Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Another Stupid 10 Worst Presidents List

At American Presidents Blog, "M" points out an article in U.S. News and World Report listing and discussing "The 10 Worst Presidents," created by "averag[ing] the results of five major and relatively recent [scholarly] presidential polls."

How stupid are historians? Let me count the ways. In no particular order, here are six examples of idiocy I can come up with without breaking a sweat:

1. I have blogged before about Millard Fillmore (No. 5), here and here. I will not repeat myself, except to say that he was a fine man and a good president. Placing him five slots from the bottom is ludicrous.

2. The historians compound the felony by listing both President Fillmore -- apparently because he endorsed the Compromise of 1850 -- and Zachary Taylor (No. 10) -- apparently because he didn't. Fillmore may have "averted a national crisis and postponed the outbreak of the Civil War," but he did so "at an unconscionable price." As for Taylor, "[s]ome think his opposition to what became the Compromise of 1850 -- which began to undo the Missouri Compromise -- might have precipitated the outbreak of the Civil War." Stupid. Pick one or the other, guys, not both -- and you would still be wrong.

3. Only an idiot would include William Henry Harrison (No. 8) on a Worst Presidents List. He died after only a month in office. Duh!

4. Any Worst Presidents List that omits Jimmy Carter is not worthy of the name.

5. The article's own description of the administration of Ulysses S. Grant (No. 7) constitutes an admission that he doesn't belong on the list:
[Grant] now receives plaudits for his aggressive prosecution of the radical reform agenda in the South. His attempts to quash the Ku Klux Klan (suspending habeas corpus in South Carolina and ordering mass arrests) and his support for the Civil Rights Act of 1875 may have produced only short-lived gains for African Americans, but Grant's intentions were laudable. He also worked for the good of American Indians, instituting the reservation system as an imperfect, last-ditch effort to protect them from extinction. Grant's reputation may continue to rise as a result of sympathetic studies and because of a renewed appreciation of his own memoir, considered to be the best ever produced by a former president.

In other words, in many ways Grant was one of the best, not one of the worst, presidents of his era -- but we'll put him on the list anyway. Moronic.

6. As usual, Herbert Hoover (No. 9) gets included because he didn't cure the Depression. Historians, it seems, resolutely refuse to talk to economists. It is pretty well recognized these days that it was FDR who transformed the Depression into the Great Depression by employing counterproductive remedies that caused a second "depression within a depression." See, for example, Gene Smiley's book, Rethinking the Great Depression. Hoover winds up on the list because of FDR's incompetence.

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