Monday, October 15, 2007

from the mouths of babes.

from alex, a 9 year old participant of kid nation:

Who have been some of the worst U.S. presidents, and why?
George W. Bush, for leading us into a war without checking his facts first and for not having a clear plan prior to the invasion. He also suppressed anyone who wanted to question his decisions, which is against the American concept of free speech. William Harrison because he was too stupid to wear a coat at his inauguration speech, and caught pneumonia and died without doing anything in office.

here's the answer from 14 year old sophia, whose response appears to have been deleted from the official CBS site. shame!
Who have been some of the worst U.S. presidents, and why?
I think George W. Bush takes the cake. The planet is disintegrating, we’re fighting an unnecessary war, millions are without health care, the school system has gone down the toilet, the country is billions of dollars in debt, the world seems to be headed on a path towards destruction, and America’s hypocrisy is mocked by many nations. I think that merits recognition.

from 12 year old markelle:
Who have been some of the worst U.S. presidents, and why?
Bush. The latest Bush. If you want to know why, ask any other country in the world. What a mess.



The Pedant said...

Honestly, it is unclear to me whether or not these kids actually have any basis to judge. Bush isn't a great president, but given that these kids aren't up on the administrations of Pierce, Hayes, Grant, or Harding, really, it is unclear to me whether this actually represents a studied decision.

I mean, Alex's other worst president was worst for "not wearing a coat." William Harrison is worse than Nixon, because he didn't wear a coat?

emily2 said...

fyi, i cherrypicked the funniest ones. a couple did say "nixon."

emily1 said...

funny posts. now i'd love to read a researched post on the worst presidents that most people never heard of.

The Pedant said...

Yeah, but did any say "Pierce?"

I think, in our "worst President" calculus, we tend to front-load the Presidents we know, and cast either a rosy glow or complete ignorance on the ones we don't.

Until the civil rights movement, there was a lot of historiography (and not all of it Southern) claiming that Abraham Lincoln was the "worst president ever" for tramping all over the constitution, provoking civil war, and enabling massive corporate giveaways of federal property like the Credit Mobilier.

Buchanan, Lincoln's predecessor, was a racist who lobbied the Supreme Court in favor of the slaveholders in the Dred Scott case and basically made the Civil War the only way the North and the South could work out their differences. Pierce, who lost the Democratic nomination to Buchanan, was only marginally better.

Then there's the complete uselessness and corruption of the Hayes, Grant, and Harding administrations, massacres of native peoples under Jackson and McKinley, and basically a litany of stuff which is plausibly AS BAD or worse than Bush.

As for Nixon, despite Watergate, he can't be considered the worst president (or even, given so many of the others, one of the five worst). He passed the Clear Air Act and recognized the People's Republic of China, both of which were big decisions and also pretty historically defensible.