I’m not sure I can find one that can compete. Between the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives due to malice and malpractice, to poisoning our public health system, ruining education, diving the nation, increasing racism, and now insurrection. Is there anyone that comes close?
Buchanan is usually the default guy, but his failure to prevent the civil war was more about incompetence and an unwillingness to accept responsibility beyond a narrow reading of his office’s authorities. I’d say refusing an election and egging on an insurrectionist mob exceed Buchanan’s failures.
I also think about presidents whose policies had a higher body count (e.g. Jackson, trail of tears). As with Dubya it becomes a question of weighing the harm of the policies versus the question whether those policies were at least arrived at in a manner consistent with our democracy. The latter point, however legit, is of course cold comfort to a dead body or its widow or orphan.
Anyway I don’t think any prior president has so clearly violated his oath of office as Trump has.
My first thought is hell yes, my second thought is some crazy shit has gone down in our history that is very easy to forget. Also take into account the 24x7 news cycle now and the unrelenting views it delivers. So much more grist for the mill. If you applied that same lens to all the past presidents I wonder how well some of them would have fared.
He’s the worst, easily, and probably the worst office holder in American history, from dog catcher on up. There is no question about any of this. DJT has destroyed everything he’s ever touched, his entire life. Giving him political power was one of the greatest fiascoes in the history of the country.
He’s definitely the worst in my lifetime. The only positive comment I can give to Trump is that at least he didn’t start any new wars, but that’s about it. His non-response to COVID probably got a couple hundred thousand more people killed than otherwise, he gave succor and approval to Nazis, and he fomented an insurrection on the US Capitol.
If you trotted this out proposition online back in 2018 or so, you’d generally get a couple lines of pushback. One was, “Trump may be terrible, but at least he didn’t preside over the deaths of hundreds of thousands like W did.” The other was, “Trump may be terrible, but at least he didn’t preside over an insurrection against the US government like Buchanan did.”
Those arguments have not aged well.
The body count for the Trail of Tears is generally reckoned to be less than 10,000.
We can debate how many COVID deaths are directly due to Trump’s mismanagement, and how more are due to Trump’s deliberately encouraging COVID-spreading behavior in his followers. But more than 317,000 Americans have died, and I would argue it’s fair to lay at least 10,000 (or 3%) of those deaths at his feet.
I think the worst, probably.
The two who compete with him are Franklin Pierce and James Buchanan.
Pierce was warned, almost constantly by leaders of both parties , that if he didn’t hold Congress to heel, that events were speeding past the point of no return from a legislative/political standpoint. Henry Clay and Daniel Webster were both dead (within months of one another) and Pierce was essentially “I don’t even know whom I’d call upon to help with this.” So instead, he chose to not only ignore the building problems, but also encouraged them by emboldening southern states with talk about state sovereignty and whatnot.
For Buchanan, not only did he continue Pierce’s laissez-faire “States are gonna do what they’re gonna do” nonsense, he also ignored the most dire warnings. He heard from everywhere that there was going to be some sort of organized insurrection from the south and he had better prepare this country’s army for that, to put it down. And Buchanan did nothing. Had no idea what to do. Never should’ve been President – he got nominated because he was a diplomat serving abroad during the previous administrations, so was thus “untainted” by Pierce or Fillmore presidencies. Had he brought the military to strength and fortified it, it’s possible that the Civil was would’ve been a rather shorter affair. And even as states began seceding after Lincoln’s election but before his inauguration, Buchanan’s policy was “Well, this is going to be quite the problem for the incoming administration to figure out. But not my problem.”
I’m not personally comfortable assigning a Covid body count in the hundreds of thousands directly at Trump’s feet, considering the variables, the difference between “killing” and “failing to save,” and the failures of Covid containment even in countries that had better leadership and states (like mine, California) that pursued aggressive lockdown as early as March. This is not to dispute your point directly, but to say that I personally have not been able to assess the variables with that much clarity.
Yes, if you can put X Covid corpses on Trump, then that puts him over Jackson and maybe Bush (and maybe… I dunno, who gets the 100k dead Filipinos? McKinley? TR?).
My larger point is that there is a distinction between being a peril to a democratic system itself, versus doing evil within a democratic system, and I personally have not with absolutely certainly ironed out the relative goodness and badness of each. Generally I value the integrity of the system more than the ‘things done within the system,’ but as I noted above, I am not a corpse as a result of decisions taken by a democratically legitimate government, so I mistrust my own valuation.
Honestly, it’s sometimes frustrating to have these discussions here because people like you pounce immediately with the snark. So I’ll bow out now.
The problem is Trump politicized mask wearing and because of this the disease proliferated way more than it would have, creating rabid, willing superspreaders. Not only is the death count higher, but the economic travesty is worse as a result. And trump’s rhetoric was mirrored across the world to other right-wing groups. So not only did Trump hurt our country, he hurt a lot of others as well.
I get all that. I just think assigning a Covid body count to Trump is a complicated exercise and I have not personally done the math, weighting for my own personal valuations of the ethical import of failing to save someone, or misinforming someone who still could have informed themselves, versus, by contrast, actually dropping bombs on people or ordering people off their own land, etc. It is however probably true that considerably more Americans are dead than would have been dead had Hillary Clinton been president during the pandemic.
Trump is probably the worst in my lifetime because he combines the immorality of Nixon and the proud, defiant ignorance of GWB; a deadly combination. Nixon was bad, but not an idiot about actual policy implications. Reagan was bad because he was a perfect empty vessel for the right-wing agenda. GWB was bad because he was a dunce, a profoundly stupid and incurious man who blundered into horrific abuses and the worst foreign policy disaster of the post-Vietnam era. Trump is, quite simply, an authoritarian kleptocrat in the Putin vein, without the slightest bit of wisdom or intellect or education or disposition to temper his worst impulses.
It’s an interesting thing. I’ve lived through JFK, LBJ, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Regan, Bush 1, Clinton, Bush 2, Obama, Trump. None of the Republican presidents were worth a damn. I suppose you could say that Ford wasn’t terrible and Bush 1 wasn’t terrible, but both of them covered up for presidents who broke the law and either pardoned them or pardoned the people who covered for them.
None of the Democrats, on the other hand, were anything other than either decent men or decent to very good presidents, or both. JFK and LBJ were flawed men who managed to overcome their upbringing and bias to end up on the right side of the civil rights movement. LBJ genuinely tried to eradicate poverty, though his legacy was of course Vietnam. Carter is among the most decent men who ever served. Clinton is a personally flawed figure who nonetheless possesses genuine empathy for the unfortunate and thus did a good job in the office. Obama was the best president of my lifetime.
Beyond all that, there’s the damage to our relationships with foreign countries, pulling out of treaties, etc.
Beyond that, the damage done to our planet by setting back environmental policies, selling off national park lands, etc. is incalculable.
Beyond that, there’s the radicalization off millions of Americans and the normalization of hatred and lies.
I don’t see how this is a competition.
One president fomented the end of the Republic itself for his own benefit, not giving a damn about the fallout, so, it’s not a hard question in 2021. Even from an outsider who generally cares more about foreign effects and has little love for most of them, at least the facade of caring for democracy above all else was there.
As to being no war, it’s easy to come to the conclusion that doing nothing was both more expensive and cost more lives than any war (well, I lie, if you believe war with Russia/China/… was a realistic prospect, please see a psychiatrist), even without expecting much competence. And, again, the foreign effects are tremendous from the Q nonsense.
The answer is obvious on this forum. But what I don’t know is did Buchanan, Pierce, have a big base of supporters who thought they were among the best. Because Trump has that.
They couldn’t mobilize as quickly as a Twitter mob, but Franklin Pierce’s Soapbox Cryers could gin up a riot with the best of them.
The answer to that is “Lord no.”
Both Pierce and Buchanan were compromise candidates chosen by the Democrats. In 1852, southern Democrats who controlled the party were worried initially about General Winfield Scott, the Whig candidate. The firebrands of the Calhoun wing wanted to keep the Northern Democrats with them, too. So they chose Franklin Pierce, who had been a bit of a war hero in the Mexican American war as their candidate (Pierce was from New Hampshire). But even while voting him in, the vast majority of Southern Democrats hated him.
And in 1856, Buchanan was seen as the ultimate moderate/outsider by the Dems. They knew they needed border states at least, if not true northern states to ensure that Fremont from the newly created anti-slavery Republican Party didn’t win. And sure enough, Buchanan delivered Illinois, Indiana, Missouri and even Pennsylvania.
But even as he was being elected, most Democrats even within the party had no idea who James Buchanan even was. And within a few months, Southern Democrats either hated or loved Buchanan, depending on where they stood on secession…but those who loved him loved him because his ineptitude was going to all but ensure the splintering of the Union.
There is hope! We can still possibly look forward to a worse president in the future! And the abolishment of the office entirely in favor of Supreme Homeland Protector or whatever!
It’s honestly too soon to weigh in on a presidency for comparison purposes. Case in point: I thought better of Clinton’s presidency in 2001 than I do now. Policies need time to gestate, the consequences, the bennies, aren’t always readily apparent.
YakAttack’s version of this is funnier: