing arms.” According to Waller, when he asked Smith what this last stipulation meant in practical terms, Smith had clarified that he thought that ten-year-old Filipino boys were capable of bearing arms.

    That’s what went on during the glorious presidency of that great hero Teddy Roosevelt.

    Woodrow Wilson should definitely be in group IV. Wilson started the loathesome ‘right of self-determination’ reasoning for U.S. military intervention overseas. That twisted logic led directly to every one of America’s disastrous post-WW II overseas quagmires, from the Korean War to the Vietnam War to the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Wilson was insanely and foolishly wrong: America has no obligation to invade some other country because some ethnic or geographic group in that country asserts the right of self-determination. Because, c’mon, if we apply that same logic to the United States, wouldn’t that have given Britain the “right” to invade America to help out the deep South when the Southern states tried to secede? That’s crazy. It makes America into the policeman of the world.

    Plus, Wilson was against suffrage, virulently anti-black, he participated in and helped craft the horrifically foolish Treaty of Versailles and oversaw along with Clemenceau and Atlee the crazy slicing and dicing of whole countries and their reassmbly into artificial concoctions on the map, bizarre Frankenstein confections like Czechoslovakia and Iraq. If you want to know where WW II came from, it came from Wilson’s and Clemenceau’s and Atlee’s viciously stupid game-playing with national borders and cruelly vengeful reperations payments forced onto Germany.

    Then Wilson gets a massive stroke and his wife runs the country by interpreting eye movements of her brainfried husband. Wilson’s entire presidency was a horrorshow, from Wilson’s acquiescence in the prosecution of Eugene Debs for giving an anti-war speech: Debs was not only sentenced to prison for 10 years for merely speaking out against the Great War, he was even stripped of his citizenship! Woodrow Wilson presided over the creation of the Espionage Law, which Eugene Debs correctly described as “a despotic enactment in flagrant conflict with democratic principles and with the spirit of free institutions.”

    Woodrow Wilson brought America closer to a totalitarian dictatorship that it has ever been: the sociologist Robert Nisbet wrote in 1988:

    “The blunt fact is that when [under Wilson] America was introduced to the War State in 1917, it was introduced also to what would later be known as the total, or totalitarian, state.”

    To give some idea of the incredible repression Woodrow Wilson visited on America, here is what happened in 1917 and 1918 when America debated whether to declare War on Germany:

    During the rather tense, even hysterical debate, pro-war speakers began handing out accusations of `treason’ to their fellow members of the great deliberative body. LaFollette and a few others voted No. On his way out of the chamber, a “patriot” handed LaFollette a coil of rope, underscoring, one supposes, the refined good manners to which warmongers adhere, especially when they have gotten their way.

    LaFollette later commented that “the espionage bills, the conscription bills, and other forcible military measures… being ground out by the war machine in this country” demonstrated the war party’s “fear that it has no popular support.” Certainly, the administration acted as if it thought so. A sedition bill so insanely broad that it would have embarrassed the Federalist Party was quickly passed. It was now a federal crime entailing draconian penalties to question the war, its conduct, its costs, or anything. A great steel door shut down on the American mind, such as it was.

    All free communication came to an end. People were arrested and indicted for casual remarks made in private conversation. It was not the New Left of the 1960s that actually invented the claim that the personal is the political – it was the United States government.

    A great wave of repression came down on “the freest people in the world,” as Americans liked to call themselves. Government gumshoes, federal, state, and local, delighted in following up idle charges of “disloyalty,” “treason,” “pro-Germanism,” and “slacking.” Legislatures outlawed the teaching of the German language and the public performance of music by such dangerous Teutons as Beethoven. Wilson and the administration – in charge of the enlarged federal apparatus of repression – encouraged, aided, and abetted local efforts, including those of self-appointed, hyperthyroid “patriotic” snoops and bullies. Tarring and feathering came back in style for those accused of the “crimes” mentioned above. Here and there, a local Barney Fife, or an Army officer who hadn’t quite made it over to Northern France, would shoot a “traitor” for saying the wrong thing in a public place. The hero would then be tried for it, acquitted, and finally, lionized in the moronic press.

    Not fully satisfied with their good works so far, many hotheads and morons in positions of public authority demanded redoubled efforts to ferret out “traitors” and “slackers.” They called for military courts to try domestic dissenters. Firing squads, they said, should be kept busy, full time. I am leaving out the names of these authentically American Robespierres to spare the feelings of their descendants, who might perhaps agree that these fellows were vicious idiots.

    When not satisfied with forcing supposed “traitors” to kiss the flag or sing the praises of the Archangel Woodrow, mobs of patriotic fellows would occasionally hang someone. Meanwhile, Congress, deliberating again, strengthened the Espionage Act to criminalize whatever microscopic bit of free discussion might accidentally still remain. Congress even considered outlawing all discussion of the origins of the war or how America entered, which would have effectively ended all work by historians. Fortunately, however, many of the historians were otherwise employed – in producing propaganda for the cause. For a good discussion of these matters, see H. C. Peterson and Gilbert C. Fite, Opponents of War, 1917-1918 (University of Wisconsin Press, 1957).

    Source: “Remembering With Astonishment Woodrow Wilson’s Reign of Terror in Defense of `Freedom.'”

    Coolidge probably deserves to slide into group IV too. His laid-back hands-off attitude helped intensify the atmosphere of business deregulation and laissez faire laxity that led directly to the stock market frauds and thievery that produced the Great Depression.

  205. 205
    Ridnik Chrome says:

    For Iran-Contra alone, both Reagan and Poppy Bush deserve to be near the bottom of the list…

  206. 206
    Jay C says:

    @phoebes-in-santa fe: @mclaren:

    Heh. Like I said (or meant to say): these sort of discussions can have about many arguments as there are people to make them: IIRC, I read somewhere where real historians (unlike me, say: some guy on the Internet with a few extra minutes on his hands on a Wednesday afternoon) usually rank Presidents in five, not four groups: an “average” grouping, and one on either side of it for “better-than” and “OK-but-flawed”. It can be debated, but for me, I’d put Wilson no worse than IV out of V, but obviously YMMV….

    PS: phoebes: I personally think Jerry Ford did a better job as President than popular (or even historians’) opinion might indicate. Again, opinions differ….

  207. 207
    Djur says:

    @Jay C: Jefferson should be III. His presidency was pretty much a disaster. This isn’t a moral judgment, either — I think Monroe deserves to be in II even though his presidency was kind of an evil time for the country. Jefferson crippled the economy and nearly broke the new nation in two.

    Ford shouldn’t be in II. Not a judgment on him, but he was a caretaker president, and doesn’t fit in with the other significant figures on that list. Conversely, I think Nixon goes in II.

    Once you do that, you end up with I being monumental, history-making figures, II being effective, influential figures of their time, III being relatively insignificant and /or flawed presidents, and IV being unusually morally repugnant (Harding) and/or permitting or encouraging disaster (Buchanan).

    (No, I don’t think Nixon was morally repugnant enough to qualify for IV. He was a thug and a bastard but not a crook or a monster, any more than LBJ.)

  208. 208
    johnny aquitard says:

    @Another Halocene Human: He sure was. I didnt mean I give him a pass on what he did when he didnt have alzheimers, just that once he did have it, can we really hold him responsible for his decisions made when so afflicted? My point is that its harder to figure just how much of the ranking is reagan when we dont know when he left the building, mentally that is.

    If one argues that by not stepping down when he learned he was developing alzheimers he owns it all no matter what his later condition, I’d be amenable to being pursuaded to agree.

    For me there’s more than enough of what he did when he damn well knew what he was doing for me to despise his presidency.

  209. 209
    johnny aquitard says:

    @mclaren: I have no idea why Wilson is ranked as high as he is. But I dont know much about him.

    As for his stroke, which I do know something about, yes I wonder why he didnt resign. How incapicatated he was I dont know. Aware enough and able to make the decision to resign? How much did his wife and staff cover for him. It could be that his wife out-Nancy Reaganed Nancy Reagan. And there are always the Edwin Meeses around, waiting for an opportunity… But yeah it sure looks like he failed the nation.

    But ten times worse than Ronnie? Srlsy? What have you got it in so bad for Wilson for?

  210. 210
    Vico says:

    @eemom: I would take Miers on the Court any day over the sack of shit he did appoint.

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