Worst President Ever, Revisited

|

Richard Reeves goes to the capital of Our Oldest Enemy to badmouth the President of the USA:

"[James Buchanan] was the guy who in 1861 passed on the mess to the first Republican president, Abraham Lincoln," Reeves writes from Paris. "Buchanan set the standard, a tough record to beat. But there are serious people who believe that George W. Bush will prove to do that, be worse than Buchanan. I have talked with three significant historians in the past few months who would not say it in public, but who are saying privately that Bush will be remembered as the worst of the presidents."

Fleshing out the speculation, Reeves draws on a poll of historians at History News Network. Unfortunately, that poll is nearly two years old, so the only real news is that it's getting easier to take a public swipe at Bush. While I'm happy to see that, I'll believe he's all washed up when he actually washes up. All this talk about what a drag Bush is on the Republican party is a lot of codology until it's actually put to the test. If (as everybody seems to expect) the GOP loses the House in 2006, and even if (as a few people seem to expect, and if it's even numerically possible) it loses the Senate in 2006, you're still not even looking at a loss, just a regression to the mean: So far, he's picked up seats in an off-year election, and picked up seats again in his re-election (which he won by much wider margin than he won/lost in 2000). If that's a loser, well then as the ever-youthful Tim Matheson | some other guy in Animal House | or maybe it was Matheson said, Let me tell you the story of another loser.

Back in aught-three, Jesse Walker considered the question of Bush's worst-ever ranking, concluding that there's still plenty of room at the bottom.

NEXT: What About Aliens That Pretend to be Legislators?

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. I don’t know who the worst is, but I think Nixon made the 2 best (difficult) decisions made by 20th century Presidents:

    1) China
    2) Resigning

  2. you’re still not even looking at a loss, just a regression to the mean: So far, he’s picked up seats in an off-year election, and picked up seats again in his re-election.

    Yeah but popularity is not factored on a statistical basis. Like they say in Hollywood, “You’re only as good as your last picture.”

    But assuming things go as you suspect they might. What do you say about the “loser factor” regarding a president who “picks up” a seats only to lose them within few years while he’s still president – with 3 years still to go, no less.

    To be fair to Bush in that regard, his whole damn party has pretty much shown its collective ass over the past year. Bush may not be helping his party, but they’re not helping him very much, either.

  3. I am ashamed to say that the most surprising part of your post, for me, was the fact that Richard Reeves is still alive.

    Ashamed.

    Anon

  4. Actually, given the gerrymandering of districts for incumbent protection, it’s very possible that Speaker Hastert could survive a 1994-style surge by the Democrats.

  5. But there are serious people who believe that George W. Bush will prove to do that, be worse than Buchanan

    Yep, and they’re all Dems.

  6. If you look at the percentages rather than absolute values of property destroyed and people killed, FDR and Lincoln were far worse than Bush. When Bush starts deporting U.S. Congressmen and imprisoning hundreds of Americans without trial then will he pass Lincoln as worst U.S. president to date.

  7. Being the worst president ever would be quite an accomplishment. I’m afraid the unfortunate Bush, in that regard as in all others, is doomed to be a mere mediocrity.

  8. The more I’ve read, the more I gotta lean toward Wilson for “worst president ever.” But hell, for libertarians it’s a horserace among many for the esteemed tile.

  9. “…for the esteemed title.”

  10. Do we even have a race for best president? (Harrison doesn’t count, you ghouls.)

  11. I always heard Harding named as the worst, but his Secretary of the Treasury (Andrew Mellon?) was the man, so I don’t know.

    Like they said at the end of the article, Bush’s future is uncertain, and not only because he’s got a couple years to take things in a different direction; we need time to evaluate what he’s already done. If Afghanistand and Iraq pan out, especially Iraq, Bush could be forgiven for the most part because a stable ally in the middle east would be worth its weight in gold (and countries probably weigh TONS 😉 ).

    I think history will be fairly lenient on the president himself, because he was the guy to face 9/11. That’s up there with the Soviet Union collapsing in terms of political significance; virtually all of our foreign policy at this moment is influenced by september 11th. It’s tough to fairly hold a man up to a standard where no standard existed.

  12. All this talk of another worst President is a little weird while Carter still strides the planet.

    Also, there are serious people who believe that Richard Reeves has sounded like a shrill party hack for about 15 years now.

  13. Popularity isn’t what historians are going to look at. They’re going to look at the record deficit, erosion of civil liberties, attempts to replace science with “Christianity”, growing income inequality, destruction of the environment, loss of respect for the United States among foreign governments and populations, corruption, excessive secrecy, gosh, I could just go on and on….

  14. peachy-I’ve always thought that Washington would win any contest of best President in a walk, more for what he didn’t do than for anything he did. There’s an awful lot of politicians who could learn a thing or two about knowing when to leave things the hell alone from him.

  15. Ted, how could forget “debt?”

    john bragg, it would take some Democratic victories in districts that were gerrymandered to be safe Republican seats for the Dems to seize the House. However, that might actually happen.

    TWC, You should look at some polling that breaks down Bush’s approval by party – he’s not only in the toilet with Dems, but with independents as well.

  16. Recall Dubya’s daddy was criticized for not having that “vision thang”? Well Dubya has a handy-dandy vision designed especially for him by God. But the trouble with a vision is that, once you have one, you have an overwhelming urge to summons enough power–which ain’t easy in a democracy–to put your vision into effect. That means averting your eyes to corruption here and there.
    The other trouble with a vision is that it might not be a good vision. Maybe the Devil tainted it while God wasn’t looking?

  17. Ruthless, that was brilliant.

  18. Meaningful evaluations of this sort cannot be made until years after the fact. It’s a pointless circle jerk to do otherwise, but it does fuel the blogosphere.

  19. Tarran touches on a key point. By a number of dead, abuse of power, standard FDR and Abe stand out as the worst. But time and again, historians identify those two as the very best. If history is harsh to GW it can only mean he wasn?t that bad. There?s no question in my mind however, he is the absolute worst president of my lifetime (and that includes LBJ).

    As far as picking up or losing seats goes, I don?t find any significance there at all. The alternative to voting for true believer neo-con Republicans is wanna-be Republican-lite Democrats.

    Oh and he won by much wider margin than he won/lost in 2000
    The hell? As Oppenheimer used to say, ?While one is not perfectly zero, it can be effectively regarded …?

  20. As much as I am not a fan of W, even I would have a hard time rating him as “worst”. Just off the top of my head, I can pick three who were at least as bad – Lincoln, Wilson, and FDR. In fact, considering these three, nothing Bush has done is new under the sun.

    Lied the country into a war? All three did that.

    Run roughshod over the Constitution? 3 checks.

    Expand the scope and size of the federal government? 3 checks.

    And that’s without even thinking about the more recent tyrants in chief.

  21. quasibill,

    What lie did FDR tell to get the country into war?

  22. If you’re interested in this sort of thing, there was a lengthy debate over at Brad DeLong’s last month (check the link). Naturally, there was a lot of people arguing for Bush, but there was some good give and take.

  23. quasibill,

    Lied the country into a war? All three did that.

    In what way?

    How did Lincoln lie us into the Civil War? What lie led to the CSA attacking Ft. Sumter

    How did Wilson lie us into WWI? What lie led the Germans into declaring unlimited sumbarine warfare or the Zimmerman telegram?

    How did FDR lie us into WWII? What lie led the Japanese to attack Pearl Harbor and the Germans & Italians to declare war on the U.S.?

  24. Anyway, like I always state of every President who is still in office, its unfair evaluate their efforts in comparison to long dead Presidents until some historical distance has been placed between the President and his Presidency. People are just too prone to base their opinions on their political passions, rather than sound reason, when judging a sitting President’s historical nature.

  25. Joe,

    FDR’s lie was that the Japanese attack was unprovoked…

    Of course, that’s not to say that I think he expected the attack on Pearl harbor. I have a book titled “The Forgotten Fleet” by a Rear Admiral Winslow, which details what sounds suspiciously like FDR’s attempts to trigger a Gulf of Tonkin incident by sending a curiously underdefended spy-ship to sail ostentatiously in Japanese waters.

    Illinois Legistlature,

    Lincoln’s lie was to the CSA, when he claimed that he would not resupply For Sumter but would instead evacuate it. Instead he resupplied it so that it could continue to levy taxes on ships headed into the CSA. Lincoln’s Secretary of War famously wrot in his diary shortly beofre th efiring on Fort Sumter that the Lincoln Administration had decided to have a war, and that all that was left was to “maneuver [the CSA] into firing the first shot.”

    Wilson’s lie was that we were neutral when in fact we were supplying the English with munitions and military assistance. There is some evidence that the Zimmerman telegram was a forgery.

  26. quasibill,
    I like what you said, but I’m not much good at helping you defend it except to say this: Ranking will always be subjective whether we’re ranking Dubya or Julius Caesar.
    I mean historians have their built-in biases.

  27. tarran,

    You have to stretch the word “provoke” pretty far to apply it to the Japanse attack on Pearl Harbor. Roosevelt used the word in its common, accepted sense. The fact that he did not bend over backwards to claim that the Japanse had a grievance does not make this statement a lie.

  28. I could add to tarran’s reply, but he hit the high points.

    Okay, I can’t resist on FDR – if some foreign country were to block our access to oil, while at the same time covertly supply men and material to one of our enemies, would we consider it an act of war? Would we just sit back and not act against such a country?

    If not, why should we have been surprised by Japan’s actions?

    As for Wilson, he won re-election on the theme that “he kept us out of the war,” and then promptly did everything possible to get us into the war. Wilson was completely in thrall to eastern industrialist, most importantly Bethlehem Steel, which was making a killing off of the Brits and French in war material.

    Also remember that the Lusitania was carrying more munitions than people, and that the Zimmerman telegram, even if authentic, was nothing more than what we were already doing, and in fact was truly pathetic (note that we were already in a state of undeclared border warfare with the Mexicans).

  29. So in other words, Lincoln didn’t “lie his country into war.” He told them the truth about why he was going to war. When people complain that “Bush lied,” the statement is meant to be understood as having the words “…to us” on the end.

  30. I’m with Hak on this one. Any time someone says “George Bush is the Worst President Ever!” I like to say, “Excellent! Since you must be thoroughly versed in the histories of all the presidents in order to make that claim so confidently, please compare and contrast the policies and administrations of Martin Van Buren, William McKinley, and George W. Bush, for my education.” Just to see the blank look on their face, you know.

  31. quasibill, countries refuse to trade with us, while trading with countries that were hostile to us, all the time. It’s not friendly, but it’s not war, either. If we had attacked Saudi Arabia during the oil crisis, we would have been the aggressor, not them. Saying “we should not have been surprised” by Japan’s attack is not the same as saying that attack was justified, or that it was unprovoked.

    Some people can be “provoked” to a fight by insulting their momma. Other people can only be provoked by punching them in the nose. The law recognizes the latter type of provocation, but not the former.

    Either way, the statement was not a lie, and as the Godfather demonstrates, everyone was perfectly aware of the blockade and the mounting hostilities, not there was no deceit on Roosevelt’s part.

  32. “quasibill, countries refuse to trade with us, while trading with countries that were hostile to us, all the time”

    Um, I don’t disagree, but that wasn’t what happened. We blocked their access to oil. It wasn’t that we wouldn’t trade with them, we actively blocked others from doing it. So your first paragraph, to steal a phrase of yours, is useless.

    And of course, you completely ignored (as you tend to with inconvenient facts) that we were supplying the Chinese with not only material, but men. Let me ask you, did you have a problem with us declaring war on Afghanistan? If not, you shouldn’t have a problem with the Japanese declaring war on us. In both cases, the ‘victim’ was harboring and supporting actors that were at war with the ‘aggressor’.

    “Either way, the statement was not a lie, and as the Godfather demonstrates, everyone was perfectly aware of the blockade and the mounting hostilities, not there was no deceit on Roosevelt’s part.”

    Except the part where Roosevelt was claiming that he was trying to avoid war, when he did everything he could to provoke it. Maybe that’s not a lie to you, but then you better not be saying Bush lied, because the evidence against him is even weaker.

    And, as with all revisionist history, the fact that some knew the truth does not mean that the majority of the public didn’t have a different view. I.e. just because many disbelieved the administration’s claims about WMDs in Iraq, doesn’t mean that a majority of the country didn’t believe them. Or better yet, the fact that we know for a fact Saddam wasn’t involved with 9/11 doesn’t change the fact that some massive portion of the population believed that he was in the run-up to the invasion.

  33. Perhaps if I modify “lied” to “manipulated”?

    As Clinton and Bush have shown, it is awfully difficult to demonstrate that someone “lied,” as you can always parse what the meaning of “is” is.

    So in the interest of avoiding that quagmire, I’ll modify my statement and say “manipulated.”

  34. I just love how so many people on this site dislike FDR and Lincoln. Hehehe!

    And joe, it makes me incredibly nervous when I agree with you. Right now, I’m pretty nervous. 🙂

  35. quasibill, don’t misunderstand me. I’m not trying to assert that the innocent United States was attacked for no reason other than Japanese evil. I’m taking exception to your description that Roosevelt’s use of the word “unprovoked” amounts to a lie. There are many degrees of provocation (the Serbs consider the presence of Albanians on land that Albanians have lived on for centuries to be a provocation, for example). For Roosevelt to use this word when describing the Japanese attack was certainly an effort to cast the conflict on favorable terms, but it was a true statement in the sense that the we did not attack Japan first, and he made no attempt to hide the actions that we took that Japan objected to – he was simply not casting them as provocations. Since their degree of provocativeness is a matter of opinion, his statement of opinion cannot be fairly cast as a lie.

    Also, the American public certainly knew about the oil and steel blockades, and certainly did not consider them to be acts of war.

  36. quasibill,

    I’ll agree that FDR manipulated the hell out of the situation, but not that he lied about why we went to war.

  37. If (as everybody seems to expect) the GOP loses the House in 2006, and even if (as a few people seem to expect, and if it’s even numerically possible) it loses the Senate in 2006, you’re still not even looking at a loss, just a regression to the mean: So far, he’s picked up seats in an off-year election, and picked up seats again in his re-election (which he won by much wider margin than he won/lost in 2000).

    I’ve never bought into this type of analysis, nor understood why so many others attribute Congressional seat gains or losses to the President; for me it’s a form of hero-worship, or fetishizing of the office of the POTUS, and vast over estimation of His powers.

    In Bush’s case, the GOP gains are just the byproduct of the same berzerk, white-trash momentum that swept Dubya into office in the first place. He neither created nor assisted that momentum. In fact, he just kind of sat there, looking dumb.

  38. I’m still reading that bio of George C. Marshall – apparently, he was sent to China as ambassador – and I’m really struck by how differrent FDR’s behavior in the runup to the war was from Bush’s.

    FDR was determined not to take a divided country to war; Bush did all he could to divide the country over issues of war and security throughout his first term.

    To this end, FDR deferred to the antiwar opposition, even to the point where it harmed our military capacity on the eve of what he knew would be a massive war, because he wanted to avoid having a partisan divide while the troops were in the field; Bush carried out a strategy of using the Iraq War and the War on Terror as wedge issues for the purpose of partisan electoral advantage.

    FDR pursued means short of declaring war and bringing main military force to bear to protect our security, such as escorting merchant ships; Bush ran roughshod over the Blix team even as – no, BECAUSE – they were in the midst of demonstrating that war was not necessary to resolve the threat of Iraqi WMDs.

    FDR did not start the war until there was deep, genuine, broad support for going to war – he waited until the people came to support the war on their own; when Bush went to war, less than half the country wanted him to, and counted on the “rally round the flag” effect, rather than a genuinely supportive public, to carry the country through the war.

  39. It’s interesting how some folks have use the relative volume of people killed as a measure of FDR & Lincoln being worse than Bush.

    Excepting, for a moment, the fact that most libertarians and Republicans despise FDR for the New Deal, death rates as an indicator don’t make much sense.

    Lincoln provides a few distinct pluses that (IMHO) redeem him. Preserving the union was the biggest. Arguably, preventing America from becoming another Europe full of squabbling mini-countries was probably a good thing with profound pluses in terms of liberty and freedom of expression for the largest number of people. Add to that his ability to see possibilities down the road and his willingness to pick people he disliked for key political offices are what made him great.

    Few can argue he took the idea of the Union seriously and worked to protect the South AFTER the war.

    And how can challenging eslavement of human beings be anything more than a noble thing? I know there’s a lot of stuff out about whether or not Lincoln was truly anti-slavery. But since he became the first president from a party largely forged in the abolitionist movement and he’s on record vilifying slavery, I’m not going to slice that one either way.

    As for FDR, uniting America around the cause of fighting 3 rapacious states of nationalist fascist/empires was a bad thing? And since the stage was largely set for the huge economic and technological booms that followed, I think the Anti-FDR and Anti-Lincoln types pretty much prove why the LP can’t get a foothold in American politics.

  40. The amount of WWII revisionism here is making my head spin:

    Yo, guys, have you ever read about Japanese expansionist trends post Russo-Japanese war? A good analogy is that the Japanese had “manifest destiny” style (not occupational, but certainly sphere of influence) designs on the entire Pacific Rim. The US Pacific fleet was the last obstacle in this plan.

    Look at the 35 year trend of Japanese activity post 1905 and Pearl Harbor makes a lot of sense. They were methodically executing a plan to dominate the Pacific. The oil blockade stuff is trivial.

    Incidentally, Joe’s nuance in defending FDR’s use of “unprovoked” is a scream given his ironclad assertions of W. and company’s motivations re: The Middle East.

  41. Well, joe, that certainly is a novel way of determining what is an act of war – if the aggressing country doesn’t think it is, then it isn’t! Great! That should solve a lot of problems…

  42. Jason,

    Yes, Japan had been working on this plan for some time. They invaded China and many Pacific Islands well before Pearl Harbor.

    That hardly takes away from Joe’s critique/comparison of FDR’s approach to Dubya’s.

  43. I’ll agree that FDR manipulated the hell out of the situation, but not that he lied about why we went to war.

    joe, on that basis I can’t say I know for sure that Shrub “lied us into war”, but he sure massaged what evidence there was to get the results he wanted which is pretty much the same as “manipulated the hell out of the situation”. The fact that our involvement in WWII may have been justified does not alter the fact that a lot of shenanigans occurred to get us there (not to mention that a lot of good Americans were slandered as “enemy sympathizers”). The results of this war remain to be seen, and while I opposed it many people whom I respect support it for reasons they still presume to be valid (and they are on both sides of the political divide).

  44. Quasibill,

    We blockaded Japan’s access to oil for a number of reasons, not the least of which was it’s invasion of China and the rise of militarist leadership that threatend our own access to oil and a host of other natural resources.

  45. FDR was determined not to take a divided country to war; Bush did all he could to divide the country over issues of war and security throughout his first term.

    That statement betrays a bias. FDR was one of the most divisive presidents ever and the fact that you don’t think so simply demonstrates your agreement with his policies. Bushbots will demonstrate the same prejudice.

  46. “The US Pacific fleet was the last obstacle in this plan. ”

    And why was it in our interest to be such? What business was it of ours? What about such a situation had anything to do with defending the country?

    “And how can challenging eslavement of human beings be anything more than a noble thing”

    Well, this is a large subject, so it is literally impossible to address all of it in this forum, but this is a pretty good answer – “why don’t you ask the people that Lincoln enslaved to fight the war?”

    “profound pluses in terms of liberty and freedom of expression”

    That’s profoundly funny. Really. To say that about a man who did more to damage the first amendment (imprisoning newspaper editors who were critical of him without trial) is either the height of sarcasm, or the height of ignorance.

  47. I still consider Andrew Johnson the all-time worst. Anyone with me?

  48. I’m surprised to find myself agreeing with joe about so much in this thread, but the whole “Pearl Harbor was justified” meme is pretty ridiculous. Yes, we stopped the oil trade with them. Boo hoo hoo for the poor little Imperial Japanese Army, just sitting there peacefully, minding their own business, when the big bad US decided to choke them for no reason at all. Try asking a Chinese or a Korean what they think.

  49. “We blockaded Japan’s access to oil for a number of reasons, not the least of which was it’s invasion of China and the rise of militarist leadership that threatend our own access to oil and a host of other natural resources.”

    Well, except for the part that they threatened our access to oil and a host of other natural resources, I agree. But then, what part of national defense has anything to do with the rise of militarism in a country on the other side of the planet or the invasion of a country on the other side of the planet?

  50. Isaac,

    Now, now…that’s not exactly true or accurate.

    Yes, has was devisive amongst some folks prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor, though I’d disagree with the monicker “one of the MOST devisive ever.” ‘Never’,’always’ and ‘most’ are pretty overused words these days, often without any facts to back them up so I would like to see you provide some.

    But Joe is fairly accurate regarding his tackling that very problem with regards to building support for the war.

  51. what part of national defense has anything to do with the rise of militarism in a country on the other side of the planet

    Figuratively speaking, I suppose it’s the part where you see a train coming straight for you and you wish to stop it.

    And when you see 2 trains coming at you from opposite directions, that would probably highten your desire to start doing something about it.

  52. How can anyone leave LBJ out of the mix, especially if Bush is mainly considered so terrible for his decisions re Iraq? Vietnam was a bigger mess full of bigger lies than Iraq will ever be. And it cost us far more than Iraq ever will in terms of American lives, domestic unrest, and world-stage credibility. It left the country split and shaken for decades. Vietnam was the biggest overall foreign policy disaster overseen by an American president this century. And then there’s the disastrous “war on poverty” and other domestic failures.

    LBJ gets honorable mention at the very least…
    nmg

  53. The House of Reps is extremely unpredictable right now. I doubt the Dems will be able to take it back, but I’m pretty sure they will close the gap.

    48% of the voting public went for John Kerry in the last election. While I understand that most of the people who visit this site are not huge Kerry fans, there are three things to remember about that number:

    1) It is the same percentage of the vote President Bush received in 2000.

    2) The views of said 48% have not changed, except for those who moved further to the left.

    3) Practically everyone in that 48% will feel at least somewhat motivated to vote in 2006, whereas a large chunk of Bush’s 51% is no doubt feeling apathetic, and a small but significant number have turned against him.

    This clearly spells trouble for W.

  54. I still consider Andrew Johnson the all-time worst. Anyone with me?

    Almost. He’s way up there on my list. I think “the worst ever” contains a lot of subjective baggage. Not to mention historical (hysterical?) perspective or lack thereof.

    madpad at December 7, 2005 10:57 AM

    Yes, joe is fairly accurate, I was merely trying to point out where he had missed the mark. 🙂

    Has anyone else noticed the irony that we have gotten into a discussion that involves FDR on Pearl Harbor Day (Lest We Forget).

  55. Oh, and yes, madpad, I agree that “‘Never’,’always’ and ‘most’ are pretty overused words these days” and I have really only tried to make the most general statements. Believe me there are plenty of candidates ahead of FDR for “worst prez ever” in my ranking.

    This clearly spells trouble for W.

    But unpopular is not the same as “worst ever”.

  56. “Figuratively speaking, I suppose it’s the part where you see a train coming straight for you and you wish to stop it.”

    Well, fantasy world speaking, sure. But in reality? Well, your scenario was about as probable as Gandalf materializing on the White House lawn.

    Neither the Germans, nor the Japanese, ever had any intention of colonizing the U.S. Both had a national policy that could trace its roots to “manifest destiny” and basically posited that they wanted to make their neighborhood safe for themselves and their economic interests.

    And even if they had such an ambition, it was literally impossible. Neither had the manpower or naval lift capability to support the logisitics such an invasion would require. And both Germany and Japan were bogged down in land wars they were never going to win on their own – the Nazis in Russia, the Japanese in China. Both regimes would have collapsed on their own due to endless war they were involved in.

    So I would say figuratively speaking about reality, and not fantasy, it had as much to do with national defense as our current fiasco in Iraq does. None. Actually, I think you can make a better case for the current fiasco…

  57. What I find ridiculous are people who create strawmen out of thin air. Prime example:

    “Boo hoo hoo for the poor little Imperial Japanese Army, just sitting there peacefully, minding their own business, when the big bad US decided to choke them for no reason at all. Try asking a Chinese or a Korean what they think.”

    Noone made this argument, as far as I can see. I certainly didn’t. However, I did state that if someone did to us what we did to the Japanese, we most certainly would consider it an act of war. To say that the attack was unprovoked, or that we weren’t expecting it, or even that our government wasn’t trying to provoke it is naivete, or worse.

    Do you honestly believe that if we didn’t stick our noses in there, that they would have attacked us?

    “Try asking a Chinese or a Korean what they think.”

    Completely irrelevant, but fine. Just as long as while you’re at it, you ask the Chinese whether they’re happier that we got involved and helped Mao come to power.

  58. Seems to me there are parallels to FDR leading us into a war against Germany because of the attack on Pearl Harbor by Japan, and Bush leading us into a war against Afganistan and Iraq due to an attack on TWC by Al Qaeda.
    Also, both made major decisions based on faulty intelligence; FDR giving the go-ahead to the A-bomb because they thought Germany was working on it; W going to war against Iraq because they thought Saddam had WMDs.

  59. Johnson was pretty bad, I guess. Though I largely see him as merely mediocre.

    Merkin Muffly is far weaker, though entertaining. Andrew Shepherd was pretty lame, too, although he got to nail Anette Benning in the Lincoln bedroom.

    My 3 favorite presidents have to be James Marshall, James Dale and Thomas J. Whitmore. Those guys are soooo cool!

  60. It takes time to judge the full effects of a President’s term. In 1863, they were saying just as bad of things about Lincoln as they are about Bush right now. You clowns get on here and whine about the Patriot Act being a threat to liberty, how about susupending habius for everyone, not just foreign jihadist dirtbags found on our soil? In 1966, the consensus was Johnson was the greatest President of the 20th Century next to FDR. Time has shown both of those assessments to be completely false. In 2000 Bill Clinton seemed like pretty significant figure for better or worse depending on your views. Five years on, he is placeholder President whose Presidency makes you wonder how or why such a mediocrity could have generated so much passion on both sides. Anyone who cares or knows anything about history ought to know better than to say anyone’s Presidency is worst this or the worst that without a few years to reflect on it and see the full effects of their administration.

    This is just a bunch of jackass lefty history professors writing polemics rather than history.

  61. um…

    it was tim matheson who delivered those lines.

    yup – just watched that scene. it was he.

  62. I have faith that when all is said and done, Bush will be regarded by history as an average President, perhaps even slightly above average. This will have nothing to do with the reality of any situation, but will reflect a tendency to whitewash any President’s various faults and missteps before putting their bio in the high school history books. College professors will rail about what a wretch he was, and very few people will listen to them. Fox News of the future will elect him as the second greatest President of all time (or first, if Reagan has been elevated to God-Emperor by then), and most of the viewing public will go along with what they’re told.

    Is there ANY President who doesn’t have under his belt a whole passle of acts that could qualify him as worst of all time? Maybe Washington, but he almost doesn’t even count at this point.

    And on a pseudo-related note, I don’t think Democratic gains in the upcoming elections are going to be nearly as dramatic as some people hope or expect. Isuppose at this point I don’t have faith in the America electorate rising up to rectify a bad situation. and as much as I joke about Fox News — from what I encounter, people who get their news elsewhere still harbor some degree of distrust for their source. People who get their news from Fox News — and there are a lot of them — take almost every word and manipulation from Fox as gospel.

  63. Quasibil,

    No disagreement that neither Germany or Japan – at that time – had the ability to invade America.

    But a forward thinking president would probably figure that having militaristic empires on either side of them would:

    A. Limit free travel in the seas, access to fish, access to trade and a host of other negative aspects. By capturing all of those natural resources and limiting travel, we would have been effectively cut off from large parts of the world.

    B. After that, invasion of Canada and/or Mexico would not have been impossible further boxing us in.

    C. Eventual technological progress might (and probably would) have lead to the ability to eventually invade or at least attack the U.S. Remember, they were working on an atomic bomb, too.

    Sorry, I think you’re on very weak ground here.

  64. hey! the shift key and comma have been discovered

  65. I’m curious — is there a real big group of anti-Lincoln libertarians? Every time “worst presidents” comes up, someone mentions Lincoln. Now, I agree that FDR sucks, and that puts me at odds with most Americans — but Abe Lincoln, for chrissake? Is this some Confederate-nostalgia bullshit? Or is there something I don’t understand about libertarianism that means I should hate Lincoln?

  66. Keith,

    Pretty spot on, I’d say. Republican weaknesses don’t exactly translate to Democratic strengths. I’d look for 1 or 2 surprise Independent or 3rd party candidates (if there are any running…I don’t know).

    Republicans ascended, in part, by making Dem weaknesses their strengths. Dems have shown no such cleverness and their weaknesses are still fresh in most folk’s minds.

  67. Steve,

    I might wonder the same thing, but I have noticed lots of folks – not just ones here – who despise Lincoln.

    The gist I’ve gotten is that some feel he turned us from a Federal Republic into an Empire leading to a lot of un-libertarian nonsense. The glory of the “Union”, in their eyes, is what’s resulted in the welfare state, erosion of states rights and the ability for presidents to wage costly and silly international conflicts.

    For my book, I think Jackson did more to get that ball rolling. But then I’m not an expert.

  68. MadPad and Steve,

    There are a lot of people who despise Lincoln. They seem to fall into one of two categories; ignorent Confederate sympathizers; and pollyannaish libertarians who are shocked that someone actually to take extreme measures to win a war and defeat an evil foe. For my money Jackson was every bit the tyrant Lincoln was alleged to be with none of the great results. Jackson is the President I can’t figure out why people adore so much, especially Democrats and liberal historians who always have a soft spot for the man responsible for the trail of tears and the worst economic depression in American history.

  69. Worst President since LBJ, with whom he ties. Both damaged our nation’s honor by lying us into a war of choice. Hope they end up smoking turds side by side in hell.

    The rest of the world matters, as we found out after 9/11 when our allies helped us out in Afghanistan (and in defending our own shores!). Think they’re going to be so helpful after they found out we were torturing their citizens?

  70. M1EK,

    Yada Yada Yada. Bush is definitely a step down from that military genius Jimmy Carter who invaded Iran with 8 helicotpers and tried to pursuad a Muslim country by not lighting the national Christmas tree and pressure the Soviets by boycotting the Olympics thus ensuring that they have the most successful Olympics in history. Carter of course went on to commit treason by actively trying to pursued countries to vote against the U.S. sponsored U.N. Security Council Resolution authorizing the liberation of Kuwait. Imagine that, if it had been up to mouth from Georgia, Saddam would not only have stayed in power he would have ruled over Kuwait too? Carter never fails to amaze me.

  71. John,

    Don’t know if I’d classify the confederacy “an evil foe.” Misguided, certainly. Practicing and undeniably evil policy of slavery, absolutely.

    But on the balance not evil. It’s goal of succession was simply that. It’s desire to preserve an institution – though despicable – was nonetheless tied to its history, its culture and its economy.

    But you’re right, nonetheless, about the “pollyannaish libertarians”. When you sport a presidential candidate that refuses to have a drivers license, it says alot about the mindset.

  72. The fruitcakes who are pissed at Lincoln suspending habeus corpus have to somehow explain how you can fight a war (A REAL ONE) on your own soil without screwing with civil liberties. Because I sure as hell can’t think of a way.

    This is very different from FDR’s bullshit during WWII, and the much worse bullshit Wilson pulled during WWI. In those cases, we weren’t fighting a damn war on our own land at the time.

  73. John,

    I have always liked and admired the non-political side of Carter as a religious figure. Excepting his forays into politics since his presidency, he’s been a pretty decent ex-president.

    I once read that he came to a choice in the 70’s when he could either become leader of the Southern Baptist Convention or run for president.

    One wonders if America would be a better place, on the whole, if he’d chosen the former.

  74. Madpad,

    I think is so smug and self-rightous, we would be lot better off if he had gone off to be just another bible thumper and built houses and done charity work.

  75. somehow i like carter more, now.

    dude – getting worked up over the olympics??? man, switch to decaf or something. that’s got to be one of the lamest things i’ve heard in a while.

    BTW: do people see how liberals and conservatives meet in their own, wonderful center?

  76. Madpad,

    I think slavery was downright evil and this country is guilty of sometimes playing down how evil it was through rediculous portrayals of the South like Gone With the Wind. That said, you are right. The Southern armies were not storm troupers, obeyed the law of war and surrendered at the end of the war and did not carry on a gurilla war as was advocated by Jefferson Davis. Because of that, I suppose it is a bit much to call them evil, but the institution of slavery certainly was and the Confederates have a lot to answer to morally for supporting it.

  77. So I would say figuratively speaking about reality, and not fantasy, [WWII] had as much to do with national defense as our current fiasco in Iraq does.

    Two hours ago, if someone had told me that it would be possible to convincingly argue the above, I wouldn’t have believed it. quasibill, thanks for the elucidation. Really got me thinking (and due to my public school eduction, there seems to be a LOT I don’t know about the subject.)

  78. Hmmm. You may be right about Carter, to a degree.

    From my perspective, of course, Bush is every bit is smug and self-righteous with a cup of condescension and a pinch of bristly intolerance thrown in.

    Unlike Carter, he managed to have the support of his own party when it came to moving his agenda and he managed to keep the support of his own party long enough to get re-elected.

    So I guess you could say, Bush has been a successfully bad president where Carter was a failingly bad one.

  79. but the germans did declare war on the us. and there was definitely some work on ballistic technology.

    we were attacked and our territories were taken over. the united states mainland was attacked by the japanese.

    the sabotage by the nazis.

    i wouldn’t go that far about WWII, madpad.

    “troupers”?

    and the north and south sure committed terrible acts during the civil war. that southern prison was awful. the northerners weren’t without their terrible sins, too.

  80. Wait, quasibill, let me get this straight: You are arguing that Japan and Nazi Germany splitting the entire eastern hemisphere between themselves posed no direct threat to the United States? Or that it was a threat that required no direct action on the part of the United States?

  81. VM,
    Ever since you took on your new moniker your posts have become increasingly stream-of-consciousness. I can only follow them about 20% of the time. Not a criticism, just letting you know in case you weren’t aware!

  82. What was vm’s old monicker? And the lack of capitals does make the post kind of flow like and e.e.cummings poem

  83. No one mentioned that there was a shooting war going on for more than two years which included some of the US’s biggest trading partners at the time. FDR knew we’d get sucked in one way or another, so he had the time to get the people ready for it, and to position assests in a way that we’d be drawn in according to his timetable. The courses I took in college implied FDR thought we’d get into the war with germany when they sank one of our ships while it was escorting supply ships to the UK.

    Bush, on the other hand, became president at a time when no one saw a war in the US’s immediate future, and came in as a reaction to half the country’s disgust of the former president and his policies. AND he became president in the most decisive way possible, being decided by the supreme court. His whole administration was based on giving “those Dems” a slap in the face, and I think it does the nation credit that we came together as much as we did right after 9/11.

    I think Bush has made some major errors in his war on Pan Arabism, but not preparing the public for a war whose antecedents were ignored by both parties is not a legitimate charge.

  84. Hi Linguist:

    it’s part of the recent scatter-brained way of life.

    I’ve also noticed that the rambling style tends to get overlooked, and several comments get re-introduced by other posters later on and latched onto. It’s cool, because maybe 20% of the time I’m actually saying something and not joking around, following the “better to laugh than cry” philosophy.

    However, the internal monologue persists.

    mapdad: drf. 🙂

    ee cummings, I guess, is better than being likened to a fellow Chicagoian, G.M.

    17th, right, Linguist? will A. be there, too?

    cheers!

  85. “I just love how so many people on this site dislike FDR and Lincoln. Hehehe!

    And joe, it makes me incredibly nervous when I agree with you. Right now, I’m pretty nervous. :)”

    no shit…since when do libertarians hate Lincoln??

    And I always hated FDR for his demostic policy not becouse of WW2…i hate Trumman for WW2..:)

  86. It should be pointed out that there are many things libertarians can find to hate about Lincoln’s administration that are separate from the issue of whether secession was permissible and whether the use of military force to end slavery was necessary: strong protectionism, fiat currency, subsidization of railroads and other industries, suspension of the free press, conscription, etc.

  87. JC:

    why do you hate truman for WWII? the end? FDR already carved up europe.

    might i point you to the scene in fletch where he goes to meet the Cavanaugh family (no relation, unless Tim and Sally Ann are siblings – are you, tim?)…

    heh.

    seriously, what is Truman’s blame in WWII for you?

  88. “No disagreement that neither Germany or Japan – at that time – had the ability to invade America.”

    And never would have. Do you understand that massive amount of capital we are spending in Iraq right now? And that’s without any other fronts, clear lanes of sea travel, and relatively free local bases to stage from. None of which would ever have been true for the Japanese or Germans. All of which is beside the point, because neither a) had the intention or b) the ability, because both were absolutely bogged down in wars of attrition elsewhere that they couldn’t win. Neither regime would have lasted a decade more if they continued in their war-like ways – they couldn’t have sustained it.

    “Eventual technological progress might (and probably would) have lead to the ability to eventually invade or at least attack the U.S. Remember, they were working on an atomic bomb, too.”

    You mean that the Germans might (most historians would tell you that with Hitler’s reckless mood swings and priorities, such long-term technological progress was unlikely, but we’re dealing with the fantasy world here again, so I’ll indulge) have developed intercontinental ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads? How ever would we have survived the 20th Century with such an enemy in Eastern Europe/Asia!?!?

    I guess you have me. If we had to face a fascist empire, bent on world domination, with such a large population and resource base, armed with such weapons, we surely wouldn’t be here today. Especially not if our own intervention in foreign affairs made it possible for that empire to consolidate itself in the first place…

  89. “But you’re right, nonetheless, about the “pollyannaish libertarians”. When you sport a presidential candidate that refuses to have a drivers license, it says alot about the mindset.”

    Yeah, and it says a lot about non-libertarians’ “mindset” madpad that they find a stance such as this so silly.

  90. I think Bush has made some major errors in his war on Pan Arabism, but not preparing the public for a war whose antecedents were ignored by both parties is not a legitimate charge

    Noone said that Bush failed to prepare the public for war. What Joe said (and I agreed) was that Bush went to war without taking the time to build up solid support for it.

  91. Look, while you fellas are putting me to sleep with your FDR/Lincoln argument, could somebody please answer the only important question:

    Was it or was it not Tim Matheson who delivered the “Let me tell you the story of another loser” speech?

    I don’t have a copy of Animal House handy, and I thought it was the ageless Matheson, but I’ve been corrected by one guy who said it was Hoover and now another guy who says it was Matheson.

  92. SR:

    Not to mention that the hero-worship that goes on by both the left and right statists when it comes to Lincoln can also be quite insufferable.

  93. As for why someone might dislike Lincoln:

    His stated aim after the war was to forcibly deport all blacks back to Africa. Only JWB’s intervention allows people to lionize Lincoln as some sort of saint of racial harmony.

    His war had nothing to do with freeing the slaves (why were some slave states fighting for the Union? Why did the Emancipation Proclamation only free slaves in the states that seceeded, and not in the states fighting for the Union?) and everything to do with not allowing the creation of laissez faire ports in the New World that would compete with the high tariffs that he and his cronies wanted to impose to create a corporate welfare fund.

    He instituted a draft, that allowed the wealthy to purchase their way out of.

    BEFORE THE WAR, he started imprisoning newspaper editors who criticized his policies.

    Every other country (and there were many) who abolished slavery in the century, did it peacefully, through a concept known as compensated emancipation. There is a reason why Lincoln did not pursue this option – he had no interest in freeing the slaves. He wanted to maintain an economic hegemony.

    If you want more, you can read The Real Lincoln, by Thomas DiLorenzo. There are other books that cover some of the same territory, and DiLorenzo has a few moments of over-the-top partisanship, but by and large, this book provides much needed context for anyone who thinks Lincoln was anything but a dangerous tyrant, bent on enriching his cronies, no matter what the cost.

  94. “seriously, what is Truman’s blame in WWII for you?”

    should have been tougher with stalin post war and should not have set the stage for europe’s propetual need for US military security…for fuck sake, yogoslovia is in fucking europe…if you can’t put a force on the ground and in the air and even make a disission on what to do on your own fucking continent……

    anyway i digress

  95. Because of that, I suppose it is a bit much to call them evil, but the institution of slavery certainly was and the Confederates have a lot to answer to morally for supporting it.

    As someone with no particularly emotional opinion on Lincoln one way or the other, I’d just like to say the following:

    1. At the time of Ft. Sumter, there were more slaves in the North than in the South and Lincoln expressly stated that he did not want any of them to be freed, contrary to what Northern abolishinists desired.

    2. By his own words, Lincoln believed that blacks should not be free (“I have no purpose to introduce political and social equality between the white and black races”), that even if freed they should occupy a position far below whites (“I, as well as Judge Douglas, am in favor of the race to which I belong having the superior position” and, “Free them and make them politically and socially our equals? My own feelings will not admit of this. We cannot, then, make them equals.”), that the mixing of the black and white race should be illegal (“What I would most desire would be the separation of the white and black races. I will to the very last stand by the law of this state, which forbids the marrying of white people with Negroes.”) and that all things perfect, all the blacks would just be rounded up and shipped back to Africa. He was a strong advocate of the Fugitive Slave Act and a strong supporter of the Illinois Constitution which forbade blacks from living in the state.

    I think what riles up most Lincoln haters isn’t so much what he did as it is a basic misunderstanding of history, or the buying into the myth that the man was infallible, welcomed blacks with open arms, and just wanted to spread honesty and love to all.

    In truth, Lincoln was no different from the majority of Americans at the time, and like them he harbored views that were racist but mainstream. And like any American President, he made calls that are easy to criticize.

    As I said, I have no particular like or dislike for Lincoln. But the characterization of the South as being especially supportive to racism while the North was not is incorrect. If Lincoln had had his way, the Union would have been saved and blacks would have remained slaves (“My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and it is not either to save or destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it.”) Too often, emotion, nostalgia, myth, and misinformation get in the way of historians painting an accurate picture of Lincoln or of the sentiments in the North and the South.

    All that said, slavery was/is repulsive, and he freed the slaves. Whatever else he may have felt, said, or done, he still did that, and that’s not a small accomplishment in this country’s history. So perhaps the lesson to be learned from Lincoln is, A) a great man can do horrible things, B) a terrible man can do great things, or C) a man like any other man can do both great and terrible things.

  96. Tim,

    You’re bother correct. That’s Matheson’s speech, allright. And Matheson’s character was named “Hoover”

  97. Tim,

    You’re both correct. That’s Matheson’s speech, allright. And Matheson’s character was named “Hoover”

  98. keith,

    excellent post. Although I’ll quibble that Lincoln never did free all the slaves. He just proclaimed that they were free in the South. It took later Constitutional amendments to free those in the rest of the country.

    As you noted, Lincoln’s intention was not to free them, but maintain control of the economy.

    And yes slavery was/is repulsive. But then so was the death of hundreds of thousands of conscripted soldiers in the war, when compensated emancipation would have bloodlessly resolved the issue, like it did everywhere else.

  99. “As someone with no particularly emotional opinion on Lincoln one way or the other,”

    “As I said, I have no particular like or dislike for Lincoln.”

    yeah right keith, you know you like him.

    you like him.

    say it.

    say it.

    say you like him.

  100. “Although I’ll quibble that Lincoln never did free all the slaves. He just proclaimed that they were free in the South.”

    he could not free the slaves in the north becosue he lacked constitutional authority…the south he declared war on and had federal authority to govern the superseded state rights…the north not so much.

  101. Madpad:

    Hoover was another character. (http://imdb.com/title/tt0077975/)

    “Otter” was tim matheson.
    and confirming the script with my copy – it was indeed Tim.

    And I am stuck:

    which was Tim Matheson’s best role/movie?
    Otter?
    Alan Stanwyk?
    the cop in the Dirty Harry Movie
    the dude in 1941
    the polish flyboy in the remake of “To be or not to be”
    UP THE CREEK

    -or- was his portrayal of Abe Lincoln… oh sorry.

  102. FDR presided over the period of Japanese internment and it was his hand-picked Supreme Court that decided the Korematsu case.

    Everyone should despise him for this not just libertarians.

    nmg

  103. What about Jefferson?: As bad as Bush is, I don’t think he’ll be selling his daughters when he dies to pay off his debts.

  104. “when compensated emancipation would have bloodlessly resolved the issue, like it did everywhere else.”

    by rewarding the fuckers who owned slaves. This is the most absurd thing I’ve heard in quite a long time.

    Lincoln was better than most in the North, and most in the North were better than most in the South. You don’t have to be “good” to be “better”.

  105. “by rewarding the fuckers who owned slaves. This is the most absurd thing I’ve heard in quite a long time.”

    well, I’d say it was more ridiculous to slaughter thousands of innocent conscripts in what was allegedly the effort.

    No, the people did not deserve to be rewarded. but if you could save thousands of lives by spending a little coin, would you do it?

    Not to mention that assimilation worked much better after compensated emanciptation than it did after “Reconstruction”. There is a reason for that…

  106. The problem of most Civil War history is that it is history written by the Democratic Party. How this came to be I don’t know.

    Most of it holds that the Republicans were corrupt opportunists who did not care about the Negro and that Reconstruction was a rank failure due to Republican corruption (rather than the racism that characterized Democratic Party politics of the day). While like most stories there is some truth most is false.

    Most of the quotes “proving” that Lincoln was a racist are taken out of context from much longer passages which tell a different story.

    Lincoln was certainly a man of his time with all of the prejudices and flaws of his countrymen but his racial views showed an evolution over time particularly after his exposure to radical abolitionist like William Lloyd Garrison and Frederick Douglass. By the end of the war his views were approaching what we today would consider racial enlightenment.

    While it might be true that the South had a right to secede ther is no question in my mind that slavery was a poison that threatened peace in North America. Even if we had not fought the War blodshed (at possibly the same rate) would have occurred through slave rebellions (aided by sympathetic Northerners), border friction because of escaping slaves (again aided by sympathetic Northerners) or attempts at western expansion by the Confederacy. Make no mistake, slavery sowed the seeds of war and it would have come one way or another.

    And while tarriffs may have been a burden they are a smokescreen the South always had enough votes to keep tarriffs low.

    So while ther may have been commplex reasons for the war it really is as simple as NO SLAVERY – NO WAR.

  107. “blodshed” should read “bloodshed”

  108. At the time of Ft. Sumter, there were more slaves in the North than in the South

    Say what? Source, please!

  109. At the time of Ft. Sumter, there were more slaves in the North than in the South

    Say what? Source, please!

    Linguist: Sorry, poor choice of words. I meant to write that there were more slaves in the Union than the Confederacy, as at that time, only seven states made up the Confederacy.

    Isaac: I agree with your assertion that Lincoln’s opinion of slavery and commitment to abolishionism undoubtedly evolved during his Presidency.

    Joshua: Lincoln sported an admirable beard. Or should I say that he rocked the beard?

  110. Well the longer this argument goes on the more confused I get: That script says it was Hoover who said the Loser line, and IMDB says Hoover was played by “James Widdoes” (who I would have thought was the big loser in the post-Animal House contest, but I see he’s getting steady directing work; so Mark Metcalf remains the lost hero of the Animal House cast). But popular opinion still seems to be on the side of Matheson.

  111. I’m really quite entertained by Tim running around the back of the room trying to figure out who said that line, while the rest of us debate presidential history. 🙂

  112. Tim –

    i just freakin watched the scene. Tim Matheson says it. Hoover was in charge of the pledge function. he, Hoover, was showing the slides of the pledges.

  113. Thanks, Viking Moose. By the way, there’s a lovely debate over “Sweet Home Alabama” going on above, where I’m sure they’d be thrilled to see a Lincoln pro/con threadjack.

  114. Hi Tim!

    thanks! just saw it 🙂

    BTW: the anniversary version of Animal House has a “where are they now” at the beginning. hilarious stuff.

    cheers!

  115. Oh, and VM…yes, we’ll be there on the 17th. Probably we’d be there that night anyway!

    So someone just got killed by an Air Marshal. Can we have a new thread?

  116. “While like most stories there is some truth most is false.”

    Pretty accurate description of the rest of your post.

    “Most of the quotes “proving” that Lincoln was a racist are taken out of context from much longer passages which tell a different story.”

    Not really. But if you can prove me wrong, I’m open.

    “Make no mistake, slavery sowed the seeds of war and it would have come one way or another”

    Amazing then, that no other country required bloodshed to resolve the issue, even when they had as many slaves as the South did.

    “And while tarriffs may have been a burden they are a smokescreen the South always had enough votes to keep tarriffs low.”

    Absolutely false. In fact, if this were true, Lincoln would never have been elected…

    Check out the editorials of the time, especially New York papers. Notice how they’re calling for the formation of the Free Port of New York by secession? Why’s that? Because the tariffs were already too high, and they knew the Confederacy would be much, much lower, and that the port of NY would lose much of its business.

    Like you said, there is some truth in your story, but not much…

  117. here it is, Linguist.

    Officials: Passenger Who Made Threat Shot

    By JOHN PAIN
    Associated Press Writer
    Published December 7, 2005, 2:40 PM CST

    MIAMI — A passenger who claimed to have a bomb in a carry-on bag was shot by a federal air marshal Wednesday on a jetway connected to an American Airlines plane that had arrived from Colombia, officials said.

    The passenger’s condition was not immediately disclosed. A witness said the man frantically ran down the aisle and a woman with him said he was mentally ill.

    Homeland Security Department spokesman Brian Doyle said after the plane had parked at the gate, a passenger indicated there was a bomb in the bag. The passenger was confronted by air marshals but ran off the plane, Doyle said.

    A team of air marshals pursued and ordered the passenger to get on the ground. The passenger did not comply and was shot when apparently reaching into the bag, Doyle said.

    Passenger Mary Gardner told WTVJ in Miami that the man ran down the aisle from the rear of the plane. “He was frantic, his arms flailing in the air,” she said. She said a woman followed, shouting, “My husband! My husband!”

    Gardner said she heard the woman say her husband was bipolar and had not had his medication.

    The plane, Flight 924, had just arrived from Medellin, Colombia, and was headed on to Orlando.

    Airport and Miami-Dade County police officials said they had no immediate comment. American Airlines officials confirmed the shooting was on a jetway.

    “All I know is that it was on the jet bridge, outside the aircraft,” American spokesman Tim Wagner said. “I don’t know yet if the passenger had been on the plane and was getting off, or was starting to board the aircraft.”

    Flight 924 arrived at Miami airport at 12:16 p.m. Eastern and was scheduled to depart at 2:18 p.m., Wagner said. He said the shooting happened shortly after 2 p.m., suggesting passengers may have already been preparing to depart for Orlando.

    Martin Gonzalez, spokesman for Colombia’s civil aviation agency, said the flight “left normally with no problems.”

    * __

    Associated Press writers Mark Sherman and Lara Jakes Jordan in Washington contributed to this report.

    Copyright ? 2005, The Associated Press

  118. madpad, I’m not saying that “Bush went to war without taking the time to build up solid support for it.” I’m going a step further, and saying that he actively worked to undermine public support and unity before and during the war, for political gain. His decision to base his case on a dishonest, now discredited, argument has given every hawk an excuse to jump off the bus the moment he gets wobbly. Acts like saying Tom Dascle wasn’t concerned about the security of the American people (because he wanted DHS employees like Mike Brown to be career civil service, not political hacks, remember?) was a purposeful attempt to make sure the country was divided on security issues. His slash and burn campaign style, built around his “with us or with the terrorists” formulation, made half the country reflexively oppose everything he did. It wasn’t just a case of failing to prepare; he actively undermined support for his war, deliberately worked to make Democrats oppose it, so that they could be made to look dumb and weak when the glorious little adventure was a rousing success. Irresponsible partisan idiot.

  119. Yes, Lincoln did suffer from some the racial attitudes common in his day, but there is a difference in quality to those versus those who advocated slavery. Second, abolishing slavery was not popular in the North and Lincoln could not sell the war as being strictly about slavery and expect the North to support it. The statements he made about not wanting to end slavery were very duplicitous. While it is true that Lincoln had no intention of ending slavery in the South when he was elected, this had more to do with the impossibility of doing so than anything else. More importantly, Lincoln had every intention of preventing slavery from spreading to the territories and ending popular sovereignty on the issue. The South rightly understood this to spell the long term end to slavery and their retched social system. If all of new states entering the Union were free states, eventually 2/3s of the States would be free and Slavery could be ended by Constitutional Amendment. The South was depending on popular sovereignty to spread slavery and were willing to send gangs of armed thugs and murders into the territories to terrorize the inhabitants and ensure the elections went their way. (See bleeding Kansas)Deprived of popular sovereignty, the writing was on the wall concerning the long term future of slavery. Lincoln knew this. He was talking out of both sides of his mouth in a lot of things he said. Outwardly he said he had not intention of ending slavery but he had every intention of setting forth policies that over the long term would be the deathnell to it.

    As far as the idea of ending slavery through compensation, it would never have happened. First, the Southern elites viewed slavery as essential to their way of life. They would never had sold their slaves or voted to support such a program. Second, the North would never have agreed to such an enormous transfer of wealth to the South even if the South had agreed to such a plan. There was no peaceable way to get the South to end slavery.

    All of the talk about the North being racist or committing this or that atrocity or the enormous cost in lives of the war misses the overarching point; the war ended the greatest evil in American history. America could never have become the country that it did and still had 1/4 of its population and nearly all of an entire race living in bondage. What would have happened had the slavery issue been allowed to fester and the institution continued? First, with Dred Scott, Southerners were free to take their slaves to free states and treat them as slaves. This essentially made for universal slavery. If I can live in Kentucky and have a farm factory across the river and Indiana and take my slaves to work there and still threat them like slaves, Indiana is in no real way a free state. Further, the South was beginning to industrialize and use slaves to do so. As bad as the lot for the northern worker was, it would have been 10 times worse had he had to compete with slave labor in the south. One can only imagine the strange and disastrous effects this would have had on the American economy. Further, since the Southerners were so afraid of being outvoted in Congress, they opposed the construction of the transcontinental railroad and efforts to increase settlement in the West. Had the Civil War never happened, the great migration West would have happened at a much slower rate and in much different ways. Further, each new state would have faced a mini-civil war as Kansas did as the South dispatched terrorists to tilt the election on slavery.

    Even if the South had been allowed to succeed, it would have no doubt tried to expand west and the U.S. would have probably faced war over control over the west eventually. Moreover, the South was always under the threat of a slave revolt. What would have happened if eventually there had been a successful slave revolt after hundreds of years of bondage can only be guess at, but Haiti might not to far off from truth. The United States might be facing a third world country across the Ohio rather than the Rio Grande today. You could write a book about all of the horrible things that would have come about had slavery been allowed to continue or if the South had been allowed to succeed. Because he prevented these disasters and kept the Union together and ended slavery, Lincoln deserves the country’s gratitude.

  120. “I’m going a step further, and saying that he actively worked to undermine public support and unity before and during the war, for political gain.”

    Something wrong here… can’t quite put my finger on it…

    Something about undermining public support for his policy for politcal *gain*… but I can’t tell what exactly. Seems a little fishy…

    Give me a minute, I’ll puzzle it out.

  121. “I’m going a step further, and saying that he actively worked to undermine public support and unity before and during the war, for political gain.”

    Translation, he had the nerve to kick our asses politically and win elections and then govern like he had won them afterwards. How dare he!!!

  122. Tim Matheson’s best movie: Yours, Mine and Ours. 😉 Well, he IS a cute teenager in it.

  123. Since we are on Lincoln and Bush, William Stuntz, law professor at that Neocon bastion Harvard writing in the neocon rag New Republic:

    Toppling Saddam and seizing his chemical and biological weapons probably wasn’t worth the sacrifice of 2,000-plus American lives (as long as nuclear weapons weren’t in the picture). Similarly, control over the Mississippi wasn’t worth the bloodletting across the length of the Confederacy’s border that took place in Lincoln’s first term.

    Thankfully, Lincoln saw to it that the war’s purpose changed. George W. Bush has changed the purpose of his war too, though the change seems more the product of our enemies’ choices than of Bush’s design. By prolonging the war, Zarqawi and his Baathist allies have drawn thousands of terrorist wannabes into the fight–against both our soldiers and Muslim civilians. When terrorists fight American civilians, as on September 11, they can leverage their own deaths to kill a great many of us. But when terrorists fight American soldiers, the odds tilt towards our side.

    Equally important, by bringing the fight to a Muslim land, by making that land the central front of the war on Islamic terrorism, the United States has effectively forced Muslim terrorists to kill Muslim civilians. That is why the so-called Arab street is rising–not against us but against the terrorists, as we saw in Jordan after Zarqawi’s disastrous hotel bombing. The population of the Islamic world is choosing sides not between jihadists and Westerners, but between jihadists and people just like themselves. We are, slowly but surely, converting bin Laden’s war into a civil war–and that is a war bin Laden and his followers cannot hope to win.

  124. Since we are on Lincoln and Bush, William Stuntz, law professor at that Neocon bastion Harvard writing in the neocon rag New Republic:

    Toppling Saddam and seizing his chemical and biological weapons probably wasn’t worth the sacrifice of 2,000-plus American lives (as long as nuclear weapons weren’t in the picture). Similarly, control over the Mississippi wasn’t worth the bloodletting across the length of the Confederacy’s border that took place in Lincoln’s first term.

    Thankfully, Lincoln saw to it that the war’s purpose changed. George W. Bush has changed the purpose of his war too, though the change seems more the product of our enemies’ choices than of Bush’s design. By prolonging the war, Zarqawi and his Baathist allies have drawn thousands of terrorist wannabes into the fight–against both our soldiers and Muslim civilians. When terrorists fight American civilians, as on September 11, they can leverage their own deaths to kill a great many of us. But when terrorists fight American soldiers, the odds tilt towards our side.

    Equally important, by bringing the fight to a Muslim land, by making that land the central front of the war on Islamic terrorism, the United States has effectively forced Muslim terrorists to kill Muslim civilians. That is why the so-called Arab street is rising–not against us but against the terrorists, as we saw in Jordan after Zarqawi’s disastrous hotel bombing. The population of the Islamic world is choosing sides not between jihadists and Westerners, but between jihadists and people just like themselves. We are, slowly but surely, converting bin Laden’s war into a civil war–and that is a war bin Laden and his followers cannot hope to win.

  125. so wait is Tim Matheson the guy who played the vice president on the west wing?

    not the new guy but the VP who resigned because of a sex scandle.

  126. By prolonging the war, Zarqawi and his Baathist allies have drawn thousands of terrorist wannabes into the fight–against both our soldiers and Muslim civilians.

    If that isn’t putting a dress on a pig and calling it Miss America, then I don’t what is. …other than actually putting a dress on a pig and calling it Miss America.

    Would Afghanistan be more successful if it was more of a death trap?

  127. Ken Shultz,

    You assume that all of the terrorist wannabes were just minding their own business and never would have done anything had we not invaded Iraq. If that were true, you would have a point. Its not, however. The terrorist wannabes would be causing trouble somewhere else if they were not in Iraq. Its a lot better to have them there, fighting soldiers rather than civilians and fighting other Muslims rather than exclusively Westerners. Had Al Zaquawi just killed Americans, he would still be popular in Jordan rather than being a piriah.

    We are going to have to fight and kill people like Al Zaquarwi and his followers sooner or later. Pretending that they will go away or leave us alone if we just debase ourselves is not going to change that.

  128. By prolonging the war, Zarqawi and his Baathist allies have drawn thousands of terrorist wannabes into the fight–against both our soldiers and Muslim civilians.

    The terrorist wannabes would be causing trouble somewhere else if they were not in Iraq. Its a lot better to have them there, fighting soldiers rather than civilians and fighting other Muslims rather than exclusively Westerners.

    Hey, I’ve got a great idea: Let’s take up a collection to buy weapons and plane tickets for young men who are eager to engage in terrorism in Iraq!

  129. Hey, I’ve got a great idea: Let’s take up a collection to buy weapons and plane tickets for young men who are eager to engage in terrorism in Iraq!

    We already have. It’s called the “Federal Income Tax”.

  130. Screw you Pig Mannix.

  131. You know, I’m open to the possibility that things are going better than the press tells us. I just think that the people who want to persuade me of that should refrain from ever, ever suggesting that an influx of foreign jihadis is a positive thing.

    To all of the intelligent, thoughtful, and eloquent hawks out there: Yeah, I’m talking to both of you! (Just kidding!) Anyway, do yourselves a favor and smack upside the head anybody who tries to spin Zarqawi as a good thing. Zarqawi may be making some awful mistakes (I think he is), but his actions are NOT good for us. An enemy who makes mistakes is a smaller problem than a smart enemy, but he’s still a problem.

  132. Isaac (from way back up thar),

    It is true that Roosevelt was pretty divisive during his “Dr. New Deal” phase. Court stacking and all of that. But that only demonstrates my point – when he realized there were going to be American troops fighting overseas, he completely reversed course. As “Dr. Win the War,” he became very solicitious of the Republican (mainly) isolationist opposition. He didn’t ram through appropriations and Lend Lease the way he did Alphabet Soup, but instead gently coaxed and took it slow.

    This is in marked contrast to Bush. While he was partisan and divisive before 9/11, his reaction to becoming a war president was to become even more partisan and divisive.

  133. JDM, it’s called “wedge politics,” or “the 51% strategy.” You sould look them up, as you don’t seem to understand politics very well.

    John, “the United States has effectively forced Muslim terrorists to kill Muslim civilians”

    USA! USA! Hey, if we can’t kill them into democracy, we should just import some terrorists, so they can help us kill them into democracy.

    BTW, the Civil War did not begin as a contest over control of the Mississippi.

  134. But was Bush partisan right after 9/11? Seems like the democrats in congress were completely agreeing with him even though before 9/11 they were at odds. The problem is Bush has stayed partisan but hasn’t done a thing to keep the dems who agreed with him then from disagreeing with him now.

    Maybe better comparison would be if Japan bombed Pearl Harbor in 1936, in the middle of the court stacking fight. While I think FDR was a better politician (and probably a smarter guy) I also think he’d have faced a much tougher fight to keep the US in WW2.

    And of course another difference is if we had an actual country to fight, instead of a nebulous mass of international malcontents and religious fundies, we’d have much greater public support for the administrations policies.

  135. But was Bush partisan right after 9/11?

    Bush’s highest ratings came after 9/11. Some say he squandered the opportunity to reach out and unify, others will assert that he remained steadfast and stayed true to his principles.

    joe, my larger point in these discussions is that the presidents have been a diverse human lot who have had to handle a variety of different circumstances. Picking the best becomes a completely subjective act. Except for Washington I suspect that every “Greatest Prez Ever” is somebody else’s “Worst Prez Ever”.

    Frankly GWB exceeded my expectations (but they never were very high) in handling the immediate aftermath of 9/11 and went downhill from there.

    However we are in substantial agreement here, our differeces are in the details, and in the spirit of the season I would sooner not dwell on them.

  136. NativeNYer, the issue of partisanship and divisiveness doesn’t show itself when everybody is marching in lockstep, but in how differences are handled.

    Isaac, I agree about Washington – he could have had thousands of riflemen in every town center with just a word the day his party lost the election to the hated Democratic, uh, something or others. But he didn’t.

    I also agree about Bush’s handling of post 9/11 exceeding expections. I expected thousands of civilian bodies buried under tons of rubble in Kabul within a week.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.