Now granted this whole who is the worst (or 3 worst) president thing is super uber subjective. Kaufman’s candidates are: Buchanan, Carter, and LBJ. (Notice all 3 were Democrats, not exactly shocking given it’s the American Thinker, but there you go).
I’m no huge fan of James Buchanan or James Earl Carter. So no real disagreement there. They were weakened in part by structural historical forces over which they may not have had as much control. Carter presided over the breakdown of the New Deal Era. Buchanan over the end of the pre-Civil War Missouri/1850 Compromise. Both followed by strong, new leadership.
For what it’s worth George W. Bush presides over the breakdown of the Reaganite Era, which opens the possibility of a Reagan/Lincoln-esque type presidency next. Hmm….who has consciously hearkened to Reagan and Lincoln in this campaign?
But plenty of other candidates. Other really awful presidents that come to mind: The trifecta of Warren Harding, Calvin Coolidge, and Herbert Hoover. Any of the post Lincoln presidents until essentially McKinley: that’s right I’m talking about you Andrew Johnson, US Grant, Hayes, Garfield, Arthur, Cleveland, (Benjamin) Harrison, Cleveland (again). I’m calling you guys out.
I agree with Kaufman that he could have really selected any number in the first half of the nineteenth century: Fillmore, Pierce, van Buren, Tyler. Only one of the bunch who brought some A Game has to be James K. Polk (the guy McCain should probably look to as a model, one term ass kicker).
Oh and that current guy whose president—how’s he worked out? I would argue he gets the mantle of worst 2 term president. Not worst overall. Worst 2 term, worst 2nd term really.
My vote for: Underrated 20th century Presidents: George HW Bush, Bill Clinton, Dwight Eisenhower.
Over-rated 20th century Presidents: John Kennedy. Probably Woodrow Wilson too.
So that leaves Kaufman’s argument about LBJ. LBJ is a really Hamlet figure. Very complicated figure, politically and psychologically.
Gulf of Tonkin horrendously awful, escalated Vietnam. The Great Society programs as Kaufman says caused lots of damage, though well intentioned. Also LBJ was part of the Dixiecrat South (also highlight by Kaufman) and his history of passing the Civil Rights Legislation is a mixed one at best. Kaufman helpfully points out that Eisenhower doesn’t get create for proposing some of the legislation passed by LBJ (link here for speech on a new book on this subject).
But then Kaufman goes further to argue essentially that the Democrat party post-Civil Rights Legislation has essentially hoodwinked (to quote Malcolm X) black folks into voting for them. Now granted the Democrat Party, particularly of the Walter Mondale late New Deal Era has used African Americans and basically knew they “had them in the bag” and therefore had no electoral reason to push programs for those constituencies (not one black vote). Also a deal was struck with (self-appointed?) black leadership like Sharpton who profited from the deal. That coalition incidentally is cracking under the candidacy of a certain man from Illinois.
Still there is a Republican/conservative side to this history too which Kaufman is neglecting to tell. Two parties are tangoing on this one.
Remember that LBJ predicted when he signed the Civil Rights Legislation that it would cost the Democratic Party the South. He was right in turns out and there’s a reason why, one that Mr. Kaufman tries to elide.
Watch how Kaufman tries to play the now you see now you don’t on this one:
Though he was elected in 1964, the GOP may have aided that victory with a somewhat polarizing candidate in Arizona senator, Barry Goldwater. The Republican nominee had a great record of supporting civil rights, but Goldwater opposed certain preferences in the bills that became the Civil Rights Act.
At this point, the media and academic elite began using a powerful combination of information control and revisionist history to engineer a massive electoral shift. Falling for the blandishments of the Democrats and their media allies, blacks, once exclusively Republican, began voting Democrat in numbers greater than 90 percent,
Now again granted the Democratic Party has some extremely, bad, ugly history in this arena. Liberal guilt/racism, well intentioned but ultimately destructive social welfare programs, postmodern-ese that called into question the stabilizing forces within poor black neighborhoods (e.g. families, churches, social uplift). All that included—Barry Goldwater “may have aided” and was “somewhat” polarizing? Hello Senator!!!
And a media hyped hoodwink?
How about Richard Nixon’s Southern Strategy of race-baiting and how the Republican Party went from being (as Kaufman rightly points out) the Party of Abolition, Reconstruction, and the North (with Democrats being the Southern White Segregationist Party) to the party of Strom Thurmond (now R-MS) and the party of the South? The dominance of which is shown by the fact that since Nixon the only Democrats to hold the White House were Southern white male Governors.
The Party of Trent Lott (in 2002!!!!) reminiscing about how if they had only listened to good old Strom on Segregation we wouldn’t be in the predicament we find ourselves today–for the record that’s Strom’s official segregationist position not his pro-black woman lover stance.
The Party of George W. Bush in 2000 Republican Primary being aided by (if not directly sponsoring through Karl Rove) an whisper-campaign attack on his opponent John McCain that he had “a black baby”—who it turned out was his adopted daughter from Mother Theresa’s orphanage in Calcutta. How’s that for pro-life?
That I guess didn’t play into the Black Community shifting so heavily to the Democratic Party at all?