By: Chris Pandolfo | February 20, 2017
The sitting president of the United States is always in contention to be declared the “worst president” in history by his partisan opponents. The same is true for President Donald Trump. But what makes a president a bad president? Is it bad policy? Is it a failure to rise to the occasion during a crisis? In honor of Presidents Day, here are five presidents conservatives should consider among the WORST presidents.
The dishonorable mention: Barack Obama
President Obama oversaw a period of anemic economic growth, destroyed the American health insurance market, added trillions of dollars to the national debt, governed as an imperial president, and left a legacy of big government that will haunt this country for years to come.
In a just world, he will surely go down as one of the worst American presidents. But a semi-objective historical analysis of his administration won’t surface for some time. Till then, we have to reflect on these guys …
5. Jimmy Carter (D)
The president that conservatives loved to hate before Obama came along. And President Jimmy Carter deserves every bit of the bad rap he gets. Besides miserable failure to contend with a period of recession and high inflation (i.e. stagflation), Carter’s term was marred by a series of foreign policy failures.
In 1977, he signed over control of the Panama Canal – a great strategic asset. Confronting Soviet aggression in Afghanistan, Carter imposed a grain embargo on the Soviet Union, the effect of which was to hurt American farmers trying to export their goods.
Worst of all, though, Carter’s inaction during the Iranian Revolution ultimately led to the overthrow of the pro-Western Shah and established Iran as a radical Islamist power that today is the number one state sponsor of terrorism. That failure culminated in the Iran hostage crisis, in which the revolutionary forces seized the U.S. embassy in Tehran and took 52 Americans hostage for 400-plus days.
4. Herbert Hoover (R)
The president liberals love to demonize as an arch-conservative. President Hoover came into office on the eve of the greatest period of economic malaise the country had ever known. During the Great Depression, real national income fell by 36 percent; unemployment increased from 3 percent to over 25 percent; more than 40 percent of all banks were permanently closed.
Confronted with economic disaster, the nation’s 31st president responded like a typical progressive Republican: increasing government spending; expanding the Federal Farm Board to subsidize farmers and artificially inflate agriculture prices; pressuring major business leaders to refrain from cutting wages; signing the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act; and passing an historically high tax increase with the Revenue Act of 1932.
In short, Hoover is erroneously remembered as a laissez-faire conservative president. These progressive-lite policies had the opposite of their intended effect, making the Great Depression possible.
3. Lyndon Baines Johnson (D)
The architect of the “Great Society,” LBJ oversaw a massive expansion of the federal government, declaring: “Our aim is not only to relieve the symptoms of poverty, but to cure it and, above all, to prevent it.”
President Johnson went about accomplishing this goal by creating a litany of federal welfare programs, including Head Start, food stamps, Medicare, and Medicaid. Today, these entitlement programs are the largest drivers of the federal debt and government spending. Fifty years and over $20 trillion later, the “war on poverty” has increased government dependence tenfold and has contributed to the breakdown of marriage and family to colossal effect. Despite these government programs, the poverty rate today remains just about where it was in 1967.
President Ronald Reagan was right when he declared, “We fought a war on poverty, and poverty won.”
2. Franklin Delano Roosevelt (D)
FDR is perhaps the greatest liberal president, but to be great is not to be good. The New Deal policies of the Roosevelt administration to combat the Great Depression were an extremely “raw deal” for the American people. FDR imposed taxes as high as 94 percent on the rich; created an “alphabet soup” of government programs to regulate the economy; engaged in price-fixing on a national scale; and made it illegal to own gold.
Though liberals argue FDR “saved” the country from the Great Depression, there was not a single day in the Roosevelt administration when unemployment fell under 10 percent. (Per usual, Thomas Sowell says it best.)
As Treasury Secretary Henry J. Morgenthau Jr. testified before the House Ways and Means Committee in 1939, “I say after eight years of this Administration we have just as much unemployment as when we started… And an enormous debt to boot.”
Other intensely problematic features of the Roosevelt presidency were the internment of Japanese Americans in WWII, his unhealthy admiration for the Soviet Union, and threats to pack the court when the Supreme Court moved to declare his policies unconstitutional.
1. Woodrow Wilson (D)
Woodrow Wilson was the American president who dragged the Democratic Party to the far left and launched the modern Progressive Movement. He is the worst American president of the 20th century.
The foundation of Wilson’s political philosophy and of progressivism is a rejection of the American founding. In Wilson’s view, the Founding Fathers believed “The ideal of government was for every man to be left alone and not interfered with, except when he interfered with somebody else.” This idea must be rejected, because, in Wilson’s words, “Life is so complicated that we are not dealing with the old conditions, and that the law has to step in and create new conditions under which we may live.”
Woodrow Wilson was the first president to attack the Declaration of Independence as outdated, saying, on the campaign trail in 1913, it “is of no consequence to us unless we can translate its general terms into examples of the present day.” Wilson’s political thought is at the very core of every left-wing assault on the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence today.
Policy-wise, Wilson gave us the income tax, the Federal Reserve, the nationalization of private industry, and involved the U.S. in World War I (after winning his reelection campaign with the slogan “He kept us out of war”).
Wilson’s view that international cooperation should overrule national sovereignty gave birth to the League of Nations, which, after WW II, unofficially evolved into the United Nations. Truly a wretched, progressive ideologue whose ideas plague the country 100 years later. And to top that all off, Woodrow Wilson was a vehement racist.
Chris Pandolfo is a staff writer and type-shouter for Conservative Review. He holds a B.A. in Politics and Economics from Hillsdale College. His interests are Conservative Political Philosophy, the American Founding, and Progressive Rock. Follow him on Twitter for doom-saying and great album recommendations: @ChrisCPandolfo
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