"I think he is without question the worst president we've ever had. . . . We've had some bad ones, and there's not even a close second to him."
Somehow, we expected this story earlier. Like, say, the day after he was inaugurated back in January 2017. This time it's President Trump who's been given the title Worst President Ever, by a man named Harry Reid, the former majority leader in the U.S. Senate.
The outspoken Harry Reid was back in the news this week, marking Donald Trump as The. Worst. Ever. And not even a close second place! Harry Reid, former boxer, still likes to spar. One way or the other.
But remember back to spring 2006: A once-grand magazine that used to have once-grand writers working for it--Rolling Stone--jabbed at the occupant of the White House with this headline: "The Worst President in History?" Notice the question mark, as if the copy editors were only asking a question, just putting it out there for debate, still managing to keep their journalistic integrity.
The subhead to the story read: "One of America's leading historians assesses George W. Bush."
One? We wonder how long the editors at Rolling Stone had to look before they found one historian who'd go on record about Bush II's presidency. Back in 2006, you couldn't have swung a dead cat without hitting an academic who'd give the magazine a good, nasty quote about Dubya. That was before the Surge had turned things around in Iraq.
Wonderful thing, history. It's so very malleable, as we well know. Like Scripture, it can be quoted for any number of purposes, not all of them noble.
Has any president come through his administration without being called the worst ever? Things haven't changed all that much since the Federalists and Jeffersonians were going after each other about the quality, or lack thereof, of the George Washington administration. Some of us remember reading those letters that T. Jefferson sent to friends, calling his former boss a traitor to the spirit of '76. And don't think that George Washington didn't know about the whispers--and who was responsible for them.
The Whiskey Rebellion. The new political parties. The Indian wars. Ol' George, the father of his country, had his headaches, and his political opponents.
Donald Trump the worst president ever? Why, there are so many bad ones to choose from!
Could the current president be worse than William Henry Harrison? That president was so long-winded that he gave his over-extended inaugural address in a howling winter storm. And promptly caught pneumonia and died.
Warren Harding's speeches were so gawd-awful that, as one notable pointed out, there was a certain grandeur to them. ("He writes the worst English that I have ever encountered. It reminds me of a string of wet sponges; it reminds me of tattered washing on the line; it reminds me of stale bean soup, of college yells, of dogs barking idiotically through endless nights. It is so bad that a sort of grandeur creeps into it. It drags itself out of the dark abysm of pish, and crawls insanely up the topmost pinnacle of posh. It is rumble and bumble. It is flap and doodle. It is balder and dash."--H.L. Mencken)
Worse than Nixon? Worse than Buchanan? Worse than a president who ended World War II but "lost" China? (To err is Truman.)
Worse than Franklin Roosevelt, who got us into that Second World War through his Lend-Lease Act then, in his sickness, gave away much of the world to the Soviets?
We remember a Saturday Night Live episode in which the guest host of the night invited the whole studio audience and those at home to drop their pants and moon an image of Ronald Reagan.
Didn't one of the Quayle gang, of the Indiana Quayles, make some comment in the summer of 2010 that Barack Obama was the worst president in history?
Some unreconstructed Confederates will still say that the man who suspended habeas corpus during the Civil War was the worst president ever. No accounting for taste.
It can be entertaining to watch American politicians at play. A body just doesn't disagree with a president's policies--or even tweets. A body just can't oppose and debate. You must be in the Great Fight against the worst president in history, so long as he's from the other political party.
God love us, every one, but Americans are a live-in-the-now, short-sighted breed. We want our fast food in the drive-through. We want to fast-forward through commercials. We want to read CliffsNotes of the classics.
But it takes years, maybe decades, to close the book on a president and his administration. We're pretty sure that by now most historians know that Andrew Jackson was an effective president but an awful man. And that Jimmy Carter was just the opposite--a pretty decent human being but ineffective at getting things done. History won't be kind to Nixon or Buchanan. It will probably shine better on Reagan and FDR.
But grade President Trump on how he stacks up to the 44 before him? Give us a couple of decades.
The only thing for sure is this: Somebody will say the next president is the worst ever. As long as he (or she) is a member of the other party. Set your watch to it.
Editorial on 01/03/2019
Print Headline: Set your watch by it