Another of one of … These… things

Really, ranking presidents is (1) a rather narrow and limiting way to look at the Presidency, and (2) an even narrower and more limiting way to look at our nation’s history. None the less, these things pop up, and are somewhat infectious.

According to Newsweek, the 10 (11) Worst Presidents in American histrory:

…according to Newsweek:

1 – James Buchanan
2 – Warren G Harding
3 – Andrew Johnson
4 – Franklin Pierce
5 – Millard Fillmore
6 – John Tyler
7 – Ulysses S Grant
8 – William Harrison
9 (tie) – Herbert Hoover
9 (tie) – Richard Nixon
10 – Zachary Taylor

I notice that we have settled into a moment where previous entries into title of “Worst” — Ulysseus Grant and then Warren Harding — have been pushed aside and we’ve come to James Buchanan. Grant is understandable as our narrative on Reconstruction has been changed — away from Birth of a Nation — and his use of force to crush avenging KKKers from stomping away the rights of the newly freed slaves no longer purely look like an infringement on states’ rights or a radical social engineering move.

Harding I’ve always thought of as the most underrated president we’ve had, not because he was spectacularly good but because he doesn’t strike me as awful. A moderate amount of corruption in Teapot Dome, I suppose, but — he took office with a 12 percent unemployment rate — he left office with a 3 percent unemployment rate. He balanced the budget. And he freed the political prisoner Eugene Debs. Perhaps one can view him as fostering the false prosperity and mirage that pushed disaster out of reach to — as it turned out — Hoover and Roosevelt — but if you go by that reasoning, Coolidge should be in the basement with him.

Hoover: If Coolidge had been the president at the time of the crash, and the presidency was his if he had wanted it, the logical man the nation would have turned to to guide us through the Great Depression — the man who averted Europe from a humanitarian disaster in World War One, who did the same with the Great Louisiana Flood of 1927, who was seriously courted for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1920 and had FDR’s approval…

Which is something to consider in contemplating any president.

Richard Nixon’s brief honey-moon upward in esteen — a by-product of his attempted re-habilitation as wise foreign policy sage and goodwill upon death– seems to have ended. Nixon probably did the nation a favor in helping destroy some misgotten naivete and fostering a healthy cynicism in the public.

If someone could tell me the substantial difference between the administrations of Harrison and Garfield that allows one to make this list and not the other, I would like to know it.

There is a shadow looming over this Newsweek article.  The current occupant of the White House is said to be obsessed with his legacy — which is a topic that creeps its way down at the end of every second term presidency.  Hence, the contours of Bush’s Presidential Library and the search for friendly historians — and Think Tank related to “The Freedom Agenda”.  Whatever else it is…

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