Sunday, February 18, 2007

Worst. President. Ever.

Because it’s President’s Day Weekend, Reuters carried a story about little Georgie Bush, Jr. touring the White House. Given how much he vacations, he probably needs a tour just to remember what the place looked like.

On these tours, apparently Bushie fondles priceless artifacts from Abraham Lincoln. He also (allegedly) likes to linger in the Queen’s Bedroom and think about British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. I suppose Bush might as well do these things. It’s the closest that he will ever be to great leadership.

Right now, we are witnessing a man in serious denial about his role in history. Bush told C-SPAN that he thinks historians will be kind to him in the future. “I tell people I'm reading books on George Washington,” he said, “and they're still analyzing his presidency." This statement shocked me. Bush is literate?

Whatever the case, it takes a lot of delusion for a man with such a horrible record on leadership to compare himself to the first president of the United States. I am surprised that George Washington didn’t rise up from the dead just so that he could spit on Bush.

Bush need not wait to hear what historians think of him. Prominent U.S. historian Eric Foner already condemned Bush as the Worst President Ever in a scathing essay. You might ask, “Ever-ever?” Yep, ever.

What about Bush’s “leadership” on September 11? Oh, I don’t think so. Historians will remember that Bush ran away and hid in a bunker on September 11. For most of that dark day, Americans didn’t even see Bush.

Sure, Bush has two more years to go (When will this long, national nightmare end?). Let’s be honest: What could he possibly do that will improve his image in those two years? Unless he starts handing out platinum nuggets to people on the street or puts on a uniform for duty in Iraq, nobody is going to think highly of this man. In the unlikely scenario that the Iraq (and Afghanistan) conflict(s) find resolution, he still seriously bungled those wars from the start. Everybody is going to remember Bush as a man who should never have been president.

Still, it makes one wonder: Who is Bushie competing with when it comes to the title of Worst President Ever? On Presidents Day, we tend to only talk about the great ones – or at least the sort-of-okay ones. Everybody can think about the traits of people like Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and FDR. Those are the “gimmies.”

This nation, though, has had a whole stable full of mediocre presidents. Can anybody that you find on the street name an accomplishment of Calvin Coolidge (without using Google)? Do they remember why James Garfield was shot? Do they even know he was shot? Or that he was President?

With these lackluster folk, naming the worst is a lot harder than you might think. Nixon doesn’t even end up at the bottom of that list. Nope, that sweaty, paranoid, lying fool fares at about the middle of the list. This should tell you something about the caliber of some of the men who have been in the White House.

So, with such a list, how bad does Bushie have to be to find himself declared the all-time suckiest? Well, Bush’s stumbling into the White House should earn the gratitude of three dead Presidents: Warren Harding, Andrew Johnson (who, btw, would be my choice for worst), and James Buchanan. Bush’s presidency redeemed them from being known as the worst.

Warren G. Harding’s ghost was probably already grateful for Bush. With Bush’s intellectual void, no longer would Harding be considered the dumbest President (though Ronald Reagan’s simple-minded view of the world always put up a strong contest as well).

Harding and Bush share a lot of parallels. They both became President because of other men’s ambitions and political connections. Both administrations became synonymous with corruption and greed. Like Bush, Harding never really wanted to do all that much work. Instead, he spent his time playing golf, gambling, and inviting his mistress, Nan Britton, to the White House for sex (What? You thought Bill Clinton invented the blow job?).

Since Harding was neither smart nor in control, the rest of his administration made a fortune through crooked deals. Most famously, Harding’s Secretary of the Interior, Albert Fall, accepted bribes from oil companies so that they could have access to government petroleum reserves (And we historians say that history doesn’t repeat itself).

Why is Harding better than Bush? Harding at least had the brains to realize that he didn’t have the brains to be president. Instead of bluffing, Harding admitted, “I am not fit for this office and should never have been here." Oh, how great it would be to hear those words from Bush – Like tomorrow, when he and Cheney resign.

Other than Harding, we have to go all the way back to the Civil War to find the other two contenders for worst president ever. Yep, not since the nation split into two have we had a worse president than Bush.

Ever wonder how Lincoln attained such god-like status? Well, it helped that both men who came before and after him were either useless or evil (or both). James Buchanan was vain and irresponsible. (As a side note, he is also the first “bachelor” ever elected to the Presidency. It doesn’t do my queer heart any good, but it does seem that Buchanan liked to – How to phrase this? Oh, right – Live and sleep with William Rufus King for fifteen years (What? You thought Bill Clinton invented the blow job?). Andrew Johnson referred to Buchanan as “Miss Nancy” and also King’s “Better Half.”)

Buchanan did nothing productive in four years. Maybe he was just mourning because King had died a few years earlier. He started his administration by basically endorsing the Dred Scott decision before the Supreme Court even handed it down. He ended his administration by refusing to do anything to stop southern slave states from seceding. Hey – There’s a model of greatness: Indifference and Inaction.

Why is Buchanan better than Bush? Buchanan, though very misguided and generally incompetent, didn’t actively try to make the situation worse. In simply doing nothing, Buchanan still ends up better than Bush’s unwavering insistence that the nation follow his march to war(s).

Bush’s stiffest competition is Andrew Johnson, probably one of the most hateful men to ever be in the White House (though Ronald Reagan’s callous indifference to human suffering...). As president, Johnson worked to undermine Reconstruction, permitted members of the white elite to retain their authority in the South, and side-tracked the nation from its goal of ensuring equal rights to all citizens. Although Johnson disliked plantation owners, it turned out that he hated African Americans more. When he met with Frederick Douglass in 1866, Johnson declared, “Those damned sons of bitches thought they had me in a trap! I know that damned Douglass; he just like any nigger, and he would sooner cut a white man’s throat than not.” Johnson was racist and crazy.

That bizarre mess of a man stumbled into the presidency by accident. He had been the only Southern Senator to stay at his post after secession. Lincoln, not really planning on being shot, decided to make him his Vice-Presidential candidate in 1864 as a political gesture. After all, what does the vice-president do anyway?

Why is Johnson better than Bush? Uh – Actually, I am not sure that he was. Can we call it a tie?

So, these are the folk that Bush now jockeys against for his position in history: A drunken idiot, a vain coward, and a racist maniac. Hmm – It almost seems like this could be some sort of Sartre play where we find these four men locked for all eternity in a hotel room together.

For Bush, hell is other presidents.


Chad said...

I'm also at a loss whether or not Bush beats out Johnson for the title of "Worst President Ever", but I have the feeling that after two years - and after more information about this administration's dealings inevitably come out - we'll be ranking Bush alongside such historical leaders as John of England, Commodus of Rome, and Cixi of China.

Bush is right, though, that his administration will be much analyzed and written about, hopefully one day by the United States' own latter-day Suetonii and Taciti.

Dorian said...

I must admit, I've always had a soft spot for Andrew Jackson. Oh sure, he was a murderous thug and unrepentant asshole, but at least he was honest about it. Plus, the irony of a man who hated banks and paper money so much being on the $20 bill is delicious.

Roger Green said...

How DARE you steal my idea!! OK, it is reasonable that great minds merely went in the same direction. (Slinks away.)

Adrian said...

I like the idea of lining up your 4 worst presidents together for a stage show. Sartre, perhaps. Or how about a Broadway musical? It would be like A Chorus Line for dummies. Or Springtime For Hitler...

pacalaga said...

I was told by a friend (and never bothered to look it up, so I don't know how accurate this is) that Washington's presidency was a long, moving poker game. Maybe THAT is what Shrub is referring to when he makes such a comparison.

brian said...

As far as race issues go, I'd have to include Woodrow Wilson along with Johnson as the worst.
He codified Jim Crow into the Federal Government!
Both Bush and Reagan seem to have no qualms about spending taxpayer dollars.Both have set deficit records while in office.
But I must agree with you Gay Prof,
Geo. W. worst president ever!

Cooper said...

When I asked a chat buddy what holiday weekend it was down there, and he told me "President's Day", I said, "What's to celebrate?!" I thought it was something the "great decider" had dreamed up to celebrate himself, which wouldn't have been beyond the realm of possibility, all things considered. Dictators do things like that. I wonder if Bushie is wearing one of those badges little kids do sometimes on their birthdays, "Today is my special day".

Doug said...

In this new hell, it seems like Bush would be the little kid all the other presidents picked on.

vuboq said...

So can someone explain why 17% of the country "strongly approve" of the current administration?

It completely baffles me.

Chris said...

"...and side-tracked the nation from its goal of ensuring equal rights to all citizens."

You mean this nation actually HAD that goal once? Huh, you'd never be able to tell.

The thing about these guys is, well, they're dead. They've done all they can to eff up the presidency. B2 still has two years to lower the bar.

marlan said...

I'll wait for Comic Book Guy to declare the Worst. President. Ever. He's usually right.

BTW, Greg Kinnear. Didja ever see him in Auto Focus? Hogaaaaaan!

GayProf said...

Chad: I think the biggest question that historians will have trouble answering is how Bush was able to get a second term.

Dorian: Andrew Jackson imagined bankers were hiding under his bed when he went to sleep at night. It's amazing how he was able to shift all the blame for his reckless diplomatic and economic policies onto his successor, Martin VanBuren.

ROG: I thought that we all agreed this was going to be the blog topic of the day.

Adrian: While I had not previously thought of it, a singing and dancing James Buchanan does feel right somehow...

Pacalaga: Yeah, to be honest I am not sure that I would put Washington at the top of this list. He was extremely elitist (not to mention a slave-holder which, you know, I find kinda hard to get over). Still, he could have been a monarch and resisted the idea.

Brian: In terms of racism, I agree that Wilson ranks at the top. It was Wilson, after all, who rehabilitated (briefly) Andrew Johnson's image and declared Reconstruction unnecessary.

Cooper: Well, I did hear that Bushie was taking six of his closest friends to Chuck E. Cheese today. I am not sayin', I am just sayin'.

Doug: You know, I think even the worst presidents would be amazed at the idea that Bushie ended up in that office based mostly on his last name.

VUBOQ: You've got me. Drugs?

Chris: Good point about the other folk being dead. Up until now, we have only seen Bushie when he had a do-nothing Congress. He could go even more insane these next two years now that people actually challenge him a little bit.

Marlan: I did see Auto Focus. Keenear seems inclined to the quirky quasi-indy films.

Right now, though, I am obsessing over Little Miss Sunshine Seriously, I need help.

Anonymous said...

This was very educational for me.

Because I really thought that Bill Clinton invented the blow job.

Helen the Felon said...

Is "think about Prime Minister Winston Churchill" code for "masturbate furiously, leaving a sticky mess behind for beleaguered and disgusted cleaning staff"?

evilganome said...

What about McKinley and Woodrow Wilson. I would have to put Reagan on my list but because I hate him with a deep and burning hatred that is.... filled with..hate. I really disliked the guy okay and can not for the life of me figure out why people worship that jackass. But enough about that.

Yes, in the end Georgie wins. I had not realized the asshat had learned to read! Oh yeah, and what Helen said.

Bill S. said...

Johnson looks like he's mulling over how to steal gruel from blind orphans. If only he had Karl Rove to draw up his strategy for this...

Elizabeth McClung said...

Andrew Jackson has always been my number one bad president - let's ignore that the "Great" military victory which brought him to office actually occurred AFTER the end of the war - but he managed to endorse a public near-genocide of native americans, best typified by his removal of all Cherokee West of the Mississippi (including the multigeneration ones who owned stores and houses - much like Hitler did to the Jews). While Jackson did not make the decision but overrode state (and perhaps supreme court) rights to enforce the "indian removal" policy.

He also stopped Spanish Florida becoming a refuge for runaway slaves (that wierd "utopialand" in the Mel Gibson film), Daniel Webster, speaking for himself and Jefferson said about Jackson's election to president, "He is one of the most unfit men I know of for such a place. He has had very little respect for laws or constitutions"

He started a system of putting friends and cronies in high federal offices as paybacks, He created a depression by eliminating a national bank (before putting $1 million in the hands of a crony), and passed more Indian removal acts than any other president - and was the great inspiration of gayprof's hated Andrew Johnson (who tried to imitate him). (bleah!)

ACubedExistence said...

Was Woodrow Wilson really such a bad president? He kept the United States out of most of what was essentially Europe's last royal war. When the U.S. finally did enter the war, it wasn't because Wilson or any one in his administration told half-truths. And at the decisive end of the war wasn't it Wilson who insisted on the development of the League of Nation, the foundation for what is now the United Nations? I think his racism is no secret now but, do we really know that the presidents before and after him or for that matter contemporary white men of influence weren't racists?

I didn't/don't want to turn this comment section into my best president is better than your best president but I think it best that we not categorically denounce a president because of his view on race. Besides William Henry Harrison was clearly the best president.

Frank said...

So who would be on your list of BEST presidents, GayProf? I'm rather traditional on that score: Washington, Lincoln, FDR, and the other usual suspects. I can understand being a bit wobbly about Washington due to slavery, but remember that he was the only one who freed his slaves (yes, after his death, and, yes, after Martha's, but then most of them were actually HERS to begin with), too. And I just got done watching a very interesting program on C-SPAN about African American perspectives on Lincoln and how he wasn't quite the Hero he's made out to be because he wasn't totally pro-equality. But isn't that a bit unfair? I mean, if we go back to that era, you'd probably come up with about twenty people in the whole country who believed in total racial equality in the way we think of it today. Should we then condemn him for not being Perfect? And he suspended Habeas Corpus, but does that automatically mean he was a tyrant at heart? I'd like to hear your thoughts.

Oh, and about Buchanan: It always saddened me that our only "bachelor" president was also one of less "fabulous" ones, too. Seems very unfair.

Earl said...

I'm not up on Bad Presidents in History, but I just find it so hard to imagine worse. With our current disaster, I'm often too distracted (fear, incredulity, despair, fury) to focus fully on my work. How could anyone get anything done with a worse president?

Adam said...

Bravo! This needs to be sent to Huffington Post.

Rebekah said...

I've learned to never say "it couldn't be worse," because the minute I do, it is.

Michael Denton said...

W does stand for Worse, no doubt. That said I always thought that Grant's administration was known for its unfettered corruption - and for the President's pretty consistently pickled state -somewhat not unlike our current administration (and president??)

FDR is my all time favorite. Not that anyone asked.

GayProf said...

JP: I find that it's a common misconception.

Helen: I am shocked -- SHOCKED. George Bush has a penis?

Evilganome: I agree about Reagan. He would be at the bottom of my list as well. He told Americans that it was okay to hate again.

Bill S.: I think that photo was taken after he burned down an orphanage.

Elizabeth: All that you say is true. Plus, Andrew Jackson also granted diplomatic regonition to Texas in his last days in office. Even though Mexico had clear jurisdiction over Texas. Even though the Anglo colonists had agreed to be Mexican citizens. Even though this meant Texas would perimt slavery (Outlawed in Mexico).

ACubedExistence: I have never bought the "it was just the times" argument. There were many people who said that racism was wrong "at the time." For instance, I don't think most African Americans at the time thought that racism was a-okay. Wilson had some good ideas here and there, but that doesn't mean we can so easily toss aside his hatreds.

Frank: Well, as for best presidents, FDR would probably be near the top. Still, even with him, I disliked the ways that he made the presidency far more powerful than ever intended (opening the door to many of our current problems with the Executive Branch). I have too much gravitas to really have a clear favorite.

Earl: Well, keep in mind when we had worse, the country went to Civil War. So, people didn't really work anymore.

Adam: Aw -- That's sweet.

Rebekah: Good Point -- I think the Bush crew still have some evil tricks up their sleeves.

Michael: Yep, Grant was a total lush. The U.S. loves to elect its former generals, but they almost always turn out to be mediocre presidents.

Huntington said...

Some late notes:

Johnson was a lush, as well as being crazy and racist. However, his impeachment was just as much of a Republican put-up job as was Clinton's.

I can't defend Harding, but Gore Vidal does give an interesting alternative portrait of him (and Wilson, for that matter) in his novel Hollywood.

Speaking of Wilson, let's not forget he opposed women's suffrage as vehemently as he did racial equality.

john Paul McCarty said...

if worst president ever is about the harm one does or a lack of respect for the people one serves and the laws one enforces, bush wins in my book.

... Joey P. said...

I just stumbled across this site. A gay blog that doesn't rely on shirtless hunks and talks about presidents? Cool!

Though I would not call myself a historian -- I never quite got that Ph.D -- I like to write about the presidents and history, too.

I think history and psychology pair well as good majors, especially since our greatest president was probably chronically depressed (Lincoln) and our possibly worst president (Buchanan) was probably gay.

With so much at stake in the world, I HOPE that we are wrong, and that Bush isn't judged by history to be the worst ever president. But I'm not hopeful. Time will tell.

Oh, and the Bush-Truman comparisons are absolute rubbish, as I write about on my blog.