John Hawkins of Right Wing News invited me to participate in the Worst figures of American History, and I agreed because I do appreciate his efforts at stimulating debate across the spectrum with these polls.
My picks were (listed roughly in chronological order):
- Benedict Arnold (for betraying the Revolution on grounds of personal ambition. All the more tragic given his brilliant military leadership prior to his treason)
- Boss Tweed
- Lee Harvey Oswald
- Joe McCarthy
- Richard Nixon (for using the power of the office of the Presidencyfor crudely thuggish personal ambition)
- Timothy McVeigh
- Anthony Scalia (for trying to use the Supreme Court to perform social engineering rather than interpretation of law).
However I'd like to comment that there are varying degrees of "worst". Above, I have murderers listed alongside people whose only crime was philosophical. Under no circumstances do I morally equate Anthony Scalia with Timothy McVeigh! But in terms of ideological damage done to the Republic, Scalia surely was worse for America.
In retrospect, though, I wish i had avoided serial murderers entirely and limited myself to purely political figures (which does include assassins like Oswald). Anyway, Hawkins has the list up, and I was not surprised to see that some bloggers had chosen President Bush and also Reagan.
My personal position Reagan is that his excesses aside, he did indeed provide leadership during the Cold War, and given that we made it through that period without being nuked, I'm perfectly happy to credit him. We can argue about whether he wrecked America's economy (though not to a degree that Clinton couldn't fix). But when you play a role, ANY role, in saving the world, you get some benefit of the doubt.
As for Bush, he tops my list of Worst President Ever. But Worst American? hell no.
But he is doing more damage to America than Scalia, so it would have been consistent to have him on MY list. I see that I was inconsistent in that regard - I should probably have either removed Scalia, or replaced teh serial murderers with political figures (and included Bush). Since the methodology was not uniform and "worst" and "American History" were both undefined terms, the net result was a muddle anyway. I think I consciously excluded Bush from consideration outright solely because I was aware that the right-wing fanatics would be expecting it (on completely different grounds).