Monday, July 18, 2011

Worst president of the 20th century?

[Nota bene: George W. Bush is a 21st century president]

Been reading a lot about American presidents lately, and I found this conversation interesting. Ta-Nehisi finds Tom Ricks claiming the worst president of the 20th century was Kennedy.

Ridiculous. It takes a pretty hostile interpreter of events to conclude that the Bay of Pigs, the brainchild of Eisenhower and Dulles launched all of 3 months into the new administration, is all Kennedy's fault, and yet he deserves no credit for the Cuban Missile Crisis or the Civil Rights Act. The former was a moment of national existential peril unequaled by any other in our history; the latter was perhaps the single most important piece of legislation passed by Congress during that century.

I have a different one in mind. I'd like to nominate Ronald Reagan as the worst president of the 20th century. We have Reagan to thank for everything from soaring deficits to voodoo economics to a bloated, unsustainable military-industrial complex. His economic policies contributed to the Savings and Loan crisis, and he put arch-Randian Alan Greenspan in charge of the Fed. That's all, of course, during the periods when his administration wasn't busy trying to purge disabled people from the Social Security rolls.

(Greenspan, of course, is the guy who told Clinton he had to gut the social safety net to keep the deficit from torpedoing the economy, then turned around and told George W. Bush to cash in all the money Clinton saved on tax cuts for the wealthy.)

The failed Star Wars Defense System? Reagan. Redistributing the tax burden from the rich to the middle class? Reagan again. Iran-Contra? Still Reagan. Mandatory minimums for minor drug offenses? Here's Ronnie!

Guess who deployed the CIA's Special Activities Division to Afghanistan? Reagan. Guess who was among the mujahadeen they trained?

Antonin Scalia to the Supreme Court? That was Reagan, too! He also nominated notorious Nixon yes-man Robert Bork, infamous for being Tricky Dick's lucky number 3, the dude finally unscrupulous enough to fire Watergate Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox after both of his predecessors resigned rather than commit such a heinous breach of ethics. We can thank Ted Kennedy -- God rest his soul! -- that the man wasn't further rewarded for his treachery.

That's what I call one hellacious legacy right there.

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