“He’s The WORST!”

The NY Times tonight posted what can only be called an indictment of the President; more than an “anti-endorsement” (after all, they endorsed Biden last week), it seeks to ground Trump in history as the worst president America has ever had.

Is that true, or is this Trump Derangement Syndrome run amuck? As a charter member of the TDS Society (motto – “He’s been living rent-free in our heads since 2015!”), I thought it was worth examining. Herewith – a punchy and hopefully somewhat amusing list of the worst Presidents America has ever had.

Woodrow Wilson | The White House

10 – Woodrow Wilson

Why was he bad?

  • So racist he screened “Birth of the Nation” – the story of the birth of the KKK which painted Black people as sex-mad barbarians – in the White House and said it communicated “history like a lightning bolt”.
  • His diplomatic fecklessness in the aftermath of World War 1 led to America’s being ignored in the Versailles Treaty negotiations, which were so punitive they helped cause World War 2, and failed to convince the US to join the proto-UN League of Nations he tried to create
  • Near the end of his term he fell ill from Spanish Flu, didn’t tell anyone, and his wife ran the country in secret; by all accounts she did a better job.

Any mitigating factors?

  • He helped bring the robber baron era of untrammeled capitalism to a close
  • Helped enact women’s suffrage
  • He thought human rights were important (well, if you were white and Christian, anyway)
  • Established much of the ground work for modern American governance, such as a central bank and a progressive tax system

9 – John Kennedy

Why was he bad?

  • Relied on personal charisma and nepotism as an excuse for competence
  • Tried to invade Cuba in a failed proxy invasion (the Bay of Pigs)
  • Almost destroyed the world in a confrontation with the Soviets that could have easily been avoided (the Cuban Missile Crisis)
  • Helped cause American involvement in the Vietnam War (then died, and let his successor take the blame for the whole Vietnam thing)

Any mitigating factors?

  • He looked good on TV.
  • The Apollo program turned out well.

8 – Ronald Reagan

The wit and wisdom of Ronald Reagan explained… – Progressive Culture |  Scholars & Rogues

Why was he bad?

  • Established the Republican tradition of deficit spending combined with tax cuts for the wealthy which, while giving the stock market a boost, both crippled the economy and government’s effectiveness
  • Interference in Central America led to the support of brutal regimes, death squads, and civil war in the name of “freedom building”
  • Did almost nothing to address the AIDS epidemic and the drug abuse crisis save a moralistic blaming of the victims
  • Engaged in a frenetic arms buildup which almost literally scared the Soviets into a nuclear war (Able Archer 83)
  • Took credit for “winning the Cold War” which, apparently, involved being alive at the same time as Mikhail Gorbachev
  • Helped establish the “screw you got mine” economic and ruling ethic of the 1980s which extended well into Bill Clinton’s tenure.
  • Was most likely incapacitated with Alzheimer’s the final year of his presidency. Thanks to the laissez-faire system of his rule no one really noticed that much.

Any mitigating factors?

  • He looked good on TV.

7 – Herbert Hoover

Why was he bad?

  • The original laissez-faire Republican, watched the economy implode into the Great Depression and did nothing to stop it
  • So ineffectual a Republican wouldn’t hold the Presidency for 20 years

Any mitigating factors?

  • Outside of politics, he was a genuinely good person who devoted much of his life to charity and famine relief.

6 – Warren Harding

Warren G. Harding | American Experience | Official Site | PBS

Why was he bad?

  • So uninterested in actually being President (he was busy having a series of affairs) he allowed his underlings to get rich off the spoils of their office, thus causing his brief presidency to become a synonym for corruption in high office.

Any mitigating factors?

  • Died before much real damage could be done.
  • Was apparently too busy chasing women to indulge in much corruption personally.
  • If TV existed at the time, he would have looked good on it.

5 – Richard Nixon

A Life in Focus: Richard Nixon, American president | The Independent | The  Independent

Why was he bad?

  • Helped invent the modern Republican party’s tactic of playing on divisions in American society as an election tactic.
  • Was paranoid and amoral, drank heavily which only added to his paranoid ravings
  • Campaigned on having a plan to end the Vietnam War, which turned out to be “not ending the Vietnam War”.
  • Bombed Cambodia so brutally it arguably drove them insane, helping cause the Khmer Rouge’s ensuing genocide
  • The whole Watergate thing
  • Absolutely, positively did not look good on TV.

Any mitigating factors?

  • Enacted a slew of reforms such as the Environmental Protection Agency, OSHA and Medicaid that today would be called liberalism run amuck
  • Ended the cold war with China and moved towards ending the nuclear arms race with the Soviets

4 – James Buchanan

James Buchanan (15th US President) - On This Day

Why was he bad?

  • Caused the Civil War through his incompetence and coddling of the slave-state’s attempts to keep Blacks in thralldom.
  • Really, you can just stop there.

Any mitigating factors?

  • No, not really. Civil wars are bad.

3 – George W. Bush

George W. Bush - Paintings, Age & Wife - Biography

Why was he bad?

  • Elected thanks to a fluke of a failed ballot count in Florida followed by Republican shenanigans trying to cancel the vote count and finally a Supreme Court decision which should have never happened.
  • Brought America and its allies into war with Iraq under false pretenses, the impact of which would shape a generation (or at least those of that generation aware the military still existed). Ironically, the last President who fought in the region and had enough sense not to invade and occupy a hostile country was George Bush Sr. You’d think they’d talk!
  • Had the military fight two wars at once while insisting that domestically things could go on like always, helping cause a divide between military and civilian society that still has not healed.
  • Crashed the economy through deficit spending, tax breaks for the wealthy, and a lack of regulation on the financial sector which brought about the Great Recession.

Any mitigating factors?

  • After the terror attacks of 9/11, did not fall prey to racist nativism and Islamophobia and encouraged Americans to do the same.

2 – Andrew Johnson

The Impeachment Trial of Andrew Johnson: An Account

Why was he bad?

  • Essentially overturned the results of the Civil War and handed the South back to its former slave owners, re-imposing serfdom on the former slaves, for little reason other than racism and stupidity
  • No, really, he was really, really racist. He set race relations back 50 years, which is a real accomplishment for one President, because he was convinced giving Black Americans any civil rights was wrong.
  • He vetoed any attempt at giving Blacks anything approaching civil rights (such as the Civil Rights Act of 1866) – finally the 14th Amendment was passed over his violent objections to make official in the constitution that, yes, all men were created equal.
  • His fellow Republican party members, who were mostly abolitionist supporters of Abraham Lincoln, were so horrified by his actions they tried and narrowly failed to remove him from office.
  • Let me just re-emphasize – Johnson was EVIL. Not just corrupt, or incompetent (although he was definitely both of those, too). He thought the wrong side won the civil war because Black people weren’t human.

Any mitigating factors?

  • Takes up a spot in Hell a less deserving person might have fallen into.

1 – Donald Trump

Well, I’m not going to go through a list of “why was he bad” – the linked NYT essay does that well enough, and this is fairly long. Really, the standard we’re looking for, I think, is “is Donald Trump a worse President than Andrew Johnson?”

When you describe a President who has:

  • well-documented, frequent racism
  • an only passing familiarity with the Constitution
  • a belief that he should rule as an unchallenged executive
  • personally corrupt, with fairly loose morals and untrustworthy
    …you could easily be describing either Andrew Johnson or Donald Trump. So I think they’re probably going to be fighting in history for the title of the Worst President.

Personally, I hope Johnson wins, because it would hurt Trump’s ego to not win at something.

Anyway, Here’s Wonderwall

Liam Gallagher can't play Wonderwall on guitar - OasisMania

(strums guitar)

I’m not mad at Trump. He is a brute, an idiot, and suffers from narcissistic personality disorder. In retrospect, his being utterly unable to fake even a fragment of empathy for people who have died or been injured from a disease he is still suffering from is… predictable.

I am VERY mad — no, mad minimizes how I feel, I am blindingly, screamingly furious — at everyone surrounding him who is enabling this, who is encouraging a large minority of Americans to deny COVID-19 is dangerous. They are why I and others will be mocked when we wear masks – not to protect ourselves from others, but to protect others from us in case we are carriers – a point apparently too subtle or too pointlessly empathetic for them.

Tens of thousands, possibly hundreds of thousands of people will die because of this complete moral failure. This utter evil that goes beyond any political argument, any hot take on social media, any election. A great many people are going to die and it could have been stopped and it should have been stopped. And now it most likely cannot, no matter who wins the election, because one of our two major parties has decided it is more important to grasp at power today than to look their children in the eye next year. And I am most likely giving them far too much credit; they are, based on the past weekend’s events, too far gone. There is just a void where basic empathy and humanity to others should be.

Anyway, here’s your fucking Wonderwall.

Sick President, Dude

Lesson of the Day: 'As Trump Seeks to Project Strength, Doctors Disclose  Alarming Episodes' - The New York Times

National security implications of Trump with COVID:

  • Pence sequesters himself immediately. Thanks to the asymptomatic nature of COVID he may already have it.
  • If Trump’s condition deteriorates, command authority (the little suitcase with the nuclear codes) goes to Pence. This is done routinely in the case of mild impairment such as dental work. This will almost certainly happen very quickly if it has not already to protect the military attaches responsible for maintaining this, because while you sign up for a lot of risk in the military, voluntarily exposing yourself to a fatal disease is usually not on the list.
  • If Pence is also infected with COVID, the constitution mandates the next on the list to be Nancy Pelosi. Thanks to politics being what it is, this will almost certainly be bypassed if possible and go to the ranking cabinet member (Mike Pompeo). This would also most likely trigger a constitutional crisis were it to be made public, despite Pelosi likely having zero desire to be responsible for running a possible war against North Korea.
  • If you’re scared at these options (you should be), thanks to the nature of this administration there ARE no good options. This is why we have elections!
  • If you live outside the United States and are enraged that this pack of failsons and grifters could be serially responsible for the destruction of the planet, yes, that’s correct. As can Putin’s cabal of mobsters, whoever Xi Jinping hasn’t managed to kill as a likely successor, whomever still hasn’t managed to kill Boris Johnson, three bureaucrats Emmanuel Macron may be passingly familiar with, Benjamin Netanyahu’s more insane coalition partners, a joke I’m not qualified to make about Imran Khan, a joke I’m not qualified to make about Narendra Modi, and Kim Jong-Un’s sister. As a bonus joke, China’s official policy is to launch a nuclear strike on warning, and nothing wrong with that has ever happened.
  • Speaking of elections, if either Trump or Biden (or both) pass away before the election, their names would still be on the ballot. It would be up to the electoral college at that point to determine who actually is named President. If they cannot decide, the House of Representatives. If they can’t decide, welp.
  • Basically, this.

The East Is Red

The East is Red

Articles like this is how wars start – incredibly wrong estimates of your enemy’s strength causing stupid mistakes of judgement.
How a war between China and Taiwan would actually go. Let’sClancychat!

Day 1. China has the airlift capacity to move about 3 brigades (1 division) across the Taiwan Strait, and can probably put its 3 marine brigades over the strait quickly as well. Those would land into the teeth of 5 Taiwanese heavily armed tank and mechanized brigades. The People’s Liberation Army Air Force (don’t ask) would also be trying to keep the skies over the strait clear. However, Taiwan’s Air Force of F-16s (and homemade equivalents) and Mirage 2000s, while cold-war era fighters, could at least contest the skies versus Chinese variants of Soviet-era MiG-21s and Su-27s. China has more modern planes (Su-30s and Su-37s purchased from Russia and their own J-20 stealth fighter) which would eventually win the day… until the US Air Force shows up. When and if that happens is an open question, but at least the first day would see fairly bloody skies (and air defense missiles on both sides having a field day).

Day 3. China has a beach head secured on the western coast, by the skin of their teeth; probably north of Taichung since it’s literally the only spot in western Taiwan that isn’t a massive urban area. The Taiwanese reserves are starting to show up, and the Chinese forces are massively outnumbered and outgunned. They haven’t been able to seize an airfield to fly troops or supplies in, even assuming the skies still aren’t contested.

And the US enters the war. The President, whomever it may be, announces that Taiwan’s independence is a vital national security interest of the United States and at Taiwan’s invitation, the US Navy and Air Force will secure the Taiwan Strait. The US 7th Fleet makes way from Japan (a journey that will take a few days), but the Air Force is on the scene immediately, and the skies very quickly are even MORE of a mess. Chinese planes quickly stay grounded, but the massive arrays of Chinese air defense artillery respond, and in return the USAF begins retaliatory strikes against batteries that fire at US planes. In laymen’s terms, America is already bombing mainland China, an escalation that never happened during the Korean War. And it’s only Day 3.

Day 4. The 7th Fleet is devastated by a massive barrage of hypersonic, though non-nuclear, IRBMs after they are spotted by China’s spy satellite system. The US start trying to take down the satellites, and China responds against the US’ far more numerous GPS and communication satellites. Meanwhile, the first US troops reach Taiwan and, combined with ever-growing Taiwanese ground forces, force the Chinese troops on Taiwan, hard-pressed and without any resupply since the initial landing, to surrender.

Day 5. China responds with an absolutely stupendous array of well over 2000 missile strikes against the island of Taiwan that, while still non-nuclear, reduce it to slag. US troops (along with everyone else on the island) suffer horrendous loss of life. The Chinese government sends word through India that if the US does not immediately withdraw from the area, China will strike at US bases throughout the region in a similar fashion. The US does not respond, preoccupied with the loss of the 7th fleet and much of the force on the ground in Taiwan, and mired in confusion over the loss of much of the US satellite network, frequent internet outages, and other attacks on poorly-defended US infrastructure.

Day 6. Chinese missiles land in Japan, Korea and Guam. In response, the US sets off a low-yield nuclear blast over the Chinese forces massed in Xiamen west of Taiwan. Convinced they are under a full nuclear attack, China launches its entire nuclear arsenal at the United States, which responds accordingly.

As a result of about 50 US cities and most of the Chinese mainland being reduced to nuclear ash, the resulting nuclear winter mercifully ends what remains of civilization over the next year or so.

This is why articles like this are dangerous.

On Statuary

Jackson Lays the Cornerstone for Jackson Statue (1840) – New Orleans  Architecture Tours

I know people are going to disagree with me no matter how I weigh in, so welp. I draw a very, VERY thick line between statues of Presidents like Andrew Jackson (which currently protesters are trying to topple) and the Confederate statues everywhere. There’s a reason for this. Buckle up, here comes the history.

In the aftermath of Reconstruction, aka “maybe we should give a significant minority of recently enslaved citizens representation in our government”, the ex-Confederates fought back, both politically (the story of presidential elections in the latter 19th century was essentially Democrat-easy on the South vs Republican-hard on the South) and literally (this is how the KKK and other such white supremacist militias were born). And sadly, they won. Southern landowners established racial superiority through other means than slavery, and it remained for over a century (in many ways, it continues).

In the 20th century, when it was looked down on for KKK night riders to lynch Black citizens en masse, the followers of the Confederate/Jim Crow ideology spread it via other means. Specifically, statuary. This is why almost every Southern city has a statue of some Confederate general – the “Daughters of the Confederacy” (I guess racism is more acceptable if women did it, back then) funded them all. (This is also why so many military bases are named after Confederate generals. Curiously, after World War 2 we didn’t create a Ft. Rommel or an Air Force Base Yamamoto. Funny how that works.) It’s why in Georgia there’s a mural blasted out of a mountain that is more totalitarian in effect than anything the Communist bloc ever came up with. Confederate statues were the literal act of white racists lifting their legs and peeing on the commons.

So yes, tear down the artifact of that era – no Confederate general deserves commemoration. And if you want to argue for the myth-making of Lee or Stonewall Jackson – try to find statues of Rommel or Guderian in Germany. Both were extremely effective, by all accounts honorable, and Rommel was eventually killed by Hitler for not being a good Nazi. Still no statues. Because the Nazi era, as the Confederate era, does not deserve to be commemorated.

Recently this has spread to “anyone in history who’s owned slaves” (including memorably, Gen. Ulysses Grant who, when gifted with a slave, freed him as quickly as humanly possible and, oh, by the way, led the reunification of America and the liberation of every slave in the Confederacy). Every historical figure can be argued – Christopher Columbus was a genocidal madman, Andrew Jackson was a war criminal, the list goes on. No one survives historical study.

I would simply ask to draw a line between the political act of the neo-Confederate white-washing of a slaveholder’s revolt, and historical commemoration in general. It’s a discussion that is worth having, but not drawing that line leads inexorably to a Year Zero where nothing is worthy of commemoration.

This link gives further illustration and is recommended reading.