I agonized over this post more than any in memory. I am not completely cynical, and the presidents I address, even the worst of them, also did things worthy of the office. I came back to this post a dozen times after I wrote it to ask myself, “Do I really want to say these things?” The answer is, “No.” But I will say them anyway, because the truth is the truth.
Presidents Day. Humm.
We used to celebrate Lincoln’s birthday and Washington’s birthday, and ignored the rest of them. That wasn’t such a bad system. It allowed us to avoid linking Andrew Jackson with his betters.
How about our recent Presidents? Should we celebrate them?
John Kennedy. I have a friend who grew up in Boston and would punch out anyone who spoke against JFK, but let’s tally up what he really did. He lost the Bay of Pigs by abandoning the Cuban insurgents he had encouraged. He faced Khruschchev over the Cuban Missile crisis so let’s give credit for that, but he also sent Americans to Vietnam. Kennedy supporters claim he would have pulled out, if he had lived, but who knows. The jury will always be out of what might have happened.
Lyndon Johnson. He has massive accomplishments pushing through Kennedy’s programs and his own War on Poverty, but he also lied to the American people, lied to Congress, and conducted a secret war including massive bombings outside Vietnam. He, and Nixon after him, are responsible for over three million unnecessary deaths. There is no responsible way to avoid calling him a war criminal.
Richard Nixon. Watergate, of course; it hardly needs repeating. He also opened up China and got us out of Vietnam by declaring that our defeat was a victory, and then running like hell. I really don’t know what else anyone could have done by that time, but why did he wait all those years and waste all those lives before telling the Big Lie? Maybe to win a second term.
Gerald Ford. They say his pardon saved the country from division and heartache. I say it only gave later Presidents bad ideas that should have been squelched fifty years ago by trying Nixon for his crimes.
Jimmy Carter. An attack on an embassy is an attack on American soil, but Carter sat impotent in the White House through the Iran hostage crisis.
Ronald Reagan. Tax cuts for the wealthy. Trickle down economics that never trickled down. Also the Iran-Contra affair in which Regan himself avoided punishment but fourteen members of his administration were indicted.
George H. W. Bush. “Read my lips.” Actually, going back on his promise regarding taxes was an act of courage that probably cost him a second term. That honorable act was sullied when he pardoned those convicted in Iran-Contra.
Bill Clinton. Plenty of good ideas, but we just remember him as the man who couldn’t keep his hands to himself.
George W. Bush. “Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job”, and other stumble-statements too numerous to list and too painful to remember.
Barack Obama. I like the man, but I spend eight years cussing under my breath at some of the foolish things he did.
Donald Trump. I once said I didn’t consider Trump evil, just foolish. Subsequent events suggest that I was probably wrong. His fake declaration of emergency pretty much clinches matters.
Were these the best men in America?
Let’s celebrate President’s Day by taking a hard look at what’s coming our way in 2020. They don’t all look good. Let’s vow to make better choices for the future.
Lincoln and Washington, where are you?