Presidential History

None Dare Call It George Washington's Birthday

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In olden times children would ask their parents, "How come there's a Mother's Day and a Father's Day, but no President's Day?" And their parents would answer, "Why, every day is President's Day." Then the admen and calendar-makers of America declared an actual President's Day and that beloved family tradition dragged to an end, though officially the holiday is still called George Washington's Birthday.

Here, to mark the occasion, is the Hit & Run President's Day Open Thread. Chime in to answer any, all, or none of the following questions:

1. Who was the best, or at least the most tolerable, American president? (Reason staffers, contributors, and friends gave their answers to that query here.)

2. Who was the worst American president? (House rule: You can't say Bush, and you can't say Clinton. Exercise those history muscles, people.)

3. Who was our greatest ex-president? (The conventional reply is Jimmy Carter. While that answer has the advantage of annoying Alan Dershowitz, you should feel free to vote for someone more interesting—Herbert Hoover, say.)

4. Who is your favorite vice-president? Alternately, what is your favorite vice?

5. In 1968, according to An American Melodrama, George Wallace asked Colonel Sanders to be his running mate. If the colonel had said yes, and if you were able to cast a ballot that year, would you have been tempted, if only for a moment, to vote for Wallace, just to get Sanders within a heartbeat of the presidency? Be honest.

6. Also in 1968, the Yippies nominated a hog named Pigasus to be president. Would you have liked to see Col. Sanders debate the pig? How about a pork-and-chicken taste test? Why isn't that in the Constitution?

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  1. 1. Calvin Coolidge
    2. Woodrow Wilson
    3. Teddy Roosevelt, just ’cause he did badass things like spend years in Africa shooting big angry animals.
    4. Clearly it’s Dick Cheney. Anyone with no actual power who has the ability to piss off so many people is doing something right.
    5. Damn skippy.
    6. I sometimes dream about fried, breaded bacon. Mmmmmmm.

  2. Who was the worst American president?

    FDR
    Licoln
    Nixon

  3. Best vice-president: Spiro Agnew. He proved that anyone, no matter what ethnicity, how crooked, or how poorly named, could be one accident away from being the president. Not only that, but he (or his speechwriters) really knew how to turn a phrase.

  4. 1. FDR. Won World War 2, prevetned Red (or Brown, or Red/Brown) Revolution during the Great Depression, implemented the economic policies that permanently eliminated depressions from the American economy.

    2. Andrew Jackson. The genocidiest president we ever had, nearly eliminated the judiciary as a meaningful check on government power by ignoring the Cherokee decision.

    3. John Adams. By agreeing to become the ex-president and ceding his office to the opposition party after an election – the first time in history a Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces had done such a thing – when he could easily have held on illegally and called “minutemen” out into the streets, he cemented our democracy.

    4. Al Gore, for being the first VP to accomplish anything meaningful while in office. Ending the Serbs’ reign of terror; shrinking the size of the federal government through modernization, efficiency and technology; and putting the final nail in the coffine of Ross Perot and his anti-trade agenda.

    5. Bobby used to love fried chicken. Sniff.

    6. Running against Wallace/Sanders would have allowed the Yippies to coin the tagline “the other white meat” decades earlier.

  5. 1)Grover Cleveland
    2)Woodrow Wilson
    3)William Howard Taft
    4)Alben W. Barkley. The “w” stands for “weed.”
    5)If given a chance, I would use a drumstick to beat Colonel Sanders within an inch of his life. Fried chicken shouldn’t be corporate, man.
    6)It wouldn’t be fair to see Col. Sanders debate a pig; the Colonel is not smart enough. Also, the Constitution is a silly, outdated document–a fact that can be easily proven by its auspicious failure to adress fried meat in any way.

  6. Bitchin’ photo, btw.

  7. I’ll have a go at two questions that weren’t on Jesse’s list but should have been: most overrated and most underrated.

    I think Reagan is a clear choice for most overrated. Conservatives won’t rest until every fucking street and building in the country bears the guy’s name, but while in office Reagan (1) supported the brutal Contra thugs against (the no doubt equally brutal but nonetheless popular) Sandinistas, (2) couldn’t get enough of the War on Drugs, (3) pumped more money into the military budget, and (4) supported Saddam Hussein.

    And I’ll say Jefferson was the most underrated because, well, Jefferson is America.

  8. George Washington was the best, simply for not attempting to maximize his power. Would the the thugs that followed him been similarly circumspect.

  9. Where’s the love for James K. Polk?

  10. Best president?
    Thomas Jefferson? Sounds good to me.

    Worst president
    FDR, LBJ, Carter.

    Best vice president? really I am not that good at history, I’ll take Dick Cheney for the reasons mentioned in the first post.

  11. shrinking the size of the federal government through modernization, efficiency and technology

    Wow, joe. I know you need attention, but try to be a little more subtle about it.

  12. Best is Bill Harrison. Anyone to leave the Presidency in as good a shape as he found it gets my vote.

  13. Jefferson, like Madison, was a truly great man whose accomplishments will live forever, but they did their best work before becoming president.

  14. These questions are moot as I only recognize the sovereignty of Emperor Norton.

  15. “FDR…implemented the economic policies that permanently eliminated depressions from the American economy.”

    It’s only Monday but I don’t think I’ll get to read anything that funny for the rest of the week.

  16. 1. Best Prez – come on…Wm Henry Harrison of course…more presidents should follow his example.

    2. Worst Prez – FDR…the New Deal gift that keeps on giving…what’s the fed govt. up to?…30% of GDP?

    I thought Jimmy Carter and Colonel Sanders were the same guy?…either way, I vote for the pig because (insert any pork and federal government comment here).

  17. 75 years and counting. Depressions used to occur every 30-40 years, since the founding of the Republic.

  18. John Hanson gets my vote: not only was he the real first president of the US (under the Articles), had he less mettle the government would have been overthrown. He established all the departments that Washington eventually inherited – adopted the seal still in use today and retired after only a year or so in office.

    He remained anti-federalist to his grave.

  19. Best vice/president is John Tyler. He whipped a school teacher for being overbearing when he was just a teenager (imagine what he’d do to the public education system today).

    For bad-ass points: he married a 24 year old beauty when he was in his fifties, and knocked her up EIGHT times! His last kid was born when he was just about 70. He was the 19th Century’s J. Howard Marshall, only less rich and more virile.

    On the downside–was a life-long slave-owner and died a member of the confederate government due to his strong belief in the “peculiar institution.”

  20. Hoover’s been posthumously bleeding off cred because of Dinesh D’Souza’s alliance with Sheik Omar.

  21. Worst Presidents

    FDR – Commie
    Trueman – Commie
    Eisenhower – Commie Dupe
    Nixon – Commie
    Kennedy – Commie

    Best President Ever

    Ronald Reagan – True American Patriot!

  22. “Conservatives won’t rest until every fucking street and building in the country bears the guy’s name”

    Just wait till they start trying to name everything after Bush.

  23. 1. Jefferson
    2. FDR
    3. JFK – myth is always better than reality
    4 makes
    5 no
    6 difference

  24. 1. William Henry Harrison — shortest term
    2. Franklin Roosevelt — longest term
    3. Nixon — because having him be ex-president was such a blessed relief
    4. Henry Wallace — even funnier than Quayle!
    5. Tempted? I would have done it.
    6. You betcha. And the taste test is in the Constitution. It’s implied under the interstate commerce clause.

    Incidentally, if you want to read about vice presidents (and why wouldn’t you?) this book is a great place to start.

  25. “FDR…implemented the economic policies that permanently eliminated depressions from the American economy.”

    I thought this was going to be a non-serious post, until I saw the rest of it. And later, the ex-post facto logic…schmoe

  26. joe,
    I’m pretty sure most economists now take the position that FDR policies had somewhere between zero impact and detrimental impact on the severity and length of the depression. It’s only guv’ment historians who keep repeating the tired old FDR saved us from the depression story line.

  27. 1. Let’s go with the shortest…James Madison
    2. Bush (Iraq, Panama, and other cluster fucks).

    No I didn’t break the house rule.

  28. 1. The original GW, the people that least want to be leaders are more often than not some of the best.

    2. For total effect, Carter

    3. James Madison, great work before and after the presidency

    4. I’m not up on my VP’s, so I’d have to say “rum drinkin on a white sand beach”

    5. KFC sucks
    6. Sausage is better

  29. Well, todd b one could argue that the FDIC did work to end bank runs which had happened on a regular basis and often resulted in serious economic downswings. And you could argue that the SEC et al have lessened the amount of fraud that takes place and provides for better investor protection, making the whole securities industry more creditworthy. That accounts for something

  30. 1. Best: I’ll also go with George Washington, for not expanding his power when he certainly had the chance.

    2. Worst: FDR. Allegedly manipulated US entry into World War 2, snuck in a Pink Revolution during the Great Depression, implemented and continued economic policies that prolonged and deepened the Great Depression, expanded size and perceived rightfol role of government, and gets fawned over for it.

    3. Greatest ex: Lincoln.

    4. Favorite vice: Alcohol.

    5. Vote for Wallace to get Col. Sanders? I dunno — I think the Colonel embodied the military-poultry complex in its most frightening form.

    6. Not only would I like to have seen Sanders debate the pig, but with the proviso that the loser would be roasted whole and distributed to the poor and hungry.

  31. 2. Who was the worst American president?

    FDR no question.
    Lengthened and deepened the depression.
    Instituted the New Deal, effectively turning the Federal Government an organized crime syndicate, and setting himself up as ‘Godfather’.
    Corrupted the SCOTUS, and ending all Constitutional limitation on government, and especially executive, power.
    Drug the country kicking and screaming into WWII.
    Climbed in bed with one of the most infamous tyrants in history, Joseph Stalin.
    Japanese interment, Jewish immigration quotas and assorted other measures that cemented racism as official US policy.
    Many other self-serving freedom crushing acts too numerous to list

    There isn’t even a close second

  32. Jefferson, like Madison, was a truly great man whose accomplishments will live forever, but they did their best work before becoming president.

    much as i hate to agree with you, megadittos, joe!

    best pres was clearly cal. second best pres is clearly jimmy carter for providing a stellar example for libertarians to use to make easy debate points. he continues to this day to help us make our point about the possibility of power being in the hands of a yutz.

  33. 1) George Washington. The more I find out about this man, the more I admire him. He set the pattern of what a President should be. If he’d gotten it wrong, the Republic would have crumbled in a generation.
    1a) Best in last century: Dwight Eisenhower. Very much underappreciated. Knew the limits of power and kept to them.
    2) Worst: Teddy Roosevelt. Everything a libertarian could hate.
    3) Best ex: W.H. Harrision. By being the first to die in office, he did nothing as ex-president and set the pattern all ex-presidents should follow.
    4) Best vice: Spiro Agnew. He really put the “vice” in “vice-president”.
    5) Not a friggin’ chance.
    6) Only if the debate had been conducted on a barbeque. The constitution also failed to mandate public orgies, which is a crying shame.

  34. FDR is definetly the worst president in history. The Depression began in the 20’s with the Federal Reserve’s credit expansion schemes. FDR’s attempted policy to end the Depression was the NIRA, the forced cartelization of industries and a “partnership” between Big Government, Big Business, and Big Labor.

    There may have been depressions before, but FDR’s managed to last five times as long somehow.

  35. todd b writes: “I’m pretty sure most economists now take the position that FDR policies had somewhere between zero impact and detrimental impact on the severity and length of the depression. ”

    But what about the depressions *since* the Great one, which would have been expected based on pre-FDR patterns, but never happened?

  36. 1. Tie FDR and Reagan.
    2. Tie LBJ and Carter.
    3. Ford
    4. Nixon
    5. I love chicken, but not KFC.
    6. The other white meat.

  37. The best president would probably have to be Thomas Jefferson.

    The worst is a toss-up between Jimmy Carter, FDR, and John Adams. FDR’s New Deal could be excused as a necessity of the time but we are still paying for the sins of that creation. Carter had too many fuster-clucks that he couldn’t take into account. He failed to deal with the Iran Hostage Crisis, he failed to deal with the spiraling economy, and he may have told Americans to “bundle up” but that’s not what they wanted to hear when they turned to him for leadership. And then there’s Adams… who signed into law the Alien and Sedition Acts that set the stage for future acts of tyranny and censorship from the government.

    Favorite Ex-President? Any president who ends his tenure and simply fades into obscurity.

    Favorite VP? This is going to sound strange but I’d have to go with Quayle for the simple fact that anything he did made the President that much more credible and important. Who would REALLY want to remove the elder Bush from office knowing full well who would be taking his place?

  38. Boy I hate defending donks, but FDR was the right man for the job between 1938 and 1945.

  39. What? No Lincoln yet for worst President? I know it’s not all that fashionable, but that guy pretty much destroyed the states’ sovereignty and caused tens of thousands of deaths only to set the precedent that put him above the Constitution.

  40. FDR no question. Lengthened and deepened the depression. Instituted the New Deal, effectively turning the Federal Government an organized crime syndicate…

    You forgot: married to ugliest First Lesbian ever.

  41. Jon H,

    No one is ever going to answer your question.

    Maybe some mumbling about “post facto,” but that’s about it.

  42. 1. William Henry Harrison, under the principle that he who governs least governs best.
    2. FDR, same reason.
    3. Any one of them who had the good graces to die in office or, at the very least, act thereafter as though he had died. Thus Carter is just about our worst ex-President despite having occasionally done a bit of good here and there. That any man whose presidency was so completely and utterly disastrous as his could then continue to inflict his sanctimonious twaddle on the nation for decades thereafter almost makes me want to make an “ex-President” exception to my opposition to capital punishment.
    4. Obviously, John Nance “Cactus Jack” Garner, who saw the vice presidency for what it is. (N.B., it is rumored that the last word of his most famous quote was changed by reporters to read “spit.” If true, this only adds to my admiration.)
    5. & 6. Pat Paulson, the Harold Stassen of stand-up comedy, also ran for president for the first time in 1968, with campaign slogans including “If elected, I will win”; “We can’t stand Pat”; and (my personal favorite) “I’ve upped my standards. Now, up yours.” Eldridge Cleaver and Dick Gregory also ran. (Take that, Obama!) One does have to wonder about Wallace’s apparently second choice for Veep, Curtis “Bomb them back into the Stone Age” LeMay. I mean, really! Wallace can’t manage to recruit “Kentucky Colonel” Harland B. Sanders and so he has to settle for Bombs Away LeMay? I smell an urban legend here and it doesn’t smell finger lickin’ good.

  43. Truman has to be among the worst because he really believed all the economic claptrap that FDR mouthed because he thought it was what would keep him popular. Even LBJ does not seem to have been so economically illiterate.

    What’s even funnier is that someone as anti-intellectual as HST is so loved by academics.

  44. Jozef,
    Whatever else, slavery was an American institution when he took office, and prohibited throughout the land by the time he got his brains blown out.

  45. i am reminded of a line from illuminatus! where simon moon describes the nomination of pigasus as “the most transcendentally lucid political act of the 20th century.”

    i am tempted to agree at times.

  46. Worst president (tie): FDR and Lincoln.
    Dishonorable mention: Wilson.

    Best president: William Henry Harrison. For obvious reasons.
    Second Best: Grover Cleveland.

    Best vice president: William Rufus King. Same as W.H. Harrison. Also, he was probably our first gay V.P., and that should be worth something.

    Second best: Aaron Burr.

    Worst vice president: Nixon.

  47. It should be noted that that many of those presidents who were (or passed for) intellectuals were not much good either.

    Consider Wilson, Hoover and Carter, just for examples.

  48. Last I heard, Washington’s actual date of birth was said not to be well nailed down — and not just a matter of confusion between Gregorian & Julian dates.

  49. W. H. Harrison fits so many of these queries, especially Most Tolerated…only in office a month; Worst…REAGAN (ha!), this fascist opened the floodgates for the massive, and expensive war on the citizens of the US (Drug War) combined with the complete integration of “newspeak” into the mainstream discourse ( in the eighties, special interest became citizens, and national interest became corporations ); greatest ex-…Harrison, he did nothing,further preserving our democracy by means of LEAVING US THE F*** ALONE!; skip the vices; honesty about Col. Sanders…racist slave owner ( see Kentucky Assoc. of Colonels, still holdin’ on after all these years ) Sanders never served as a military man, “colonel” was a term given to the owners of the largest plantations in KY. Pigasus…would we be any worse off than Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, Bush II ? Would muslim extremist rhetoric espouse hate for America more or less if we had a real pig instead of capitalist pig for Pres.?

  50. ed,
    Eleanor has her own sins to atone for. However, I don’t give a flying flaming fuck or a rolling donut what she looked like or whom she slept with. Same holds for all White House denizens without exception.

  51. Jefferson, as President, slashed military expenditures, cut the budget, eliminated the tax on whiskey, reduced the national debt by a third, and had the forsight to purchase the Louisiana Territory from Napoleon.

    After his presidency, he created UVA.

    Pretty good for someone whose best work was prior to becoming President.

  52. Well argued, Cab.

  53. Wow, joe. I know you need attention, but try to be a little more subtle about it.

    My reaction to Joe’s post was to wonder why he wasn’t sharing his favorite vice – the one he had obviously taken a big hit of just before posting.

  54. 1. Best — George Washington, for all the reasons given above.

    2. Worst — I’m tempted to say Lincoln, but I don’t think he was really the worst. The Civil War was inevitable by the time he came on the scene. Instead, I nominate Wilson. There was no reason whatsoever for the U.S. to get involved in WWI; it was just another European boundary dispute. If we hadn’t enabled France and Britain to win, then there would’ve been no Treaty of Versailles, no onerous reparations, no rise of Hitler (and possibly no Hitler, period), no Great Depression, no WWII, and no massive federal bureaucracy.

    3. Best Ex — Grant. He went bankrupt and supported himself by writing — on his own — his excellent Memoirs.

    My favorite vice is surreptitiously ogling women. And elevator music.

  55. Q: Who are the only two individuals important enough to warrant getting official Federal holidays? (After the advent of P-day, of course.)

    A: Martin Luther King, Jr, and Jesus Christ

    All others in our history only get honored with collective holidays. Interesting.

  56. The lack of love for James K. Polk is sad. Here was a grumpy bastard that nobody wanted who had some very clear goals. He wanted to fix the treasury system and expand American territory. He did both, then retired after only one term. Bonus points, he died a few weeks later making him best ex-president as well. Our nation was shaped by his four years of office, and he did it with a divided congress and few cronies.

    Worst? LBJ might be on that list followed by Millard Fillmore.

  57. LBJ signed the Civil Rights Act, despite knowing full well that it was going to hand the South (and the country) over to his political opponents, and chose to end his presidency when it became clear that his war was failing, and that he lacked the credibility to lead us out of it.

    So he gets some points for putting principle above his own political interest.

  58. Best: Washington and Coolidge – both showed that the office should never be considered imperial.
    Worst: Both Roosevelts – who were determined to be imperial.
    Best-ex: John Quincy Adams – if you know your history you won’t ask why, otherwise you should read more history.
    [BONUS} Worst VP: Jefferson – they amended the Constitution after his service in the office.
    Best VP: Gerald Ford – any man who can become VP without going thru the hassle of an election is going to win my admiration.
    and finally,
    “Pork chops taste gooood” — Jules the hitman in Pulp Fiction

  59. joe | February 19, 2007, 12:30pm | #
    Jon H,

    No one is ever going to answer your question.

    Maybe some mumbling about “post facto,” but that’s about it.

    So when people say Bush’s policies have prevented a second 9/11, that’s valid logic?

  60. AC,

    If the absence of terror attacks for five and half years was a novel event in America history – if it had been normal for a century and a half to experience major terrorist attacks every two years prior to George Bush’s presidency – then it would be a credible argument.

  61. “So when people say Bush’s policies have prevented a second 9/11, that’s valid logic?”

    Maybe if there was a century-plus-long pattern of major terrorist attacks, and a ‘terroristic cycle’ concept akin to the business cycle.

  62. I’m limiting myself to presidents before 1960, simply because there’s been enough time to really evaluate their policies, and because the social changes that boiled over during the 60’s didn’t have much affect on policy yet. Before Kennedy, even during the Depression, federal policy was mostly foreign policy protection of domestic industry. (Which, by the way, I wonder why no one has brought up whichever president established the Interstate Commerce Commission. You’d think the first national entity designed to regulate industry would generate some controversy around here. And no, I can’t remember which wearer of high collars and heavy facial hair enacted that.)

    1. I’d have to vote for either Washington or Jefferson, with Lincoln a close second. Jeff because of buying Louisiana and send Lewis and Clark out to explore it; Washington for not becoming a despot, which he so easily could have. Lincoln gets props for changing the Civil War from one of preserving the Union to one ending slavery, and for having the gumption to go on with the Civil War, despite the costs and unpopularity it caused him at the time.

    2. I agree with most historians here: James Buchanan. Buchanan caved to Steven Douglas on the Kansas-Nebraska act, making the Civil War inevitable. (Note: the first seven soon-to-be Confederate states seceded after Lincoln’s election but before he took office, so I don’t think he can properly be blamed for the Civil War.) More on Buchanan, however. He was a bachelor, and thought of as a sissy in a day when dandyism and lifelong bachelorhood weren’t that uncommon. He dearest companion was the aforementioned William Rufus King. I wonder whether Douglas used Buchanan’s homosexuality as a threat to get B. to cave on Douglas’s pro-slavery positions, which, if true, would be a great argument for acceptance of homosexuality. Acceptance removes one more cause for blackmail.

    3. Worst: John Nance “Cactus Jack” Garner, but not for anything he did nationally. When he was in the Texas Legislature, Garner energetically opposed the adoption of the bluebonnet as our state flower, preferring the cactus rose, thus his nickname. Being a proud alumna of Bluebonnet Girl’s State, and possesor of several pieces of bluebonnet-painted pottery, I am bound to dislike the man.

    5. Probably not. Some things really are that serious.

    6. I’ll respond later, with a recipe.

  63. 1. Jefferson
    2. Buchanan
    3. Truman

    most underrated? Monroe. Era of Good Feelings ftw.

  64. Most under-rated: until about a month ago, Ford.

  65. I deliberately failed to answer “best ex-president,” under the theory that nothing one does afterward can either make up for the failures or tarnish the successes in office. Maybe if we’d ever had someone like Lloyd George, who ended an otherwise-illustrious career shilling for our enemies, I’d change my mind.

    As for most underrated, I’d have to say Chester A. Arthur, who bucked his own best friend to get rid of the spoils system, followed by Grover Cleveland for energetically and courageously opposing imperial expansion.

  66. If you accept the left-liberal version of business cycle which changes periodically. Personally I prefer the Misesian theory. fact is, the Great Depression could have lasted 2 years like all of the other ones, instead, it lasted ten.

    Besides, can anyone think of a single policy of FDR which we still have that libertarians haven’t fought to end? He gave us Social Securty (20% of the budget), which surely set the precedent for modern medical socialism. He gave us no-bid military contracting, starting the permanent military-industrial complex.

    Besides, the utilitarian view that “he solved the business cycle, by any means necessary” makes it hard for libertarians to resist fully-socialized medicine (it would “solve” our half-socialized system) or any such thing.

  67. Also I think there have been terrorist attacks on Americans every few years, though someone should check. Beirut barracks bombings, the first WTC attack, Iranian hostage crises, Iranian nationalization of American private property.

    Not that Bush solved any of this, but it could be used just like the business cycle to justify sweeping increases in executive power.

  68. 1. Washington.

    2. Tie between FDR and James Buchanan. James Buchanan’s activism on behalf of chattel slavery helped contribute to the Civil War, which is why I rate him this way. Some say that Buchanan was bad because of his hesitancy during the secession crisis of 1860-1861, but I don’t think it’s bad to be worried about plunging the country into a civil war. if only he’d taken steps to avert civil war by being more statesmanlike in his slavery policies.

    3. John Quincy Adams.

    4. Thomas (“five cent cigar”) Marshall.

    5. Given the survival rate of Presidents and would-be Presidents in that era, I’d have voted for Wallace hoping that he’d end up dead or resigned, so that we would have President Sanders.

    6. The pig should have challenged Sanders to a debate, and when Sanders refused, the pig should have borrowed the line from *Spaceballs*: “What’s the matter, Colonel Sanders? Chicken?”

  69. If we’re counting overseas terrorist attacks, Lucas, George W. Bush can be held up as the worst anti-terror president in history.

    We’ve have terrorist attacks against American interests overseas daily since April 2003.

  70. I recind my earlier comment about ex-presidents and endorse Mad Max’s position. John Quincy Adams’s greatest accomplishments were as a Congressman and abolitionist, and they do eclipse his rather dismal career as president.

  71. However, I don’t give a flying flaming fuck or a rolling donut what she looked like or whom she slept with. Same holds for all White House denizens without exception.

    That’s right. He’ll sniff all underpants without prejudice. (Hi Warren!) ^_-

    I think this might be post #69. (Correction…I took too long to preview, and I lost my rightful place at that post.)

    My favorite vice: bad jokes, probably.

  72. Not that Bush solved any of this, but it could be used just like the business cycle to justify sweeping increases in executive power.

    The problem I see with this line of argument is that it is less likely to cause a liberal to see the error in his view of FDR/economics and more likely to cause him to adjust his viewpoint of Bush. What is one more suspension of disbelief?

  73. Lincoln is not only our best president, he might be the best person (in politics) America ever produced. Only George Washington is the only reason this isn’t a shoo-in.

    Worst president: nobody hates Polk? The man started an expansionist war solely for the purpose of satisfying the slave power. If Southerners thought they could have grown cotton in Oregon, he would have gone to war with Britain, too.

  74. Karen,

    Juris Imprudent beat me to it as far as John Quincy Adams is concerned, but thank you.

  75. By no means am I holding up[ Bush as a “good president” in any respect. I’m just saying that he reacted to a disaster which predated him by over a decade by giving himself untold powers to prevent this sort of thing in the future.

    FDR did the same, and we get a slew of anti-individual-rights based legislature and tyrannical “alphabet soup” organizations.

    In both cases, the problem got worse. FDR turned a recession into the Great Depression, and Bush turned an attack into the War on Terror.

  76. LBJ … gets some points for putting principle above his own political interest.

    ROFL.
    Most of the time the horror of joe’s posts robs them of any comedic value, since I’m convinced he means what he says. But there’s just no way anyone could read that with a straight face.

  77. I think this was inevitable:

    Best Prez / Vice combo: the current administration…

    Only because of the endless Bush / Dick jokes that came from it 🙂

  78. Yawn. “OMG, I can’t believe he said that!” comments are boooooooooooring.

    “FDR turned a recession into the Great Depression…”

    FDR took office in January 1933.

  79. joe,
    I would apply the same logic to FDR’s crisis (Great Depression) and Bush’s crisis (9/11).

    FDR arguably took measures in reponse to a crisis that deepened and lengthened the time of impact of his crisis without ever actually solving the problem.

    Bush has turned a unique (and horrifying) event and turned it into a multi-year, multi-billion dollar quagmire that has cost thousands of additional deaths and also has not solved the problem.

    Both cases did and will greatly enlarge the scope, and expense of government and the popular view of what is the appropriate role of government at the expense of free and autonomous individuals.

  80. todd b,

    I’m not talking about the effect of the New Deal on the Great Depression. I’m talking about the complete absence of subsequent depressions, and wholly-new experience in American history.

  81. 1)Best President: Washington, followed by Lincoln and FDR
    2)Worst President: Buchanan. Pierce was awful too
    3)Best Ex-President: JQ Adams, with Hoover 2nd
    4)Favorite Veep: Gore
    5)Since I’d have to vote for Wallace, the answer is no way in hell.
    6)Wouldn’t Pigasus be debating Nixon and Humphrey?

  82. joe,
    So are you saying that events such as the (world-wide) Great Depression were routine and cyclical before the 1930’s?…I don’t think you can make that argument. There have been recessions and downturns of all sorts since then, but not to that extent…even at that you can’t assume any cause/effect related to government policy. Milton Friedman is dead, but Keynes has been much deader for quite a while.

  83. How about Best President-to-Be?

    Washington? Jefferson? Ike? Madison?

    Hoover?

  84. So far, we seem to have Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Coolidge and Cleveland, in no particular order, for best Prez with Lincoln getting some points for opposing/ending slavery.

    The Roosevelti seem to have a clear lead for worst, again in no particular order. Wilson, Buchanan, Nixon and Carter appear to be also rans.

    W.H. Harrision is the hands down winner for best ex, mainly for the reason of how he acheived ex-itude.

    Nobody seems to care much about the VPs who didn’t become Prez themselves, so it appears that the unexpurgated comment of “Cactus Jack” is validated.

  85. todd b,

    No, I’m saying depressions in general were routine and cyclical in America before FDR.

    And absent thereafter.

  86. There hasn’t been an absence of subsequent depressions. What has happened is that our recessions and depressions have been smoothed into each other, since instead of a bunch of government controlled banks pumping in extra credit, we have one huge bank which does it as a single rate.

    One Fed policy is better than a bunch, but a free banking and currency system (which we’ve never had) would be better still. Before FDR, for example, all banks were limited to being in a single state. He removed that limitation, if ony to place them under the jurisdictin of the Fed.

    Much like socialized medicine, the consistent socialist system is better than the hybrid, but still worse than freedom.

  87. I think it would be better to say, Lucas, that our depressions have been turned into recessions.

    Which ain’t peanuts.

  88. Although I am convinced by the arguments that FDR’s policies worsened and lengthened the Depression (and Hoover’s too — Hoover started it), maybe more attention should be paid to the question of: Why no depression since?

    I don’t know much about money, but how about these hypotheses?

    Declining influence of unions and other protectionist forces to screw up trade as much as in the past?

    Rise of government policy of “let’s have it now, and pay for it … er, one of these days”? E.g.: Social Security pyramid scheme? Keynesianism? Good old Republican deficit spending? … money supply loose, people are provided with goodies without having to actually create the wealth to pay for it = deferral of economic corrections until the bill comes due, which is postponed (in perception) forever = generally sustained economic growth until the bubble pops?

    Just throwing those out there; those who know more about finance and history can chew them over and reject them.

  89. It was Eric who said the obvious: if you want to call Bush the worst president in history without saying so openly, you bring up LBJ. I’m surprised he’s not getting more hate.

    As for Teddy Roosevelt, he is probably the president most admired by president-worshippers. He is the one politicians who want to be president dream of emulating, which just about makes him worst in my book. Without Teddy R, Wilson would not have been possible.

    Best president? Poor Jimmy Carter: he inherited a dismal economy, all of the foreign policy fallout from a disastrous war, an urban landscape swept with uncontrollable crime, and had to deal with the Soviet Union at the absolute height of its power. The “Reagan defense buildup” began under Carter. It was Carter that put Paul Volcker in charge of the Federal Reserve. Carter rejuvenated US foreign policy by pushing Israel to make peace with Egypt, a coup that everyone has become accustomed to, but which was almost unimaginable at the time.

    Carter was thrown out of office for losing a battle: the failed attempt to rescue the Iranian hostages. The voters were well within their rights to hold him accountable for the failure, just as they were well within their rights to punish the Republican Party for the disaster in Iraq. Given the enormity of America’s hangover from the Vietnam War and problems he faced, Carter was often exhausted and harried. His much-maligned “malaise” speech sounds, in retrospect, like a cry for help.

    So I’m going to advance the argument that Carter did much better than anyone else would in similar circumstances. Reagan had a little Carter momentum to help get him started. He was lucky he hadn’t been elected in 1976, or he would have been a despised one-termer, too.

  90. I’m not talking about the effect of the New Deal on the Great Depression. I’m talking about the complete absence of subsequent depressions, and wholly-new experience in American history.

    Unless you count the era between the founding and 1893?

  91. joe: FDR took office in January 1933.

    And the economy hit the lowest point during FDR’s first term. Lend/lease and then full-time war production did more to boost the economy then any of the federal make-work efforts.

    The reason we haven’t had a “depression” since the great one is that we renamed then to “recession”, just as depression had replaced “panic”. Or are you forgetting all the pain and suffering of the Reagan recession? Not to mention “it’s the economy, stupid”.

  92. 1. Grover Cleveland
    2. tossup between FDR and Lincoln
    3-6. who frickin’ cares

  93. “Declining influence of unions and other protectionist forces to screw up trade as much as in the past?”

    Unions weren’t a factor in the numerous panics of the 1800’s, so that’s probably not it.

    Incidentally, some of the depression-prevention regulation (including the Fed) was put in place in 1913, as a response to the panic of 1907.

  94. “Unless you count the era between the founding and 1893?”

    …while ignoring all the major crashes and panics through the 1800s, including the 20-year “Long Recession” from the 1870s to the 1890s, which was called the Great Depression before the, uh, Great Depression.

    And before 1800 economic data is pretty sketchy, so it’s not clear what was going on then.

  95. Stevo Darkly,

    1. FDR enhanced the power of unions.

    2. Depressions pre-date protectionist forces. Depressions were a regular feature of the economic cycle througout human history, and have only ceases within the last few decades, in countries that have adopted modern welfare-state governments.

    3. Serious deficit spending has been with us for decades, and hasn’t launched us into a depression yet.

    How about this: downturns turn into depressions when a large segment of the economy/population panics and pulls their money out at a loss, and the security provided by the New Deal (both for the population as a whole and for the financial system) has kept that from happening?

  96. Stevo: I think it’s possible the lack of depressions since The Depression has nothing to do with any policies undertaken by the government and everything to do with the collapse of the British pound and the rise of the dollar as the world’s reserve currenty. Simply put, the Depression was a liquidity crisis caused by a sudden drop in the value of assets. The aggregate of debts was greater than the aggregate of assets because people had borrowed money to buy overvalued assets.

    This hasn’t happened since WW2 because of America’s preeminent reputation as a good, safe place to put your money. Dollar-denominated assets became the safe haven that brought the wealth of the world to New York. Asset drops typically bring in a flood of new investment from abroad; the Fed has free rein to create liquidity without fear because the international markets support the dollar. These are circumstances that did not exist in 1929.

    But these conditions are more fragile than they appear. Excessive debt, excessive spending, excessive wars, the horrors of Sarbanes-Oxley and the recent fad of arresting foreign businessmen passing through could provoke a capital strike. It may seem unlikely at the moment, but maintaining one’s currency as the global safe haven requires cool, predictable, conservative policies, of which we have had far too little in the last six years, despite the assertion that the “conservative party” has been in power in America.

  97. juris imprudent,

    “The reason we haven’t had a “depression” since the great one is that we renamed then to “recession”, just as depression had replaced “panic”. Or are you forgetting all the pain and suffering of the Reagan recession? Not to mention “it’s the economy, stupid”. Uh, no. A depression is a longer and deeper than a recession. Nothing that happened under Reagan, or at the beginning of the 1990s, is remotely comparable to the depressions we used to periodically experience.

  98. “downturns turn into depressions when a large segment of the economy/population panics and pulls their money out at a loss, and the security provided by the New Deal (both for the population as a whole and for the financial system) has kept that from happening?”

    Widespread margin buying probably plays a role, though I could be wrong. That’d turn an investor’s loss into essentially a bad loan. An brokerage providing funds for many customers who buy on margin could be in tough shape if they all go broke.

  99. ji,

    “And the economy hit the lowest point during FDR’s first term.” So? The decline has been going on for over three years.

    “Lend/lease and then full-time war production did more to boost the economy then any of the federal make-work efforts.” Agreed. The make-work efforts were a life preserver.

  100. joe: your assertion that the welfare state immunizes against depression fails to account for the savage depression that crippled New Zealand for most of the Eighties. Just to give one example.

  101. I think there’s a fair consensus that the Smoot-Hawley Tariff was one of the worst contributers to the Depression, in addition to ensuring it was long lasting and truly global (due to retributive tariffs). And while FDR did plenty that can be criticized from today, I don’t know that any administration could have survived doing much less (and if they did there’d be someone willing to do so and ready to replace them). Besides, wasn’t it that free-market experiment known as WWII the event that finally brought about the end of the Depression?

    Okay, my list:

    1. GW, for setting the right tone, all the reasons above.

    2. I’ll have to go w/ the trio of 1850’s prezes (Fillmore, Pierce, Buchanan). Each successive one’s actions and inactions made it harder to deal with all the problems, making a violent outcome more and more likely. Wilson gets a dishonorable mention though.

    3. JQA

    4&5: Uhhh, sure.

    Other things:
    Overrated:
    I’ll agree with Reagan.

    Underrated:
    I’ll give GWB credit for making me see the good sides of his father, Nixon, Ford and Carter.

    Best Pre-president President:
    There’s no beating Jefferson and Madison.

    Malaise Forever!

  102. What was the original topic of this thread? Economics? Oh, no. It was Presidents. Yes, I believe that was it. Right?

  103. James,

    Serious question: has Britain had a depression since WW2?

  104. There should also be a category for best-president-who-never-was. This is restricted to candidates who actually got electoral votes.

    My choices:
    a) Tilden – he could have plunged the country into another civil war if he had chosen to fight the corrupt way the election was stolen from him. Instead he chose the good of the country over his own good.
    b) Goldwater, just because he was a decent, honest man who cared more about the country than himself.

  105. Best President to be: Mitt Romney. It’s about time we broke the Protestant/Catholic lock on the presidency.

    Best Prez: George Washington, we would have no United States if this man had wanted to be emperor.

    Worst Prez: This is tough, we have had some real stinkers. FDR is probably worst of all because of his total disregard for the foundation of what makes America, America: the Constitution.

    Best Vice President: Al Gore for inventing the internet.

  106. Jon H,

    I was going to write about regulation of the financial sphere – from the Fed using monetary policy to fight the cycles to the rules limiting margin buying and everything in between – being the other half of the answer, but plumb forgot.

  107. Aresen,

    Al Smith. Wet Catholic during Progressive-Era Prohibition. ‘Nuff said.

  108. Best laugh of the day: “Depressions have been permanently banned from the economic universe.”

  109. Best: Jefferson
    Worst: Buchanan

  110. Aresen,

    I agree about Goldwater!

  111. while ignoring all the major crashes and panics through the 1800s, including the 20-year “Long Recession” from the 1870s to the 1890s, which was called the Great Depression before the, uh, Great Depression.

    The Real Per Capita GDP of the United States grew seventy five percent between 1870 and 1890. None of the panics between 1800 and 1893 produced a downturn of more than 4 percent. These days, it would not be considered a depression. As JI points out, we still have these downturns in the business cycle, we just call them recessions now.

  112. joe writes: ” has Britain had a depression since WW2?”

    Hm. I wouldn’t actually be surprised if the post-war years came pretty close to a depression. At least I have an impression of a fair amount of.. not quite deprivation necessarily.. but sort of a national scrimping?

  113. joe:

    3. Serious deficit spending has been with us for decades, and hasn’t launched us into a depression yet.

    That’s what I mean. Could the deficit spending be masking the signals that perhaps might otherwise be triggering a well-earned panic, or at least a contraction in investment and spending?

    Because almost nobody, really, has ever really felt (so far) that the bill actually will come due, or that they as individual citizens will be held responsible for tens of thousands of dollars as their share of the nation’s unfunded liabilities? And we are behaving (so far) as if a massive amount of phantom wealth is real (that is, assigning a vastly inflated net present value to future wealth we won’t actually have), thereby delaying an economic correction?

    Alternatively, how about this as a possible factor? The post-WW2 technology boom, and ever-accelerating technology advances (the current accelerating tech boom really is unique in human history) are actually generating enough real increasing wealth to more than offset the factors that might otherwise trigger a depression?

    PS: Even those of us who agree that FDR worsened and prolonged the Depression have to acknowledge that it started on Hoover’s watch. IIRC, for example, a Hoover worried about the economy met with several business leaders and aske them not to cut their worker’s wages — which led to employees being priced out of the labor market, and an increase in unemployment. (Source: Vaguely remembered article in Liberty magazine.)

  114. James,
    Carter also deserves credit for transportation deregulation.

  115. James & Joe,

    I would add 90’s Japan to 80’s New Zealand.

    Joe: serious answer, Britain had very little prosperity until the Iron Lady.

    The Germans, French (and Brits) tolerate staggering levels of unemployment in order to maintain “control” of their economies.

  116. ” The post-WW2 technology boom, and ever-accelerating technology advances”

    Hm. I dunno. Don’t they generally *lead* to crashes?

    New discovery -> investment boom -> overextended concept (Pets.com) or over-built capacity -> crash.

  117. Re: Britain and depression since WW2, if you define depression as a 10% drop in real gdp, then no. Although the period from 1944 to 1947 comes close. There have been several 3-5% recessions in the post-WW2 period. (numbers from http://eh.net/hmit/ukgdp/)

    I would answer Walker’s questions, but you all have already touched on everything I was going to say. Great thread.

  118. Note: I am aware that my previous note offers two contradictory factors for the lack a depression since WW2. I’m not looking for the answer, just throwing out possiblities for the better-informed to support or refute.

    It’s also possible that both factors (and many others0 are simultaneously true, offsetting each other to some extent.

  119. I’m confused, joe. One of FDR’s legacies is the Social Security Act. That Ponzi scheme is untenable. Without much higher taxes, and soon, it’s going to fail. How does laying the groundwork for a social program that’s the economic equivalent of a ticking time bomb make FDR a great President?

    “This law, too, represents a cornerstone in a structure which is being built but is by no means complete. It is a structure intended to lessen the force of possible future depressions. It will act as a protection to future Administrations against the necessity of going deeply into debt to furnish relief to the needy. The law will flatten out the peaks and valleys of deflation and of inflation. It is, in short, a law that will take care of human needs and at the same time provide the United States an economic structure of vastly greater soundness.” -FDR, 1935

  120. “How does laying the groundwork for a social program that’s the economic equivalent of a ticking time bomb”

    Ticking time bomb! Holy Shit! We’d better torture somebody!

    We can sort out that whole Social Security mess as soon as we put some electrodes on somebody’s nuts.

  121. PS: Even those of us who agree that FDR worsened and prolonged the Depression have to acknowledge that it started on Hoover’s watch.

    Blegch. Better to say that Hoover had the misfortune of being in office at the time. The roots of the thing run much deeper (and wider) then the Hoover administration. Thus, I tend not to blame FDR for worsening the situation. No administration controls the economy, anymoreso then it can control the weather. So when some idiot politician has the hubris to so claim… well I merely observe the Emperor’s ‘transparency’.

  122. ” The post-WW2 technology boom, and ever-accelerating technology advances”

    Hm. I dunno. Don’t they generally *lead* to crashes?

    New discovery -> investment boom -> overextended concept (Pets.com) or over-built capacity -> crash.

    That might lead to widespread economic hard times if one specific technology was really predominant. But if you had a whole bunch of less-dominant “tech booms” going on all the time, in different technologies, it would keep a crash in one specific sector from effing up the economy as a whole. The net effect would still be boomy.

    I think the closest thing we had recently to one technology that tended to dominate everything was the dot-com boom in the 1990s, and I still remember that as a bad thing that happened to other people, not to anyone I knew personally.

  123. juris imprudent-

    You wouldn’t claim that the universally-beloved Calvin Coolidge bears some blame for the Depression, would you?!

  124. Here’s my guess as to why there hasn’t been another Great Depression: the green revolution. If we experience a major multiyear crop failure in a regional breadbasket, I forsee that could trigger a depression.

    Though I am amenable to characterizing the net effect of the New Deal portfolio as a “dashpot”, like we used to model in engineering diagrams.

    On topic: whatever happened to the Presidents of the USA anyway? One day, the video for “Mach 5” was all over the MTV, and that VH1 90’s flashback show had Sir Mix-a-lot’s next project as a collaboration with the Presidents… and then nothing.

  125. “whatever happened to the Presidents of the USA anyway?”

    One of them, along with one of the guys from REM, and others, has been working with Robyn Hitchcock lately.

  126. Stevo,

    We’ve had our periods of “contraction in investement and spending.” No one’s repealed the business cycle. What’s different is that those downturns haven’t caused panics and depressions.

    Also, the technology boom after the Industrial Revolution and railroads was certainly no depression-free. Some would say that the massive booms and speculation that accompany such technological revolutions set the stage for recessions by creating bubbles.

    j.i.,

    There’s a sharp distinction between extended sluggish growth and a depression.

    ed,

    If the American economy grows at an average annual rate of 3.3% over the next few decades, there will never – never, even to the infinite time horizon – be a Social Security shortfall.

    Since the end of the Civil War – a period that includes the Great Depression – the American economy has averaged 3.4% annual growth.

    Even the blogmeisters at Reason, who dutifully passed on the Republicans’ panic-mongering when they thought Social Security privatization was afoot, were forced to admit by mid-2005 that the Social Security shortfall was almost certainly not going to happen.

  127. You wouldn’t claim that the universally-beloved Calvin Coolidge bears some blame for the Depression, would you?!

    Did Coolidge help craft the reparations part of the Treaty of Versailles?

    Did Coolidge help craft Smoot-Hawley?

    Did Coolidge put Britain back on the gold standard?

    Did Coolidge cause the bad farming practices that resulted in the dust bowl?

    C’mon, ol’ silent Cal mostly minded his own business. A remarkable restraint that more leaders should adopt.

  128. Juris — While I agree that mere presidents cannot “run,” “manage” or “fix” an economy, I do think they can do a bang-up job of making things worse. (Found a reference to Hoover’s intervention in wages leading to worse unemployment.)

  129. keith,

    That’s a good point, but most our our depressions weren’t caused by agricultural collapse, as far as I know.

  130. “Juris — While I agree that mere presidents cannot “run,” “manage” or “fix” an economy, I do think they can do a bang-up job of making things worse.”

    Yeah, in modern, global, terms, there’s always Robert Mugabe for an example of what can be done to an economy.

    Basically, a president can only plead, wheedle, and cajole an economy to get better, all of which may be ignored. But making an economy worse is child’s play. Probably doesn’t even require anything more than talk in the most extreme cases.

  131. I know, juris, I’m just (obviously) being facetious. Still wasn’t the Dawes Plan on during his administration? And I suppose it could be argued that he did nothing in the face of obvious (from hindsight) overlending, overfarming, et cetera, but that certainly wasn’t Cal’s style.

    Stevo-
    All this brings to mind that in the 1932 election, I believe one of FDR’s talking points was that Hoover’s policies were dragging us toward socialism.

  132. Jesse, do you remember playing Greatest/Most Evil Presidents?

    1. Greatest: George Washington; 2nd: Grover Cleveland; 3rd: Warren Harding; 4th: Andrew Jackson.

    2. Embraced Evil* and Pushed the Envelope of Same: Woodrow Wilson; 2nd: Abraham Lincoln; 3rd: FDR; 4th: Andrew Jackson.

    3. Greatest ex: Thomas Jefferson. My hat tip to anyone who translates the work of a French Harmony School economist, in Jefferson’s case, Destutt de Tracy (A Treatise on Political Economy).

    4. Favorite Vice President: Aaron Burr, because he had better aim than Dick Cheney: his shot actually killed the man, and his target needed killing. Favorite Vice: Speculations in Alternate History, such as where Burr kills Hamilton after The Federalist Papers are written, but before George Washington is elected to the presidency.

    5. The Col. Sanders question: I would have preferred him as Surgeon General. Better uniform. When I was a kid, the Colonel’s chicken was a favorite of mine. Now it makes me vomit . . . as do most recent VPs, come to think of it. Especially the current one.

    6. Pigasus vs. Col. Sanders . . . uh, I’ve got to stop here. My ability jump on the Absurdity Bandwagon does have its limits.

    * Evil being defined, I suppose, as vicious principles and policies, often involving massive loss of life and property, usually (in cases 1-3) advanced under the illusion of those policies’ Goodness.

    [By the way, my Camino browser no longer seems to allow me to post to this forum; I’m back on Safari, now. TR is nowhere in sight.]

  133. Was one of those Andrew Jacksons supposed to be Andrew Johnson?

  134. If you put Stevo and keith’s ideas together, you get the theory that the diversification of the economy away from agriculture prevented problems in that sector from being a sufficiently-large drain on the economy to trigger a depression. Which makes sense.

  135. Yay! I contributed to half an idea!

    Now I can knock off early today. And do some work.

  136. Was one of those Andrew Jacksons supposed to be Andrew Johnson?

    No — my former colleague TWV and I are agreed that Jackson was both one of the best presidents (in many areas he made the country more libertarian) and among the worst (for his abominable Indian policies, his support for slavery, and his abuses of executive power).

    What was the original topic of this thread? Economics? Oh, no. It was Presidents.

    It’s an open thread. You can talk about anything you like.

    Wouldn’t Pigasus be debating Nixon and Humphrey?

    It’s my hypothetical and I can do what I want with it.

  137. Was one of those Andrew Jacksons supposed to be Andrew Johnson?

    Oddly enough, I can see where Ol’ Hickory might appear on both lists.

    It strikes me that the best presidents have had flaws just as the worst have had redeeming qualities (except for, as near as I can tell, Franklin Pierce and LBJ).

  138. 1. Who was the best, or at least the most tolerable, American president?

    The answer is either Washington or Coolidge, and I’m going to go with Coolidge because his presidency and policies were more meaningful. Yes Washington stepped away, but if stepping away is your greatness…

    2. Who was the worst American president?

    It’s a tossup between Grant, FDR and LBJ. I’ll go with LBJ.

    3. Who was our greatest ex-president?

    John Quincy Adams, if only for his advancement of anti-slavery positions from Congress. He set the policy that Lincoln followed in the Emancipation Proclamation, Lincoln only had to write the words. Representing the Amistad in front of the Supreme Court doesn’t hurt one’s legacy either.

    4. Who is your favorite vice-president? Alternately, what is your favorite vice?

    Hannibal Hamlin. Poker.

    5. In 1968, according to An American Melodrama, George Wallace asked Colonel Sanders to be his running mate. If the colonel had said yes, and if you were able to cast a ballot that year, would you have been tempted, if only for a moment, to vote for Wallace, just to get Sanders within a heartbeat of the presidency? Be honest.

    No.

    6. Also in 1968, the Yippies nominated a hog named Pigasus to be president. Would you have liked to see Col. Sanders debate the pig? How about a pork-and-chicken taste test? Why isn’t that in the Constitution?

    No, I hate southern accents.

    7. Who had the biggest upside and worst downside as President

    Andrew Johnson

  139. Sorry, Jesse, I was composing my post while you made yours.

    You said exactly what I wanted to say about Jackson. I guess that’s why you’ve got the writin’ job.

  140. That’s a good point, but most our our depressions weren’t caused by agricultural collapse, as far as I know.

    I’d agree. Most of the panics in the 1800’s were railroad-related. You could ,though, place the 1907 panic on farms. England sucked up gold reserves, creating a shortage of currency here, preventing the harvest from getting to market.

  141. Serious question: did the agricultural problems of the 20s cause the stock market to fall (setting off the Depression as over-leveraged yadda yadda yadda), or did we have the incredible bad luck of having two unrelated catastrophes happen at nearly the same time?

  142. Someone has likely already mentioned him, but I will state that James Buchanan is the worst American President.

  143. 1. Thomas J. Whitmore
    2. Tied for worst is Richard M. Nixon. Thread rules don’t allow me to say to say whom he is tied with.
    3. Umm…
    4. Gluttony!
    5. Not only would I not vote against Wallace, I’d have lunch at El Pollo Loco afterwards.
    6. Yes.

  144. 7. Who had the biggest upside and worst downside as President

    Jackson runs a close second. Andrew’s are bi-polar.

  145. “I don’t think I’ll get to read anything that funny for the rest of the week.”

    This canned reply is getting awfully tiresome…

  146. joe,

    Regardless of rosy GDP estimates, fewer and fewer taxpayers supporting more and more retirees means more deficit spending, a catastrophic national debt and a future implosion. There’s no way to evade or avoid it. It’s the classic definition of Ponzi scheme.

  147. “For bad-ass points: he married a 24 year old beauty when he was in his fifties, and knocked her up EIGHT times! His last kid was born when he was just about 70.”

    Well that explains it! I used to work for the Chaifman of a Fortune 50 company and every couple of years or so this guy would call up claiming to be Tyler’s grandson. He’d ramble on and on about nothing. Never really said what he wanted…

  148. ed,

    Actually, they’re not “rosy” GDP estimates. They’re low GDP estimates.

    Anyway, the decline in worker : retiree ratios isn’t happening as fast as the growth in workers’ productivity. So it’s all good.

  149. “Hoover’s been posthumously bleeding off cred because of Dinesh D’Souza’s alliance with Sheik Omar.”

    No fuckin’ way Larry Hoover was president.

    That you Lil’ Crack??

  150. “This canned reply is getting awfully tiresome…”

    So is the endless recitation of fdr’s “accomplishments”.

  151. In olden times children would ask their parents, “How come there’s a Mother’s Day and a Father’s Day, but no President’s Day?” And their parents would answer, “Why, every day is President’s Day.” Then the admen and calendar-makers of America declared an actual President’s Day and that beloved family tradition dragged to an end, though officially the holiday is still called George Washington’s Birthday.

    Actually I remember that we used to celebrate Abraham Lincoln’s birthday (February 12) and George Washington’s birthday (February 22). Two holidays in February (a month too short to get any respect) was too much, so when the Federal holidays were moved to weekends we went to celebrating “President’s Day.”

  152. Don’t worry, ed, Social Security will be just fine as long as we can accept Swedish levels of taxation.

    Oh wait, even the Swedes are tired of Swedish levels of taxation.

  153. joe, they weren’t independent events.

    The agricultural collapse occurred because the U.S. government tried to preserve the excess agricultural capacity in the U.S.

    The stockmarket collapse occurred because the Federal Reserve printed banknotes for money that it didn’t have.

    Both of them were fallouts of WW I.

    The agricultural business is quite straightforward: WW I took a great chunk of European farmland out of cultivation. This led to lower worldwide food production which meant that farmers could charge more money for their crop. then the war-ravaged areas started producing food again. Result, prices started to fall. The U.S. government then stepped in with increasingly stupid policies in an attempt to preserve production and price at WW I levels, which led to a glut in agricultural commodities, which eventually prompted the collapse of prices.

    The collapse of the investment/financial system was due to another attempt to fight economic laws: both the U.S. and British governments had financed the war by printing bank-notes. Then Winston Churchill decided that for reasons of national pride, England would return to the gold standard at pre war prices. Of course, this meant that people now tried to trade overvalued banknotes for gold whenever they could, resulting in gold leaving England. The federal reserve, dominated by Morgan men, tried to staunch the flow of gold out of england by, in effect, running the printing presses here, resulting in a massive credit expansion.

    Of course, all these newly printed federal reeserve notes were not backed up with actual money in anybody’s vaults.

    So it wasn’t bad luck, per se, it was the collapse of World War I style central planning.

    Today, lots of people claim that the Great Depression proved that the government is needed to manage the economy, when exactly the converse is true. government intervention created it, FDR’s new deal lengthened it, and only when Truman refused to take FDR’s policies to its logical conclusions and start shooting farmers and loosened the government’s grip on the economy did things begin to improve.

  154. Ticking time bomb! Holy Shit! We’d better torture somebody!

    Got it covered. My paycheck gets tortured on a bi-weekly basis.

    Serious question: did the agricultural problems of the 20s cause the stock market to fall (setting off the Depression as over-leveraged yadda yadda yadda), or did we have the incredible bad luck of having two unrelated catastrophes happen at nearly the same time?

    More the latter, I think. And while we tend to look at the Depression as this monolithic non-stop nationwide period of suffering, it was actually pretty regional and episodic in a lot of ways.

  155. Grotius,

    Our most tolerable President?

    One “libertarian” answer might be William Harrison or “Old Rough and Ready” – since they served such short terms. 😉

    For me the most tolerable President is JQ Adams.

    JQ Adams is also our most successful ex-President. His – amongst other things – efforts to free the slaves of the Amistad puts him at number one IMHO. Serving time in the House and constantly fighting the “gag rule” should also bring him praise.

    As to my favorite Veep, well that is Hannibal Hamlin.

  156. Grotius, stop stealing my answers.

  157. Larry A.: Some states had Lincoln’s birthday as a holiday, but not all.
    I can’t claim to have seen ads my every car maker out there, but in Rhode Island all the ads for American car makers call it Presidents’ Day but the ads for Toyota correctly calls it Washington’s Birthday. That’s a good argument for free trade.

  158. TPG,

    Heh. 😉

    Great minds thin a like.

  159. Grotius,

    I did lose a couple of pounds recently. Thanks for noticing!

  160. TPG,

    What a typo!

    Anyway, I picked Hamlin largely because he was such an advocate of enlisting blacks (when lots of folks were skeptical of such).

  161. Of course, all these newly printed federal reeserve notes were not backed up with actual money in anybody’s vaults.

    Twenty lashes!!! Then go to the corner and read Friedman.

    Repeat as necessary (i.e. until you have no desire to fetishize gold).

  162. While we’re on the subject of Presidents and Presidents Day, [I hope there isn’t an apostrophe in there.] take a look at Radley’s post over at http://www.theagitator.com

    ‘Nother great one, Radley.

  163. Hamlin was excellent on the anti-slavery thing, MUCH better than Lincoln.

    I like that Lincoln was able to use the ideas and words of Hamlin and JQA and get credit for being great, when all along he expressed grave doubts about the path he was taking.

  164. “I don’t think I’ll get to read anything that funny for the rest of the week.”

    This canned reply is getting awfully tiresome…

    Nein, mein friend, you haf become tiresome.

    Here is mein monkey! Schtroke him! Luff him!

    And now I shall do ze Hasselhoff dance of ze trout!

  165. “Aresen | February 19, 2007, 2:48pm | #
    There should also be a category for best-president-who-never-was. This is restricted to candidates who actually got electoral votes.”

    Charles Evans Hughes.

  166. Juris,

    Given that Friedman’s ideas about money were collosally wrong, I’ll give it a miss.

    In contrast, I reommend Mises, De Sotto, or Rothbard.

    Incidentally, I am a fan of monetary freedom, you know – where the monetary system is dictated by free market forces rather than imposed at gunpoint by the dominant gang in the neighborhood.

  167. Question for those who put Lincoln in the ranks of ‘worst’

    in historical retrospect, who, if anyone, would have managed the job of keeping the country in one piece, as well as retain the federalism ideals that I assume you feel he violated.

    Or more simply, was not Lincolns deviations from the ideal a matter of urgent necessity much like FDR…that later presidents venally exploited – a la Johnson following FDR…

    just an open question to better understand peoples reasoning

    JG

  168. 1 James K Polk totally under-rated even by those who rank him highly-served only a single term
    added much of the West to our country-relatively painlessly-I could go on……..

    2 Tie Jimmy Carter-worst President ever
    FDR -most destructive of liberty

    3 Jefferson- the most remarkable man to hold the office

    4 Alexander Stephens….Well he was a Vice President and a far better man and Georgian than Jimmy Carter. Picking him here makes me feekl better about not naming Lincoln as the worst President

  169. 5 In retrospect Wallace was the best candidate that year.Harlan Sanders invented pressure frying chicken making fried chicken a cheap and ubiquitous tasty food-even if the poor birds
    lead a short and miserable life compared to their gamefowl bretheren.

  170. Incidentally, I am a fan of monetary freedom, you know

    Odd how that wasn’t what was implied by your remark about “real money”. I apologize though for misassuming your intent.

    I don’t have a philosophical problem with a market for monies. I do think the practical issues are worth worrying about though.

  171. Hey you doper Reagan Haters- put the blame where it belongs Woddrow wilson and especially FDR.

    FDR signed the damned Marihuana Tax Act into law

  172. Worst president: LBJ, for the Great Society. Or maybe Nixon for being a Republican who did nothing to stem the march of the regullatory state. (Honestly, I find Watergate relatively trivial.)

    Most overrated: Abraham Lincoln. Saving the Union without a bloody war would arguably make him the greatest ever, especially if he could have done it while at least advancing the abolitionist ball a good distance. Alas, no one would remember him if he did that.

  173. I’m really interested in knowing if anyone agrees with me that part of the reason Buchanan was such a lousy president was that Stephen Douglas used his reputation as a bachelor and dandy to cow him into signing the Kansas-Nebraska Act and other pro-slavery legislation? I have no documentary evidence, but I believe there were loud whispers at the time about Buchanan’s “lifestyle,” to use the modern phrase. At the time of course, gays were in jeopardy of criminal prosecution as well as social disgrace, so if there was anything to the rumors and Douglas knew it, then such knowledge was a powerful weapon. I don’t know of anything in Buchanan’s past to indicate he was going to be so very pro-Southern, so I’m curious. I do know that Douglas bullied him into signing the K-N law, abrogating the Missouri Compromise and sending Abraham Lincoln back into politics. If anyone is really familiar with that era, I’d like to know about this?

  174. Lincoln….worst President. Please consider the following and then let me have it:

    tens of thousands killed ….
    suspended habeas corpus…
    censored the press….
    destroyed states rights…
    increased the size and scope of the federal government…
    war crimes were committed by his generals….

    sounds like Bush on coke….

  175. tarran,

    Just reviewed the Rothbard link (DeSoto’s treatise was a bit lengthy) you provided. What rubbish. A market for money that doesn’t even address market dynamics? I don’t even see it comporting with the principles of Mises work – other than being virulently (to the point of irrationally) opposed to govt fiat money. Which misses the whole damn point of having a money system.

    Yes, Rothbard goes out of his way to always mention that some metal could be money, not just gold. Yet he always returns to gold as his basis.

  176. It was Buchanan’s predecessor, Franklin Pierce, who signed the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854. The Democrats nominated Buchanan partly because he’d been out of the country during the debate over that bill and hence could be presented to the Northern public as untainted by support of that measure.

    Buchanan and Douglas had a no-holds-barred battle in 1857-1858 over the admission of Kanss as a state. Buchanan wanted Kansas to be a slave state under a constitution drawn up under dubious circumstances. Douglas thought (correctly) that the pro-slavery consitution failed to reflect the views of the majority of white settlers.

    Buchanan pulled out the stops to use his patronage powers to override Douglas and the Republicans. This resulted in a bogus “compromise” which basically deferred statehood as punishment for Kansas voters’ rejecting slavery. Douglas spoke vehemently against Buchanan during this whole imbroglio, and lost a lot of federal patronage as a result.

    If Douglas had blackmail material on Buchanan, you’d think he would have unveiled it during this bitter controversy. One is led to suspect that Douglas didn’t have anything.

    Whether Buchanan was gay is unproven. If he was, he kept it very private. The speculation in that direction probably comes from his bachelorhood, and the sudden breaking-off of his engagement to his fiancee as a young man. I think he’s the only President never to have married, whether before, during or after his term of office.

  177. Washington, for all the reasons stated above and for freeing his slaves upon his death (and providing land for them as well). Oh, and for being a “hemp” farmer

    FDR, for breaking the two-term tradition so wonderfully set by Washington, and for promoting positive rights (i.e., slavery)

    Washington, for being the first ex-prez; that is, not being prez for life

    Veeps are lame; there are no good ones. It’s like asking, “Who’s your favorite first runner-up in the …… contest?”

    No to Wallace

    Yes to the debate

  178. Thanks MM. I should have remembered that about Pierce and the K N act. Duh. Nothing like basing arguments on vaguely remembered college textbooks and History Channel specials.

  179. You’re looking at the trees, not the forest.*

    “tens of thousands killed ….
    “suspended habeas corpus …
    “censored the press …
    “destroyed states rights …
    “increased the size and scope of the federal government …
    “war crimes were committed by his generals …”

    vs.

    Extirpated slavery and preserved the Union to enable it to put down Germany (twice) …

    I would argue the positive results vastly outweigh the negative. Or would you rather have slavery both at home and abroad?

    *As the Russian side of the family says, “When a forest is cut down, splinters fly” with the implicit notion that it is, of course, unfortunate to be a splinter.

  180. I would argue the positive results vastly outweigh the negative. Or would you rather have slavery both at home and abroad?

    Know your logical fallacies people:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/False_dilemma
    This is Reason after all.

    Lincoln deserves some credit for ending slavery when he did. (If another Republican had been elected we most likely still would have had Civil war, but could very easily have had slavery afterwards too). Even so, I find the argument that slavery would exist today in the south without the Lincoln presidency very unconvincing.

    On the whole I’d say it’s unfair to call Lincoln the worst president and probably even unfair to call him the most overrated (aside: has to be either John Adams or LBJ…how those two are consistently ranked so high is beyond me.) The case against Lincoln is fair though. People have already gone into it so I wont repeat the arguments.

    Seriously, why do people give John Adams a pass on the Alien and Sedition acts? He’s like the inverse of Washington in that way…if the country had gone in that direction we really would have just reverted back to monarchy or something similar. Similarly, why do people give LBJ a pass on Vietnam? That war was anything but inevitable, was absolutely horrible, and was largely LBJ’s fault.

  181. Well, I answered a ridiculous laundry list perhaps too strongly. And I am often oblique so take “slavery” to mean the principle that one man can order another to do his bidding without the other man’s consent.

    Is it unreasonable to ask how and when slavery would have been ended, if not by force?

    Is it unreasonable to suppose that a divided America would have been much less able to “redress the balance” of the Old World?

    Is it unreasonable to suggest that those who fought for a state’s right to permit and protect slavery had much in common with monarchists, autocrats and dictators?

  182. “Best vice-president: Spiro Agnew. He proved that anyone, no matter what ethnicity, how crooked, or how poorly named, could be one accident away from being the president. Not only that, but he (or his speechwriters) really knew how to turn a phrase.”

    And, as Paul Krassner has been known to point out, his name is an anagram for “grow a penis.”

  183. You libertarians get your panties in a twist over the UCC?

    Sheesh. I supposed you LIKE having to rebox eggs from 12-egg cartons to 10-egg cartons and back again as your truck ships into different states….

    Standards, people. Standards. You might understand why they’re important.

  184. If the union had wanted to end slavery, all they had to do was stop enforcing the Fugitive Slave law.

    Slaves had to make a hazardous trek to Canada to be free. Imagine if they had only to flee to Pennsylvania. Slavery collapses pretty rapidly when slaves can find refuge relatively easily, and the slave-owners have to expend large sums of money in preventing their victims from escaping. That is why formal slavery* usually tended to die out pretty peacefully in every modern society that practiced it with the exception of the U.S.

    Also, Lincoln initially supported a Constitutional Ammendment forbidding the Federal Government from interfering with slavery, if only the Southerners would continue to pay their taxes to the Union Govt.

    If one looks at the historical record, it is quite clear, Abraham Lincoln was a tax and spend mercantilist who viewed black people as sub-humans who should be exiled. He was willing to slaughter hundreds of thousands of people to get his tax money so that he and his friends could get rich (Had he evaded justice for his crimes, Abraham Lincoln stood to multiply his already substantial fortune via the land he had purchased on the planned route for federally Subisidized railroads). Certainly he cared little if at all about the plight of slaves.

    Based on the body-count Lincoln easily is the worst president, although FDR and Woodrow Wilson give him a run for the money.

    *informal slavery like the Jim Crow Laws in the American South, patron/peon relationships, etc. continue to this day since too many people use violence to expropriate the fruits of other peoples’ labor.

  185. Grumpy,

    I’m puzzled. Why do you think we wouldn’t be opposed to local polities passing dumb laws mandating conflicting egg lot sizes?

    Just because one is opposed to a big organized crime ring does not mean one supports little ones…

  186. Eh forgot to add, you don’t need a government to have standards. They tend to evolve pretty readily in free markets too. Voluntary enforcement mechanisms are actually quite effective.

  187. 1. George Washington

    2. Lyndon B. Johnson

    3. Andrew Johnson

    4. Smoking

  188. Despite his failings, President Lincoln preserved the Union and determined that states could not secede at will.

    One could argue that if he had not, we wouldn’t have won World War II.

  189. AP,

    You do realize that without the U.S. involvement in WW I there wouldn’t have been a World War II right? Without the shock of the U.s. Navy bombarding Japanese cities in the 19th century, the Japanese Emperor wouldn’t have decided to convert his empire into a colonial one based on the European model right?

  190. “As to my favorite Veep, well that is Hannibal Hamlin.”

    Once, one of my former Democratic colleagues in Congress tried to persuade me to vote for the Kansas-Nebraska Bill and repeal the Missouri Compromise.

    I ate him with some fava beans and a nice chianti.

    THP-THP-THP-THP-THP!

  191. Worst president has gotta be LBJ. Or as his Mexican hookers knew him, “El BJ”.

  192. Favorite Vice: polyamory with attractive, consenting, mature (though not too mature), and enthusiastic females.

    2nd Favorite: marathon video sessions of The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, 24, or Big Love.

    Least Favorite: debating incorrigible hawks about the Iraq war or incorrigible leftists on the importance of markets

    But how are we defining ‘vice’?

    Pet Peeves: The assumption among many non-libs that because one is pro-capitalist one also likes every *specific* business or business practice. The assumption that libertarians are necessarily atheists or non-spiritual. The assumption that libertarians must necessarily march in lockstep with the dictates of the libertarian party. The assumption among some libs that if you don’t “you’re no libertarian.” The assumption that if you’re a libertarian you must be a Randian. The assumption that libertarians necessarily have more in common with Republicans than with Democrats. The assumption that “libertarian” is synonymous with “libertine” (oh wait, I fit that stereotype to some degree….)

    Two recent enjoyable reads: Erik Larsen’s “The Devil in the White City.” Llian Hearn’s “Tales of the Otori.”

  193. 1) The original George W: first in war, first in peace, etc.

    2) Woodrow Wilson

    3) Ike: spilled the beans about the Military-Industrial whatsit, then bolted to play golf (honorable mention: Nixon, because as William Burroughs pointed out, the man’s very presence helped maintain an ongoing cynicism about government in general)

    4) That loveable, trigger-happy rogue Aaron Burr; Cohiba cigars

    5 & 6) I was too young to vote in ’68; in any event, I never would have voted for the Colonel or the pig, because I was a self-important little shit who took everything waaaaaaaay too seriously (I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now).

  194. the picture proves that bert is in fact evil

  195. I wish a painful experience at the hands of Nazi sympathizers and Hitler Youth-types for all those who say FDR was the worst president. You really deserve it.

    “Allegedly manipulated US entry into World War 2”

    S.D., just to clarify: we should have stayed out of WWII? If letting Nazis control the world is your version of a good idea, then I guess FDR was a terrible prez.

  196. A lot of folks here seem to be blaming the Civil War on Lincoln. In light of this one has to ask, who drew first blood? In other words, the seceding states and the leaders of those states bear some responsibility for the war.

  197. My favorite President is Jefferson, the one I dislike to most is FDR. He was a total failure all around. He prolonged the Depression throughout the 30’s, he gave us more of a federal welfare state, he unecessarily got us into war by provoking the Japanese to attack us.

  198. “A lot of folks here seem to be blaming the Civil War on Lincoln. In light of this one has to ask, who drew first blood? In other words, the seceding states and the leaders of those states bear some responsibility for the war.”

    The South had a right to secede because the North was requiring the South to pay high protectionist tarrifs that benefitted only the North and hurt the South. The South was provoked into firing the first shot at Fort Sumter because of Union forces occupying the fort. Lincoln could have avoided the war by removing the tariffs.

  199. 1. Washington
    2. Wilson

  200. “If letting Nazis control the world is your version of a good idea, then I guess FDR was a terrible prez.”

    I think we should have let Germany and the Soviet Union fight it out, maybe then we would not have had to mess with either of them if they greatly weakened each other.

  201. “Despite his failings, President Lincoln preserved the Union and determined that states could not secede at will.”

    The right to secede keeps the Federal Government in check.

  202. Is it unreasonable to ask how and when slavery would have been ended, if not by force?

    “Is it unreasonable to suppose that a divided America would have been much less able to “redress the balance” of the Old World?”

    Why is it our responsibility to meddle in the Old World? The responsibility for resolving probliems in the Old World belongs to the Old World.

    “Is it unreasonable to suggest that those who fought for a state’s right to permit and protect slavery had much in common with monarchists, autocrats and dictators?”

    The South didn’t secede for the purpose of keeping slavery alive. They seceded for economic reasons. There is no mention in Jefferson Davis’s inaugural address of slavery, only of the oppression of the Northern tariffs. Lincoln was perfectly willing to let the South keep their slaves as long as they were willing to not secede and continue to pay the tariffs.

  203. “Is it unreasonable to ask how and when slavery would have been ended, if not by force?”

    Every other major country ended slavery through reparations. Only the US ended it by force. Actually, the issue of slavery was a political move made by Lincoln in the middle of the war to keep England from coming to the aid of the South. He freed the slaves in the secessionist states, not the Northern states. By making slavery an issue, the British government did not want to come to the aid of the South. The slaves were not truly freed until after the war.

  204. H.S.:

    FDR provoked an innocent Japan into attacking the United States, and FDR should have left Germany and USSR to weaken each other.

    I guess Eisenhower was a commie stooge as well. From now on, I’ll listen to Herb Schaffler over that knuckelhead Eisenhower. Eisenhower was stupid enough to think invading France was a good idea. We should have just let the Nazi’s burn out against the Commies. It’s easy, just let Hitler and Stalin neutralize each other. Of course, a stalemate might not happen. If Hitler wins, he gains power and maybe survives 1945, if Stalin wins, Germany and maybe France become part of the Soviet Union. Apparently, Herb Schaffler thinks that the world would be better if all of Germany were taken by the Soviets and controlled by the Commies. Fascinating thesis.

  205. Herb,
    It’s an overstatement to say that the South seceded only for economic reasons. Check out Alexendar Stephens’s Cornerstone Speech where he declares slavery the God given right of the white man and the eternal moral order. Additionally, slavery is strongly supported in the Confederate Constitution. And had it not been for the Missouri Compromise in 1820 the South would have likely have gone to war over slavery then.

    And in some respects, slavery and the economic reasons were tied together. The South wanted the territories to be slave states so that they’d have more representatives in Congress, and thus more power in deciding economic issues.

    Finally, while slavery was for many years considered an embarrassment to a people who fought for freedom around the first quarter of the 19th century the South stopped apologizing for it and decided it was a point of pride and the rightful order of things under God. Southern ministers preached this from the pulpit and plantation owners and the general public imbibed it.

    Reparations sound like a good way to go. Who doesn’t prefer peace over war. But when would the South have let this happen? The national sentiment wasn’t anywhere near letting the slaves go by 1860. So how long would they have had to wait? 20 years? 30? 50? 75? It seems like a curious thing for libertarians to preach the glories of a war for independence from the British, a war fought for almost a decade, with thousands of dead on both sides, and a war fought over taxes that were hardly onerous, but then to say that chattel slavery wasn’t something worth fighting for. For those libertarians, I have to say, what kind of screwed up priorities are those?

  206. The South had a right to secede…

    Since secession was largely predicated on the fears over the future of slavery in the Union the South did not have the right to secede. If people have a right to secede it must be on grounds which have some merit.

    The South was provoked into firing the first shot at Fort Sumter because of Union forces occupying the fort.

    Since the Fort had been paid by the citizens of the entire Union at the very least the seceding states would have to have paid into the Union treasury for the fort. Anyway, a few hundred Union soldiers were no threat to anyone.

    Lincoln could have avoided the war by removing the tariffs.

    The Congress levies tariffs. You appear to be referring to the Morrill tariff, introduced in 1860. Basically Republicans imposed a new, higher tariff because they had won control of Congress.

    Instead of working within the political system, and indeed as a result of rampant paranoia over abolitionism in the North, southern states seceded to protect their way of life – which was based on slavery.

  207. Herb,

    Every other major country ended slavery through reparations.

    Incorrect. Slavery ended in Haiti via revolution. Indeed, there is not a single slave regime in the Americas which was not brought down in part by violence. In the British Caribbean it was revolts in the 1820s and 1830s which helped convince the British government that slavery was untenable. In the Spanish Americas slave revolts and the drafting of slaves by Bolivar and others were what in large part ended slavery at the same time as independence.

  208. Shep,

    Also note that the secession declarations mention slavery and use perceived threats against it as one of the primary means to justify the war. In their own words they declare what the war is about.

  209. Let’s see what happened as a result of World War II. The Communists took over China and the Soviets took over a great part of Asia which led to the Cold War. Were we really better off by defeating Germany?

  210. Herb Schaffler,

    Yes. Ultimately the Soviets and Chinese Communists have proven to be far less aggressive militarily than Nazi Germany. Anyway, the war with Germany had little to do with war with Germany. Indeed, it is likely the case that the U.S. would have had to deal with an expansionist Japan not matter what happened in WWI or WWII re: Germany.

  211. “to say that chattel slavery wasn’t something worth fighting for.”

    If slavery was the reason for the Civil War, why did Lincoln support a Constitutional Amendment that declared slavery would never be interfered with as long as the South didn’t secede and agreed to continue paying high tariffs for the benefit of the North?

    With the invention of the cotton gin, it was just a matter of time, and probably not that long, before the South no longer had a need for slaves and would have abandoned the practice out of humanitarian reason.

    Such a small percentage of people in the South were slave holders. Why would the vast majority of soldiers in the South be willing to fight for something that didn’t benefit them? One more indication that the war wasn’t about slavery.

  212. On another point, a number of Southern leaders talked of establishing a slavocracy stretching from the Southern states all the way through Central America and perhaps beyond. Lincoln might not have had very pure motives in starting the war, he might have had ambivalent feelings about slavery, he might have been a racist himself, but in the end the war stopped the slavocrats and that’s what’s most important.

    On the other hand, I have sometimes wondered if a didn’t tactic couldn’t have worked. The North could have let the South go and doing so the Fugitive Slave Law would have ended, making it much easier for slaves to escape to and remain free in the North. For the remaining slaves, perhaps a guerrilla movement could have been started to free the remaining slaves on the plantations. But that’s a big if. Also, the thought of this “Slavocracy” reconquering the rest of the Americas and extending slavery there, seems to make that argument moot. These bloodsuckers had to be stopped.

  213. ‘different’ for ‘didn’t.’

  214. “it is likely the case that the U.S. would have had to deal with an expansionist Japan not matter what happened in WWI or WWII re: Germany.”

    Japan felt that Asia should be run by Asians. Why should we have gone to the aid of European colonialists?

  215. If slavery was the reason for the Civil War, why did Lincoln support a Constitutional Amendment that declared slavery would never be interfered with as long as the South didn’t secede and agreed to continue paying high tariffs for the benefit of the North?

    Because the Corwin Amendment failed to pass the Congress. The text of the Corwin Amendment said nothing about the tariff.

    With the invention of the cotton gin, it was just a matter of time, and probably not that long, before the South no longer had a need for slaves and would have abandoned the practice out of humanitarian reason.

    Slavery was expanding before its invention and slave prices were increasing as well. The cotton gin didn’t save slavery. It did make cotton production more profitable however.

    As to its condition in 1860 there was no sign whatsoever that slavery was in trouble; prices for slaves were at an all time high and the prices of Southern commodities – sugar, rice, cotton, etc. – were also high.

    Such a small percentage of people in the South were slave holders.

    Technically yes. But generationally no. If a man owned slaves he clearly held title to the slaves; but his children and wife were direct beneficiaries of that ownership. Thus at a given time only small percentage of folks owned slaves, but that doesn’t account for children who would eventually own those slaves. In other words, a person in the South had a good chance of owning slaves.

    Why would the vast majority of soldiers in the South be willing to fight for something that didn’t benefit them?

    It did benefit them of course. Even the rural poor in the South found benefits from slavery, from turning in fugitive slaves to providing products of plantations to the psychological and sociological benefits associated with being above the slaves.

  216. Shep,

    Oh definately; an independent Confederacy would have been an aggressive and expansionist state that would have attacked its neighbors in an effort to expand slavery. For example, Cuba and the Yucatan were in the sights of many southern politicians.

  217. Actually, the Corwin amendment passed the Congress, what I mean is that it was never ratified by the states – because there was no time to do so.

  218. Japan felt that Asia should be run by Asians. Why should we have gone to the aid of European colonialists?

    Japan felt that Asia should be run by Japan. Of course they killed millions of Asians in the process of getting to that goal.

  219. The North didn’t go to war to end slavery, but mainly to maintain economic control of the South. But the South went to war partly to maintain slavery *and* partly for economic reasons – as I said these were tied together in some cases. The South didn’t trust Lincoln as he was well known for speaking out of both sides of his mouth.

    The South would have abandoned the practice out of humanitarian reasons? Clearly not true if you read any of the literature of the times on the attitude towards the blacks rightful position in society – as a slave.

    It would have been “just a matter of time”? Hmm, maybe it would have been just a matter of time before the British let the American colonies go.

    I can just see the dialog now: “That’s okay, boy, you’ll be free in…oh, I don’t know, maybe about 25 years. Now don’t clank those chains so loud when you’re moving the kindling. The missus needs her peace and quiet.”

  220. If slavery was the reason for the Civil War, why did Lincoln support a Constitutional Amendment that declared slavery would never be interfered with as long as the South didn’t secede and agreed to continue paying high tariffs for the benefit of the North?

    Because Lincoln and the southerners had different motives. Slavery was the chief reason the Confederacy seceded. It was not the reason the North fought to keep it in the Union.

  221. Alright, Herb. Given that we won the cold war and Germany played a key role, I have to disagree with your pro-Nazi arguments. What symbolized the east vs. west more than the Berlin Wall? Yeah, we should have just let the commies have Germany my ass. Worst revisionist history – EVER!

  222. “Technically yes. But generationally no. If a man owned slaves he clearly held title to the slaves; but his children and wife were direct beneficiaries of that ownership. Thus at a given time only small percentage of folks owned slaves, but that doesn’t account for children who would eventually own those slaves. In other words, a person in the South had a good chance of owning slaves.”

    The vast majority of Southern families didn’t own slaves, so most Southerners had no hopes of inheriting them.

    “Even the rural poor in the South found benefits from slavery, from turning in fugitive slaves”

    I believe that is quite a stretch. How much of the rural poor made their living off returning fugitive slaves?

  223. Herb,
    You mean you’ve never read of Southern sentiment to expand their slavocracy southwards? I guess you are just bothering to read the side of the argument that supports your position? (I’ve read Rogers Hummel and Adams by the way).

  224. Jesse Walker,

    I think Herb was trying to argue that if the Confederacy really seceded over slavery why didn’t they take up the Corwin amendment? Because basically by the time it was offered the fait accompli had already been served*, and of course the amendment said nothing about the tariff.

    *That lots of Southern leaders had been itching for secession for quite some time also explains why once the course was taken there was no looking back.

  225. Herb,

    The vast majority of Southern families didn’t own slaves, so most Southerners had no hopes of inheriting them.

    Incorrect. Generationally 40% to 50% of the Southern population either owned slaves or were direct beneficiaries of slave ownership (they were the spouses of slave owners, etc.).

    I believe that is quite a stretch. How much of the rural poor made their living off returning fugitive slaves?

    I didn’t claim that they did make their living that way. That was one of the benefits that accrued to poor whites though – indeed, being part of the slave patrols by itself was also a benefit because they would get monetary and other rewards for such.

  226. Let’s put this in perspective.

    Average number of slaves owned in the slave holding states from ~1800-1860 = 19. Obviously averages can hide a lot of variation, but less us note that in the British Caribbean that the average number of slaves held by an owner (generall an absentee) was well over 100.

    Number of slaves in the slave holding states as of 1860 = four million.

    Number of free people at the same time = five million.

    I don’t know if the ratio was similar throughout the entire ante-bellum period (indeed, I suspect that it wasn’t – there were probably more or an equal number of slaves in the South as compared to whites in 1800).

    These figures should give you an idea of just how much slavery was an intimate part of the lives free people in the South. Now admittedly slavery was found in greater concentration in some areas over others, but those were also the areas where one found high concentrations of non-slaves.

  227. I wish a painful experience at the hands of Nazi sympathizers and Hitler Youth-types for all those who say FDR was the worst president. You really deserve it.

    “Allegedly manipulated US entry into World War 2”

    S.D., just to clarify: we should have stayed out of WWII? If letting Nazis control the world is your version of a good idea, then I guess FDR was a terrible prez.

    It’s dumb to take this kind of discussion personally. However, I was going to ask, how do you feel about us staying out of WWWIII? As opposed to moving against the USSR ASAP in the postwar period, while we were the only power with nuclear weapons? (And our industrial capacity untouched by bombing.)

    Or is letting the Soviet communists control half of Europe, plus the sizable territory they took over from old Russian empire, as well as aiding the communist revolutionaries in China, and also meddling in countries around the world, your version of a good idea?

    After 70 years or so, things turned out okay for us Americans, but meanwhile during those 3+ generations millions (over a billion if you count China) suffered horribly. What fate might they wish on you for not finishing the War on Totalitarianism and permitting this to happen? A painful experience at the hands of the KGB in the gulag? Perhaps they’d think you deserve it.

    Or, maybe the question of whether to intervene or not is just not all that simple. There were some stinky things about the way the US entered WW2.

  228. Just because we beat the Russians in the cold war doesn’t mean that we knew that we could beat them in 1946. I suspect that we didn’t think we could beat Germany unless we got in bed with Stalin. Why else would we send our military technology to a commie butcher?

    I know many people think FDR’s legacy is worthless because of the New Deal, or because of overblown claims of his amelioration of the Great Depression. Fine. But he kept the country together and geared it up for the biggest challenge and military operation anyone alive today has known. That alone keeps him off the bottom of the list.

  229. I can just see the dialog now: “That’s okay, boy, you’ll be free in…oh, I don’t know, maybe about 25 years. Now don’t clank those chains so loud when you’re moving the kindling. The missus needs her peace and quiet.”

    As I recall, that’s the way slavery was abolished in the North.

  230. Seamus,

    The difference is that slavery was not an important societal institution in the North. Furthermore, each northern state handled its abolition differently. Some states, like Vermont, simple outlawed the practiced, others took a gradualist approach.

    Anyway, it was argued in the 1780s and 1790s by some that slavery would gradually disappear in the South. By 1860, when the institution was even more entrenched than it had been in 1800, that was simply not likely to happen. as the Roman Republic/Empire illustrates, slave societies can last for hundreds and hundreds of years.

  231. I know many people think FDR’s legacy is worthless because of the New Deal, or because of overblown claims of his amelioration of the Great Depression. Fine. But he kept the country together and geared it up for the biggest challenge and military operation anyone alive today has known. That alone keeps him off the bottom of the list.

    Any number of presidents prior to FDR could have “kept the country together and geared it up for the biggest challenge and military operation anyone alive today has known.” None other than FDR would have attempted to destroy the ideals of individual freedom that this country was founded upon. FDR was the worst.

    BTW, although no one alive today was alive at the time, the civil war was the greatest military challenge America has known. WWII was second (and it was likely caused by our intervention in WWI–we skewed the balance of power in Europe, which led to Germany becoming a failed state, which led to the rise of the NAZIs. For what? To preserve various colonial empires? France, Britain, Holland, Belgium, etc. deserved to have their asses kicked. Note that Germany had a relative handful of colonies. The damage Belgium did alone was horrendous).

  232. I don’t believe we would have slavery in this country at this time even if we had not had a Civil War in which 660,000 were killed. I can’t say how long slavery would have lasted, but was it worth the killing of 660,000 people?

    The reason why I don’t think we would have slavery at this time is because I believe people are generally more moral in today’s times. We are opposed to slavery, we believe in a woman’s right to vote and hold office, we are more tolerant towards gays. Even in our wars, there is not as great a death toll as in times past. We would never accept the number of deaths as there were as recently as in Vietnam.

    Regarding WWII, somebody above called me a pro-nazi. I’m not pro-nazi or pro-communist. In fact, I’m opposed to both and all totalitarianism. I believe that defeating the Nazis and the Japanese just created a vacuum for the Communists in China and the Soviet Union. What did we accomplish? We just traded one bunch of totalitarians for others.

  233. 1. Calvin Coolidge
    2. Going with all the big 4 Democrats: FDR, Wilson, Jackson for obvious reasons already stated. Jefferson for starting the war against Islamo-fascism that continues to this day.
    3. Tie between Lincoln, Taylor, McKinley, Harrison, FDR, JFK and probably one or two more I forgot.
    4. Adams, for actually trying to run the Senate.
    5. For more than just a moment.
    6. Yes, Yes, 9th amendment?

  234. Hey, The Real Bill: Thanks for your speculation about who may have possibly, at some vague, ill-defined point done something that FDR actually did. Keep going, you’re making an excellent argument….that you hate Nazi’s much less than you hate Social Security. Maybe I’m wrong. World War 2 just seems so important because I’m so young. Didn’t mean anything really……

  235. Herb: I understand your ideas, and they sound a lot like you wish we’d have sided with the Nazis. I tend to think that we sided with incompetent totalitarians to defeat highly competent totalitarians. And we defeated Italy, too.

    I also think that calling him the superlative “the worst” is silly given that he built this country for its greatest military achievement. I can be rather flip, but calling FDR the worst prez ever just says to me that anger towards Social Security has dulled your disdain for Nazis.

  236. Hey, The Real Bill: Thanks for your speculation about who may have possibly, at some vague, ill-defined point done something that FDR actually did. Keep going, you’re making an excellent argument….that you hate Nazi’s much less than you hate Social Security. Maybe I’m wrong. World War 2 just seems so important because I’m so young. Didn’t mean anything really……

    Dude, I gave a speculative response to your speculative statements. Read your posts again; you should see what I mean. Anyway, you must have missed my (speculative) point that the NAZIs would have never existed had we not entered WWI. BTW, its speculation based upon European military history. Many people seem to think that WWI was some sort of aberration and that the Kaiser was exceptionally evil. Sorry, but that’s total BS. He was just one in a long line of European leaders that yearned to expand their borders. Without our interference, it’s quite likely that both sides would have exhausted themselves and signed an armistice. The borders would have moved a little, but that’s the history of Europe!

    Anyway, saying that people prefer NAZIs to social security is seriously fucked. You really don’t like it when somebody questions your elementary school history, do you?

  237. The good news is that with the invoking of Godwin’s law, the thread is effectively dead. 🙂

  238. Another reason it might have been in the non-slave holder’s interest to maintain slavery in the South was that the white population feared reprisals or competition from free blacks.

  239. Before the civil war started no one knew how many would die, so arguments such as “was it worth (fill in the blank of the figure) dead?” are not of much help. Also, such a proposition could be stated for any sort of battle fought over principle. Was the American Revolution worth the amount of people who died then?

    An which do you think was the greater moral concern, ending officious and marginally irksome British rule or ending slavery? Yes, I know the North didn’t fight to end slavery, not initially anyway, but the South fought to defend it. And the end result was that one of the greatest moral scourages in history was finished on American soil.

    Does anyone else think that it is just weird for some libertarians to say they value freedom from coercion above all other things, to sing paeans to the American Revolution, but then to come up with all kinds of rationalizations for why the slaves could have just waited another generation….or maybe two….would you believe three?…..to be free? That’s a very odd disconnect in my book.

  240. Does anyone else think that it is just weird for some libertarians to say they value freedom from coercion above all other things, to sing paeans to the American Revolution, but then to come up with all kinds of rationalizations for why the slaves could have just waited another generation….or maybe two….would you believe three?…..to be free? That’s a very odd disconnect in my book.

    It is weird. I think Lincoln did some nasty stuff, but the civil war was “worth it” in my opinion. I believe that people have the moral right to annihilate their oppressors if they can, so you might not want to give my opinion much credence. If the slaves had been able to rise up together on a single day and kill every one of their masters, I would celebrate that day as a holiday.

    Did you ever see the Chapelle Show when he goes back in time and shoots a slave master, which is shown again and again and again. The audience was kind of quiet after seeing it, and Dave commented on that. I, for one, was laughing heartily right along with Dave.

  241. shep,

    I’m not sure how many libertarians are saying what you claim they are saying. E.g. I think it’s a very safe bet that anyone who says that FDR was our greatest president is NOT a libertarian (to any degree).

    While I would argue that secession should be permissible for a sovereign state (even though it is now a moot point), I would also argue that the Southern grievances (which had a fair amount of legitimacy) were overwhelmed by the moral stench of slavery.

  242. As one of the copperhead libertarians, I guess I will tackle the charge that we are defending slavery in arguing that the Union had no moral reason to invade the south.

    The union did not have the ending of slavery as its mission in the outset of the war. Abraham Lincoln, his allies in congress all made it clear: they wanted the tax revenue from the Confederacy.

    This is not some wacko fringe theory: Lysander Spooner, at one time the second most influential abolitionist in the U.S., consistently opposed the Union invasion of the Confederacy on these very grounds.

    In essence, people have a right to secede from a government. Now, the Confederate politicians, for a large part, were odious men. They certainly publicized Northern threats against slavery in order to whip up popular support for their cause. I certainly would not have carried a gun in defense of the Confederacy.

    In the end, however, the idea that the Civil War was somehow necessary to end slavery and thus is justified by it does not wash with me. Slavery died out once non-slave owners stopped supporting it. This generally occurred, unfortunately, not because a growing awareness that slavery violated natural rights, but rather because the non-slave owners saw an economic benefit in doing so. Nonetheless, the industrial revolution made slavery absolutely untenable: willing workers can outproduce slaves and thus, due to economies of scale, slaveowners cannot undercut the firms employing free labor.

    Thus, a support for Southern seccession is not a vote for slavery any more than a vote for Colonial secession from England was. One who claims otherwise is asserting a fake dichotomy.

    It is, of course, quite possible that there would be slavery in a modern Confederacy. After all, slavery is pretty widespread in places like North Korea, China, in the Asian steppe, parts of Africa, India, and in certain Scientology camps. I think, though, the Confederacy could not have maintained an iron grip on its victims with a free country just to the north of it.

  243. tarran,

    The union did not have the ending of slavery as its mission in the outset of the war. Abraham Lincoln, his allies in congress all made it clear: they wanted the tax revenue from the Confederacy.

    The rationale at the outset of the war was the defend the integrity of the Union itself.

    This is not some wacko fringe theory: Lysander Spooner, at one time the second most influential abolitionist in the U.S., consistently opposed the Union invasion of the Confederacy on these very grounds.

    Spooner was simply wrong (as he was on all sorts of matters).

    In essence, people have a right to secede from a government.

    Only if they secede for just reasons. A just reason is not the defense of involuntary human bondage.

    Slavery died out once non-slave owners stopped supporting it. This generally occurred, unfortunately, not because a growing awareness that slavery violated natural rights, but rather because the non-slave owners saw an economic benefit in doing so.

    Throughout the Americas slave owners had to be forced to give up their property. For example, if British slave owners had a choice in the matter they would have kept slavery in place in the British empire long after 1833. It was non-slave owners in Britain, as well as the slaves themselves, who forced the issue. The same is true in Cuba, the rest of the Spanish Americas, etc. Aside from individual manumissions from time to time slave owners were not a significant source of abolitionist sentiment, etc.

    Nonetheless, the industrial revolution made slavery absolutely untenable:

    If the industrial revolution, which was nearly eighty years on by 1860 was such a corrosive agent on slavery why was the slave regime in the South stronger than ever as of that date? The research on slave prices, the state of the southern economy, etc. show no reason to come to a conclusion that industrialization was an anathema to slavery, especially with regards to commodity based economies.

    I think, though, the Confederacy could not have maintained an iron grip on its victims with a free country just to the north of it.

    Southern states maintained a race-based social order into the 1960s, and it basically took the participation of outside forces to break it down.

  244. The Real Bill,

    In all the charges made against the Lincoln administration it is rare for anyone to actually mention the less than pristine nature of the Confederate government’s efforts to fight the war. For example, for those libertarians opposed to the draft note that the Confederate states were the first to institute one.

  245. “Herb: I understand your ideas, and they sound a lot like you wish we’d have sided with the Nazis.”

    I don’t believe we should have sided with anybody in World War II. I agree with John Quincy Adams, I believe it was, who said we should not go overseas in search of monsters to slay. I certainly don’t support Hitler or the Nazis. I would not be a libertarian if I did.

    Social Security isn’t the only thing I have against FDR. I don’t like him because he was anti-business, he manipulated us into war, he wrongly received credit for getting us out of the Depression, he tried to pack the Supreme Court, he personified big government.

  246. “I don’t believe we should have sided with anybody in World War II.”

    I think the idea is that not siding with anybody would have meant that the Nazis take over Europe. I guess concentration camps aren’t “big government” enough for you.

  247. Herb Schaffler,

    Since attacking and conquering the U.S. was on the ultimate Nazi agenda it didn’t matter we voluntarily took sides or not.

  248. “I think the idea is that not siding with anybody would have meant that the Nazis take over Europe. I guess concentration camps aren’t “big government” enough for you.”

    What happened in Europe was none of our business.

  249. “Since attacking and conquering the U.S. was on the ultimate Nazi agenda it didn’t matter we voluntarily took sides or not.”

    Where is the evidence for this?

  250. Herb Schaffler,

    From wikipedia:

    The Amerika Bomber project was an initiative of the Reichsluftfahrtministerium, the Nazi Germany Air Ministry, to obtain a long-range bomber aircraft for the Luftwaffe that would be capable of striking the continental United States from Germany. Requests for designs were made to the major German aircraft manufacturers early in World War II, long before the US had entered the war.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amerika_Bomber

  251. I believe Germany would have been greatly weakened after fighting Great Britain and the Soviets, that they would probably not taken on the US. Even if they did, we could have built up our strength in the meantime and they would have been no match for us.

    Germany may have also been preparing for war with the US because they suspected it was only a matter of time before the US entered the war. Hitler did not want the US to become involved. Germany did everything they could to avoid war with the US inspite of FDR’s provocations.

  252. Herb,

    Well, whatever you think of the potential outcome of such a conflict, the fact remains that the Nazis were preparing for an eventual conflict with the U.S.

    Actually, Hitler did want to get involved with the U.S. Furthermore, Germany did not do everything it could to avoid such a war; after all, it was Germany which declared war on the U.S.

  253. Hitler only declared war on us because of their alliance with Japan since we declared war on Japan. The biggest mistake Hitler made.

    Where is your evidence that Hitler wanted to go to war against us?

  254. Herb,

    Ah Herb old fellow, the alliance was defensive in nature only. Since Japan attacked the U.S., and not vice versa, neither Germany nor Italy were bound by its terms. Read the text of the Tripartite Pact sometime (particularly Article III).

  255. Herb,

    In other words, if Germany were really interested in remaining neutral with the U.S. it would have read the language of Article III of the pact in its most natural form – namely that the pact was meant to be an exclusive defensive alliance which would only be triggered if Japan were attacked, not vice versa.

  256. In Congressional testimony after the war, it was revealed that prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor, FDR had a secret war in which the US Navy was sinking German and Italian subs, yet Germany did nothing to defend itself, not wanting that as a pretext for stirring up the American people into going to war against Germany.

  257. Herb,

    The U.S. Navy was in part attacking subs which were threatening to attack American shipping. It is called freedom of the seas.

    I will note that in the spring of 1941 a U-Boat sunk its first American vessel during WWII. This being of course 7-8 months prior to Pearl Harbor. Throughout the summer and fall of 1941 American ships were attacked by German U-Boats, so this wasn’t a “one off” incident or mistake, it was official policy.

  258. “The U.S. Navy was in part attacking subs which were threatening to attack American shipping. It is called freedom of the seas. ”

    There were no threats to attack American shipping. In fact, Germany and Italy purposely stayed out of American waters. These attacks were committed by the US Navy against forces we had not declared war against.

    “I will note that in the spring of 1941 a U-Boat sunk its first American vessel during WWII. This being of course 7-8 months prior to Pearl Harbor. Throughout the summer and fall of 1941 American ships were attacked by German U-Boats, so this wasn’t a “one off” incident or mistake, it was official policy.”

    You’re getting the cart before the horse. The German U-boats were firing in defense in response to American attacks.

  259. So the Germans sank an American ship in the Spring of 1941 in retaliation for the sinking of German u-boats later that year? Where exactly does the horse go and where does the cart go?

  260. 1. George Washington
    2. Richard Nixon
    3. John Quincy Adams
    4. Henry Wallace
    5. No (no rednecks, no segregation)
    6. Are you obsessed with fast food franchises

  261. “So the Germans sank an American ship in the Spring of 1941 in retaliation for the sinking of German u-boats later that year? Where exactly does the horse go and where does the cart go?”

    As testified in Congressional hearings Roosevelt in November 1940 right after the election in which he said he hated war and that he would never send American boys overseas to die, ordered the US Navy into the Atlantic to attack German and Italian submarines.

    The sinking of the Reuben James and the Kearny by German U-boats was provoked by US Navy attacks on the German U-boats which was also realed in Congressional testimony.

    It was a US Navy pilot that disabled the Bismark before there was any formal declaration of war.

    By 1941 US Navy ships attacked, sunk, or seized any German vessel they encountered in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Ocean.

    Germany obviously didn’t want war with us or they would have declared war with us long before Pearl Harbor due to our aggressions against them. We often wonder why Germany declared war after Pearl Harbor when it was against their best interests. The real question should be “Why didn’t they declare war against us much sooner?”

  262. C’mon, Herb, that doesn’t pass the smell test. Why would Germany go out of its way to bring in a bunch of fresh Yankees to the front? The Germans didn’t want to rouse US public opinion (even the Beard book admits that much). Citing to that for the proposition that Germany had no designs on the US is specious at best.

    Saying that the US attacked u-boats that were attacking our friends is no where near the same as saying that a Nazi Europe would have been kind to America. And even if the sons of bitches would have been kind to us, I’m kind of glad we wiped that particularly vile form of feces off the Earth. But hey, none of our biz, right? Stopping the slaughter of Jews and minorities is just another “big government” program? But but but Stalin…I can hear the lame argument already.

    Your entire argument goes around in circles, but never addresses the basic assumption: you think the Nazis would have lost Europe or at least been favorable to the US after conquering Europe. You’re in good company with ol’ Joe Kennedy on that point. Your position is basically appeasement, right?

  263. I’m still waiting for proof that Germany had designs on the US.

    “Saying that the US attacked u-boats that were attacking our friends is no where near the same as saying that a Nazi Europe would have been kind to America.”

    The point here is that FDR had a secret war going. He did not have a declaration of war from Congress.

    “Your position is basically appeasement, right?”

    My position is the same as our founding fathers: animosity towards none and friendly trading relations to all.

  264. “The point here is that FDR had a secret war going.”

    WRONG! The point is that Nazi Germany was dangerous and trying (with some success) to take over the industrialized world. The point is not how FDR fought the war, but whether he should have.

    Animosity towards none is just your justification for coddling Nazis.

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