If you wanted to identify, with confidence, the very worst president in American history, how would you go about it? One approach would be to consult the various academic polls on presidential rankings that have been conducted from time to time since Harvard’s Arthur M. Schlesinger Sr. pioneered this particular survey scholarship in 1948. Bad idea.
Most of those surveys identify Warren G. Harding of Ohio as the worst ever. This is ridiculous. Harding presided over very robust economic times. Not only that, but he inherited a devastating economic recession when he was elected in 1920 and quickly turned bad times into good times, including a 14 percent GDP growth rate in 1922. Labor and racial unrest declined markedly during his watch. He led the country into no troublesome wars.
There was, of course, the Teapot Dome scandal that implicated major figures in his administration, but there was never any evidence that the president himself participated in any venality. As Theodore Roosevelt’s daughter, Alice Roosevelt Longworth, put it, “Harding wasn’t a bad man. He was just a slob.”
The academic surveys also consistently place near the bottom James Buchanan, of Pennsylvania. Now here’s a man who truly lacked character and watched helplessly as his country descended into the worst crisis of its history. He stepped into the presidency with a blatant lie to the American people. In his inaugural address, he promised he would accept whatever judgment the Supreme Court rendered in the looming Dred Scott case. What he didn’t tell the American people was that he already knew what that judgment was going to be (gleaned through highly inappropriate conversations with justices). This is political cynicism of the rankest sort.
But Buchanan’s failed presidency points to what may be a pertinent distinction in assessing presidential failure. Buchanan was crushed by events that proved too powerful for his own weak leadership. And so the country moved inexorably into one of the worst crises in its history. But Buchanan didn’t create the crisis; he merely was too wispy and vacillating to get control of it and thus lead the nation to some kind of resolution. It took his successor, Abraham Lincoln, to do that.
That illustrates the difference between failure of omission and failure of commission—the difference between presidents who couldn’t handle gathering crises and presidents who actually created the crises.
In the realm of commission failure, three presidents come to mind—Woodrow Wilson, Richard Nixon and George W. Bush. Bear in mind here that nearly all failed presidents have their defenders, who argue, sometimes with elaborate rationales, that the perceived failure wasn’t really failure or that it wasn’t really the fault of this particular president. We see this in stark reality in our own time, with the ongoing debates about the presidency of the second Bush, reflected in the reaction to senator Rand Paul’s recent suggestion that GOP hawks, with their incessant calls for U.S. intrusion into the lands of Islam, contributed to the rise of the violent radicalism of the Islamic State.
The prevailing view of Bush is that his invasion of Iraq, the greatest example in American history of what is known as “preventive war,” proved to be one of the most colossal foreign policy blunders in all of American history, if not actually the greatest. According to this view, Bush destabilized the Middle East, essentially lit it on fire and fostered the resultant rise of the Islamic State and the deepening sectarian war between Sunni and Shia Muslims in the region. Where this all leads, nobody can tell, but clearly it is going to play out, with devastating consequences, for a long time to come.
But of course there are those who deny that Bush created all this chaos. No, they say, Bush actually had Iraq under control and it was his hapless successor, Barack Obama, who let it all fall apart again by not maintaining a U.S. military force in the country. This is the minority view, embraced tenaciously by many people with a need to gloss over their own complicity in the mess.
There is little doubt that history eventually will fix upon the majority view—that Bush unleashed the surge of chaos, bloodshed and misery that now has the region in its grip. As Princeton’s Sean Wilentz wrote in 2006, when Bush still sat in the Oval Office, “Many historians are now wondering whether Bush, in fact, will be remembered as the very worst president in all of American history.” And bear in mind that Bush also presided over the emergence of one of the most devastating financial crises in the country’s history.
Then there’s Nixon, whose Watergate transgressions thrust the nation into one of its most harrowing constitutional crises. There are some who argue that Nixon’s transgressions weren’t actually as egregious as many believe, particularly when viewed carefully in the context of the maneuverings and manipulations of many of his people, some of them conducted behind the president’s back. There may be some truth in this. But in the end it doesn’t matter. He was president and must take responsibility for the culture and atmosphere he created in the West Wing and the Old Executive Office Building. If his people were running around and breaking the law, he must bear responsibility, whatever his knowledge or complicity. And we know definitively that Nixon himself set the tone in his inner circle—a tone so dark, defensive and menacing that wrongdoing was almost the inevitable result. Also, there can be no dispute that the president himself stepped over the line on numerous occasions.
Which brings us to Woodrow Wilson, whose failures of commission probably had the most dire consequences of any U.S. president. His great flaw was his sanctimonious nature, more stark and distilled than that of any other president, even John Quincy Adams (who was no piker in the sanctimony department). He thought he always knew best, because he thought he knew more than anybody else. Combine that with a powerful humanitarian sensibility, and you get a president who wants to change the world for the betterment of mankind. Watch out for such leaders.
Even during his first term, with war raging in Europe, he sought to get the United States involved as a neutral mediator, fostering a peace agreement to break the tragic stalemate that had the nations of Europe in its grip. When that effort was rebuffed, he ran for reelection by hailing himself as the man who kept the United States out of the war.
But, immediately upon entering his second term, he sought to get his country into the war by manipulating neutrality policy. While proclaiming U.S. neutrality, he favored Britain by observing the British blockade of Germany (imposed, said a young Winston Churchill, to starve Germans, including German infants, into submission) and by allowing armed British merchant ships entry to U.S. ports, which in turn fostered a flow of U.S. munitions to the Allied powers. At the same time, Wilson declared that Germany would be held to a “strict accountability” for any American loss of life or property from Germany’s submarine attacks. This policy applied, said Wilson, even if affected Americans traveling or working on British or French ships. He declined to curtail what he considered Americans’ “right” to travel on vessels tied to France or Britain (but not Germany).
Wilson was warned, most notably by his secretary of state, William Jennings Bryan, that these lopsided policies inevitably would pull America into the war. When he ignored those warnings, Bryan resigned from the Wilson cabinet on a stand of principle.
As Bryan predicted, America did get pulled into the conflict, and it certainly appears that that was Wilson’s intention all along. Then three things happened.
First, Wilson conducted the war in ways that devastated the home front. Prices shot up into double digits, and then came a potent economic recession that lasted three years. He accepted the suppression of civil liberties by his notorious attorney general, A. Mitchell Palmer. His government nationalized many private industries, including the telegraph, telephone and railroad industries, along with the distribution of coal. Race riots erupted in numerous cities that claimed nearly 150 lives in two years.
Second, America’s entry into the war broke the stalemate, allowing the Allied powers to impose upon Germany devastating armistice terms. Third, when Wilson went to the Versailles peace conference bent on bringing to bear his humanitarian outlook and making the world safe for democracy, he promptly got outmaneuvered by the canny nationalist leaders of Britain and France, whose agenda had nothing to do with Wilson’s dreamy notions about a harmonious world born of his humanitarian vision.
The result was a humiliation of Germany that rendered another war nearly inevitable and created in that country a sump of civic resentment and venom that would poison its politics for a generation. We can’t say with certainty that Adolf Hitler wouldn’t have emerged in Germany if the stalemate of World War I had been settled through negotiations rather than diktat. But we can say that the world spawned by Wilson’s naïve war policies certainly created a political climate in Germany that paved the way for Hitler.
That’s a big load for Wilson to carry through history, though the academic polls consistently rank him quite favorably. That’s probably because most academics are progressives who like Wilson for his own progressive sentiments. But the two Roosevelts also were progressives and left the country better off when they left office. Such a case can’t be made for Wilson, who left the country in shambles. The 1920 Republican victories in the presidential and congressional elections constituted of the greatest political repudiations in U.S. history. Thus, Wilson’s failures of commission render him, arguably, the worst president in American history.
About the author:
Robert W. Merry, longtime Washington political reporter and publishing executive, is the author of books on American history and foreign policy.
Original source of the article:
Only when we refute the monolithic interpretation of Zionist theory and practice can we approach an understanding of the contested relationship between anti-zionism and antisemitism.
Israel - BDS. Flickr/ Takver. Some rights reserved.The relationship between anti-Zionism and antisemitism is a vexed and controversial question. My starting point is to elucidate an understanding of the meaning of Zionism; a term and a political concept which is rarely defined and frequently misunderstood. This is hardly surprising given that today in the 21st century, Zionism/ist is construed as an insult by some and is often equated with apartheid and even worse, Nazism. My understanding of Zionism seeks neither to exonerate, praise nor condemn. Rather we must seek to comprehend the Zionist movement and concomitant ideology in its historical, material and constantly evolving context.
A form of nationalism
Put simply Zionism is a form of nationalism which developed under two sets of linked influences in the ...
The term Genocide derives from the Latin (genos=race, tribe; cide=killing) and means literally the killing or murder of an entire tribe or people. The Oxford English Dictionary defines genocide as “the deliberate and systematic extermination of an ethnic or national group” and cites the first usage of the term as R. Lemkin, Axis Rule in Occupied Europe, (1944) p.79. “By ‘genocide’ we mean the destruction of a nation or an ethnic group.”
The U.N. General Assembly adopted this term and defended it in 1946 as “….a denial of the right of existence of entire human groups.” Most people tend to associate genocide with wholesale slaughter of a specific people. However, “the 1994 U.N. Convention on the Punishment and Prevention of the Crime of Genocide, describes genocide beyond outright murder of people as the destruction and extermination of culture.” Article II of the convention lists five categories of activity as genocidal when ...
Dear Readers and Friends:
The distinguished and knowledgeable international commentator William Engdahl, in a superb statement, has expressed the view I gave you that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s speech on September 28 at the 70th anniversary of the United Nations changed the balance of power in the world. Until Putin’s speech the world was intimidated by the Washington Bully. Resistance to Washington brought swift retribution. In the Middle East and Africa it brought economic sanctions and military invasions that destroyed entire countries. In France and other US vassal states it brought multi-billion dollar confiscations of bank net worth as the price of not following Washington’s policies toward other countries.
Other countries felt powerless in the face of the arrogant hegemonic Unipower, which from time to time replied to noncompliance with threats, such as US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage delivered to Pakistan, to bomb noncompliant countries “back to the stone age.” ...
The objectives of the US military presence in Africa are well documented: counter Chinese influence and control strategic locations and natural resources including oil reserves. This was confirmed more than 8 years ago by the US State Department:
In 2007, US State Department advisor Dr. J. Peter Pham commented on AFRICOM’s strategic objectives of “protecting access to hydrocarbons and other strategic resources which Africa has in abundance, a task which includes ensuring against the vulnerability of those natural riches and ensuring that no other interested third parties, such as China, India, Japan, or Russia, obtain monopolies or preferential treatment.” (Nile Bowie, CIA Covert Ops in Nigeria: Fertile Ground for US Sponsored Balkanization Global Research, 11 April 2012)
At the beginning of February, AFRICOM’s “head General David Rodriguez called for a large-scale US-led ‘counterinsurgency’ campaign against groups in West Africa during remarks at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, DC:
The internal and much more external destruction of the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s is celebrating in 2015 its 20th years of anniversary. However, this historical and much more geopolitical event still needs a satisfactory research approach in regard to the true geopolitical reasons and political-military course of the destruction of this South Slavic and Balkan state. During the last quarter of century, the (western) global mainstream media unanimously accused Serbia and the Serbs for the national chauvinism as the main cause of the bloody wars on the territory of ex-Yugoslavia in the 1990s. However, the role and direct impact of the other Yugoslav republics and nations in the process of killing the common state was not taken (purposely) into the consideration; especially of the Croats and Croatia as the biggest nation and republic after the Serbs and Serbia. This article is an attempt to contribute to the full-scale of ...
In the spirit of the New Cold War and following on its success in snuffing out South Stream, the US has prioritized its efforts in obstructing Russia’s Balkan Stream pipeline, and for the most part, they’ve regretfully succeeded for the time being. The first challenge came from the May 2015 Color Revolution attempt in Macedonia, which thankfully was repulsed by the country’s patriotic citizenry. Next up on the destabilization agenda was the political turmoil that threatened to take hold of Greece in the run-up and aftermath of the austerity referendum, the idea being that if Tsipras were deposed, then Balkan Stream would be replaced with the US-friendly Eastring project. Once more, the Balkans proved resilient and the American plot was defeated, but it was the third and most directly antagonist maneuver that snipped the project in the bud and placed it on indefinite standby.
‘Lucky’ Number Three:
The climactic action happened on ...
Exclusive: U.S. mainstream media sees itself as the definer of what’s true and what’s “propaganda,” but has gotten lost in a fog of self-delusion and is now the principal purveyor of “post-truth” news, writes Nicolas J S Davies.
For several months, Western officials and media outlets repeated thousands of times that there were between 250,000 and 300,000 civilians trapped under Syrian and Russian bombardment in East Aleppo. Western reports rarely mentioned the Syrian government’s estimate that there were only one-third that number of civilians in the rebel-controlled enclave – nor that its estimates were solidly based on what it had found in Homs and other rebel-held areas after it restored state control.
Once East Aleppo fell to government forces, it turned out that there were less than 90,000 people there, about what the Syrian government estimated but only a fraction of the much higher numbers confidently repeated ad nauseam by Western officials and media.
Part of the reason for ...
Part 1: The Intermarium and the Russian Revolution
by Clara Weiss 31 May 2016
May 12 to 14 marks the 90th anniversary of the coup by Józef Piłsudski in Poland with which the Polish bourgeoisie tried to save its rule from the threat of socialist revolution. Today, he is being idealized by large sections of the Polish bourgeoisie and the US imperialist elite.
In large measure, this is bound up with the increasing popularity of his conception of the Intermarium, a pro-imperialist alliance of right-wing nationalist regimes throughout Eastern Europe that was primarily directed against the Soviet Union. The resurgent interest in the Intermarium has been bound up with the increasing drive toward a new world war, which, as the ICFI stated in its resolution “Socialism and the Fight Against War,” has been accompanied by a revival of geopolitics among the ideologists of imperialism.
This series reviews the history of the Intermarium, the main ...
A hegemonic power never says sorry.
Three recent episodes underscore this truism.
When US President Barack Obama offered a floral wreath at the cenotaph of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park on 27 May 2016, some peace advocates in the United States, in Japan and in other parts of the world hoped against hope that he would say “sorry” for the Atom bomb that the then US President, Harry Truman, had ordered to be dropped over Hiroshima on the 6th of August 1945. The deadly bomb claimed 140,000 lives. Three days later a second Atom bomb destroyed the city of Nagasaki killing another 80,000.
There is a view advanced by a number of scholars and activists that based upon documentary analysis Japan had already indicated to the US Military Command in the Pacific a couple of months before 6th August that it was prepared to surrender if there were some safeguards for the position ...
The US Senate Report documenting CIA torture of alleged terrorist suspects raises a number of fundamental questions about the nature and operations of the State, the relationship and the responsibility of the Executive Branch and Congress to the vast secret police networks which span the globe – including the United States.
CIA: The Politics of a Global Secret Police Force
The Senate Report’s revelations of CIA torture of suspects following the 9/11 bombing is only the tip of the iceberg. The Report omits the history and wider scope of violent activity in which the CIA has been and continues to be involved. CIA organized large scale death squad activities and extreme torture in Vietnam (Phoenix Project); multiple assassinations of political leaders in the Congo, Chile, Dominican Republic, Vietnam, the Middle East, Central America and elsewhere; the kidnapping and disappearance of suspected activists in Iraq and Afghanistan; massive drug-running and narco-trafficking in the “Golden Triangle” in Southeast Asia and Central America (the Iran-Contra war).
USAID is spending $300,000 to fight traditional Christian morality in the Republic of Macedonia (a href=”http://www.shutterstock.com/pic-367912520/stock-photo-puzzle-with-the-national-flag-of-macedonia-and-dollar-banknote-concept.html?src=1NQf52M43o22eQ682DptgQ-1-66″>esfera/Shutterstock).
A reader passes along a government document putting out bids for a contract. Here’s the top of the document:
Apparently the (former Yugoslav) Republic of Macedonia, a small Balkan nation that emerged from the breakup of Yugoslavia, is insufficiently progressive on LGBT issues. So the American government is spending $300,000 to undermine the traditional Orthodox Christian culture of the country. Excerpts from the document (emphases mine):
Macedonia has ratified the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the European Human Rights Convention. Through ratification of these human rights treaties, Macedonia has assumed obligations and duties under international law to respect, to protect, and to fulfil human rights. Despite the adoption of international human rights principles, which are incorporated in domestic legislation, Macedonia has made little progress towards meeting European Union criteria in strengthening the rule of law and respect for human rights according ...
Fifty years ago this next month (December 1965), with the urging of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the rubber stamp approval of President Lyndon Johnson and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, the United States Air Force started secretly spraying the forests of Laos with a deadly herbicide that was known as Agent Orange.
Operation Ranch Hand, whose motto was “Only We Can Prevent Forests” (a shameful takeoff of Smokey the Bear’s admonition), was a desperate, costly and ultimately futile effort to make it a little harder for the National Liberation Front soldiers from North Vietnam to join and supply their comrades-in-arms in the south. Both the guerilla fighters in the south and the NLF army had been fighting to liberate Vietnam from the exploitive colonial domination from foreign nations such as imperial France (that began colonizing Vietnam in 1874), then Japan (during WWII), then the United States (since France’s ...
Many articles in the US press have speculated at length in an attempt to define a new ideology called “Putinism.” The pieces serve as an attempt to fit Putin into an outdated Cold War narrative, as if some new ideology in the Russian Federation is playing the role that Marxism-Leninism once played in the Soviet Union, though the current Russian constitution forbids this.
The notable leaders of history are rarely ideologues. History judges people mainly by what they achieve, not what they write or say. As Chinese President Xi Jinping recently put it: “The worth of any plan is in its implementation.”
Putin has continued to play a specific role in the history of his country and the world. It is in his role as a leader of Russia that we can really define “Putinism.” However, when examining his achievements, Putin’s role and methods are not so different from those utilized by ...
From Brussels we hear here in Serbia, the signing of the Individual Partnership Action Plan (IPAP) is a "new phase in relations with NATO." While Ivica Dacic and Bratislav Gasic issue PR proclamations applauding themselves though, many Serbians are dissenting. Here's the other side of the coin.
The dictatorial government that rules Serbia is leading our people into ruin. Slowly but surely we leave military neutrality and become just another puppet state, a pawn in the greater game of western hegemony. We’re a puppet country with a puppet government. Unfortunately for us, the government can defend its argument that NATO membership was chosen by the vast majority of our people, but here with us, many are now ashamed to be Serbs.
On Wednesday, Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic and Defense Minister Bratislav Gašić signed the so-called IPAP, or the Individual Partnership Action Plan with NATO. It should be carved in stone here that ...
Macedonia is about to experience Democracy American Style. The nation’s misfortune is simple. It occupies strategic territory of keen interest to the United States and Russia.
“Russia’s Stroitransgaz said on Thursday it will build a gas pipeline across Macedonia, which could eventually be used as part of a route to supply Europe with Russian gas via Turkey”. Reuters, Mar 12
In January, Russia fired Ukraine as its natural gas transit for Europe. The pipeline across Ukraine was ideally positioned for this function. However, Ukraine’s practice of failing to pay for the natural gas it used and the outright hostility of the Kiev junta toward Russia were simply too much. Russia gave notice that the spigot would be turned off permanently in 2019. (Image: WikiCommons)
As an alternative to the Ukraine pipeline, Russia struck a deal with Turkey to sell it all the natural gas it wanted. In addition, Turkey agreed to put a ...
Since the end of the Cold War, the United States of America has systematically violated the prohibition against the threat or use of force contained in the UN Charter and the Kellogg Briand Pact. It has carved out a regime of impunity for its crimes based on its UN Security Council veto, non-recognition of international courts and sophisticated "information warfare" that undermines the rule of law with political justifications for otherwise illegal threats and uses of force.
Former Nuremberg prosecutor Benjamin B. Ferencz has compared current U.S. policy to the illegal German "preemptive first strike" policy for which senior German officials were convicted of aggression at Nuremberg and sentenced to death by hanging.
In 2002, the late U.S. Senator Edward Kennedy described post-September 11th U.S. doctrine as "a call for 21st century American imperialism that no other nation can or should accept." And yet the U.S. government has succeeded in assembling alliances ...
In Arabic TV interview, Labour’s ex-London mayor blames Israel for IS attacks in Europe and mass expulsion of Jews from Arab world, again claims Hitler supported Zionism
Former London mayor Ken Livingstone on Wednesday called the creation of Israel “fundamentally wrong,” and “a great catastrophe.” The existence of the Jewish state in the Middle East, he said, could ultimately lead to nuclear war.
“The creation of the state of Israel was fundamentally wrong, because there had been a Palestinian community there for 2,000 years,” Livingstone told an Arabic language TV station based in London, in a clip posted and translated by the watchdog MEMRI group.
“The creation of the state of Israel was a great catastrophe,” he repeated. “We should have absorbed the post-World War II Jewish refugees in Britain and America. They could all have been resettled, whereas 70 years later, the situation is still very tense, and there is potential for ...
EU leaders will meet in the Slovak capital on Sept. 16 to discuss the future of the organization. They will just meet, talk, have lunch, take pictures and say goodbye to each other. Once again nothing will happen, nothing will change. The fact is the EU leaders really do not know what actions to take but need to portray activity. Europeans are beginning to get used to the uselessness and ineffectiveness of such pathetic and costly events.
Meanwhile, the most vital issues on the European agenda are Great Britain's leaving, regional security, and immigration. Today it is absolutely clear, that Brexit won't dominate the upcoming European Union summit (http://www.politico.eu/article/angela-merkel-brexit-wont-dominate-bratislava-summit-european-union-priorities-agenda-estonia/), though the other two topics will be in the center of attention. Now it is difficult to say from what point of view the leaders are going to touch upon them because they directly depend on London's decision to leave the EU.
The conditionality of the Soviet Union’s agreement to allow East Germany to be taken by West Germany and for the Cold War to end, was that NATO would not expand «one inch to the east». This was the agreement that was approved by the Russian President of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, a great man and a subsequent hero to democrats around the world.
He agreed then to end the Soviet Union and abandon communism and thus to end the entire Cold War; he agreed to this because he had been promised that NATO would expand not «one inch to the east,» or «one inch eastward,» depending upon how the promise was translated and understood — but it has the same meaning, no matter how it was translated. He trusted American President George Herbert Walker Bush, whose friend and Secretary of State James Baker made this promise to Gorbachev. With this ...
The Arctic has in recent weeks become a focal point of geopolitical tensions between Russia and the United States. Given the present rate of global warming, scientists anticipate that the region will be ice-free by the summer of 2030. It is believed to contain a large portion of the world’s undiscovered oil and gas reserves. It is also an important maritime route, one that is increasingly accessible due to the thawing of its ice cover.
The Arctic is one of the most resource-rich regions of the world. According to a study commissioned by the US government, some 30 percent of unexplored natural gas reserves and 13 percent of undiscovered oil and gas condensate are located there. Only Russia has a greater supply of raw materials.
The Northeast Passage, which extends beyond the Arctic, is regarded as an alternate sea route from Europe to Asia to the southern route, which runs via the ...
Contestation between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism
Is Boko Haram a CIA Covert Op to Divide and Conquer Africa?
An Alternative View Of The Destruction Of The Former Yugoslavia In The 1990s
A Hybrid War To Break The Balkans?
The ‘Post-Truth’ Mainstream Media
The Strategy of the Intermarium
Hiroshima, Vietnam, Cuba: A Hegemonic Power Never Says Sorry…
Imperialism And The Politics Of Torture: Towards A Global Secret Police Force
America’s Culture War Mercenaries
War Crimes: Agent Orange, Monsanto, Dow Chemical and Other Ugly Legacies of the Vietnam War
“Putinism” In American History: Lincoln, Roosevelt, And The Fight Against ISIS
A Serb View Of Partnership Action Plan With NATO
Democracy American Style – Macedonia
Appeal from U.S. to World: Help Us Resist U.S. Crimes
Ken Livingstone: Creation of Israel was ‘a great catastrophe’
EU: talking instead of doing
How America Double-Crossed Russia and Shamed West
US Imperialism And The New Race To The Arctic