Tuesday, February 21, 2006

The Foobars of the Presidents

Ohio claims they are due a president as they haven't had one since Taft. Look at the United States, they have not had one since Lincoln. ~Will Rogers
By way of “celebrating” Presidents Day, a group of scholars has determined the top 10 Presidential Goof-ups of all time. I'm not sure how this enhances Presidents Day, but it is an interesting list. There are items that I quibble with, ones I don't really understand, ones that are inarguable and one that's just silly. As is typical, I have a few thoughts on the subject (ain't blogs swell?).
It's easy to agree with these:
-Lyndon Johnson's allowing the VietNam war to intensify;
-Nixon's involvement in the Watergate cover-up;
-Kennedy's Bay of Pigs invasion;
-Reagan, Iran-Contra and financing rebels in Nicaraugua.
Here are the ones I don't understand (because I don't remember my history well enough):
-Madison's failure to keep the U.S out of the War of 1812 (what could he have done?)
-Jefferson's Embargo Act of 1807 (embargoes are generally a bad idea, but what was so bad about this one, I'm not sure).
Now let's get to the quibbles.
-James Buchanan's failure to avert the Civil War – Even though Buchanan was far from being a great president, expecting him to fix the mess that led to the Civil War is a stretch. Presidents dating back to George Washington avoided the issue, leaving it to Congress, which made a mess of things with the Missouri Compromise, and the Kansas-Nebraska Act moved the nation almost inexorably toward conflict.
-Andrew Johnson's decision to side with Southern whites and oppose improvements for blacks – Again, Johnson was not a great president. But, it was Congress that forced the policies. When Johnson opposed them, he was impeached and came within a vote of conviction. Instead of Lincoln's policies of reconciliation, Congress gave us the Reconstruction Act, geared to disenfranchise Southerners while lining the pockets of Northern interests. Perhaps Johnson could have done more, but, following the impeachment, he could not have felt that he could swim upstream against an antagonistic legislative branch.
-Woodrow Wilson's refusal to compromise on the Treaty of Versailles – Wilson was an idealist, to be sure, but he recognized that the brutal reparations called for by the treaty could only lead to further conflict. The real problem was the U.S. Senate, which refused to ratify the treaty, wanting to return to isolationist policies. The refusal to join the League of Nations had a major impact on the ability of that body to perform any useful actions. Wilson himself was not in much of a position to carry the fight once the Senate spoke, and once he had his stroke, he was unable to do much more.
And then there's the one I disagree with, namely Bill Clinton's carrying on with Monica Lewinsky. It's not that I don't think this is a blunder. It was monumentally stupid and gave Republicans the chance to do what they wanted to do the moment they got control of Congress: Impeach a Democratic president. The Republicans were still trying to get back at the Democrats for the Nixon resignation, and I suspect they'd have attempted to impeach God if they thought He was a Democrat.
No, I'd have several other goofs ahead of Clinton, like these:
-Carter's inept rescue attempt of the Iranian hostages, which stemmed from his poor decisions about defense spending;
-Franklin Roosevelt attempting to pack the Supreme Court;
-Gerald Ford's preemptive pardon of Richard Nixon, which cost Ford any chance of reelection;
-Andrew Jackson and the National Bank;
-Hoover's miscalculation of the severity of the Depression.
I could go on, but when it comes to listing Presidential Mistakes, the only list that would be longer is Congressional mistakes. Typing that list would give me carpal tunnel syndrome.

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