Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Worst

What makes a president great? This is the question of many historians and political scholars. To me, presidential greatness is clear and decisive moral leadership in the face of national crisis and an open-mindedness and willingness to question traditional values and try new ways of doing things. A great president must be progressive! No great leader in the history of the world was great because they took their people backwards; rather it’s their willingness to evolve and progress!

At a time of national crisis, Pierce and Buchanan, who served in the eight years preceding the Civil War, and Johnson, who followed it, were simply not up to the job. Stubborn, narrow-minded, unwilling to listen to criticism or to consider alternatives to disastrous mistakes, they surrounded themselves with yes-men and shaped their policies to appeal to retrogressive and conservative political forces. Even after being repudiated in the midterm elections of 1854, 1858 and 1866, respectively, they ignored major currents of public opinion and clung to flawed conservative policies. Whose presidency does this bring to mind?

Harding and Coolidge are best remembered for the corruption of their years in office and for channeling money and favors to big business. They slashed income and corporate taxes and supported employers' campaigns to eliminate unions. Members of their administrations received kickbacks and bribes from lobbyists and businessmen. "Never before, here or anywhere else," declared the Wall Street Journal, "has a government been so completely fused with business." Again, whose presidency does this bring to mind?

Nixon is mostly associated today with disdain for the Constitution and abuse of presidential power. Obsessed with secrecy and media leaks, he viewed every critic as a threat to national security and illegally spied on U.S. citizens. Nixon considered himself above the law. Whose presidency does this bring to mind?

George W. Bush embodies the failures, corruption, and unlawful natures of the entire sum of the worst presidents in American history. I don’t know how it could be possible for history to look at Bush as anything but the worst and most disastrous president.

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