A delightful experience over the weekend led to a discussion that prompted the headline for this week’s Straight Talk. Let me tell you about it.
My wife and I had flown to Washington, D.C., to spend the weekend with her youngest son and his glowingly pregnant wife. This will be their first child and everyone (most emphatically including grandma) is excited beyond words.
But “Boots’” arrival (that’s the infant’s temporary nickname) won’t be until October. So, the four of us decided to enjoy a perfect spring day by taking the Metro to the Washington Mall and then strolling down to the Tidal Basin to see the last of the world-famous cherry blossoms. While the ladies relaxed on a park bench, Micah and I walked to one of my favorite sights in the capitol, the Jefferson Memorial.
As you may know, the building is modeled after the Pantheon in Greece, a design that Thomas Jefferson admired very much. Inside, a magnificent 17-foot bronze statue of our third president looks out toward the Washington Monument. On the walls around him are panels containing some of his most famous quotes.
The first panel, naturally enough, quotes the beginning of the Declaration of Independence, including the phrase, “endowed by their Creator…” The second panel starts, “Almighty God hath created the mind free.” The third states that “God who gave us life gave us liberty.”
And surrounding all of this, in letters three feet high, is this: “I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.”
Standing there, reading these words, it is impossible not to be reminded of Jefferson’s reverence and piety. As I read all the references to God and our Creator, I couldn’t help but wonder would it even be possible to construct such a memorial today? Or would the aggressive atheists and their friends in the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) make certain this wonderful edifice would never be built? Or if it had, that it would not have contained any of these heartfelt sentiments by a founding father?
As we turned to go, Micah pointed out the cornerstone of this marvelous memorial. We were both surprised by how high off the ground it was. I think we expected a cornerstone to be in the ground… or even under it.
Then I noticed the message inscribed on it. The stone had been dedicated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1939. I remarked to Micah, “It’s a little ironic, isn’t it, that one of the worst presidents in our history dedicated the memorial to one of the best?”
That led Micah to ask me who else I considered the worst presidents in our history. My reply surprised him, because Barack Obama’s name didn’t make the list. He’s read enough Straight Talks to know how I feel about the current occupant of the White House.
Before we go any further consider for a moment whom you’d put on a list of the five worst presidents of all time. Who would top the pile and why? If you want to join the debate, when you get to the end of this column just click on “reply” and fire away. There will surely be some interesting remarks posted below.
Of course you already know one of my choices. In the first half of the last century, no one did more to promote government growth than FDR. Longtime socialist leader Norman Thomas said FDR implemented more of his policies than he ever could. And let’s not forget the lies and deceit that got us into World War II; all of the things he did to buttress the Soviet Union during the war; or the horrible concessions afterwards that condemned millions of people to a lifetime of slavery under Communist rule. Need I say more?
Then there are the three men during my lifetime who embarrassed and angered me by their conduct and their policies. I consider all of them a disgrace to our nation’s highest office. I was glad when Bill Clinton was impeached; I was only sorry when he wasn’t convicted and removed from office.
Richard Nixon is another of my least favorites. No one did more to prevent our troops from winning in Vietnam. Our soldiers were condemned to fight and die in a no-win war while our country was torn apart at home. Nixon abandoned our allies on Taiwan and opened relations with the vicious murderers who ruled Communist China. He also launched the era of Big Government Republicanism here at home from which we’re still suffering today. No, “Tricky Dick” Nixon is not one of my favorites.
But the man I truly despised was Lyndon Baines Johnson. I doubt if a bigger crook or more dangerous bully has ever occupied the Oval Office. He was not only a nasty and mean-spirited politician; LBJ took arm-twisting and vote fraud to a whole new level. In fact, he may even have sanctioned murder. For a glimpse of the real LBJ, get J. Evetts Haley’s searing study, A Texan Looks at Lyndon.
Who could possibly top such a list? I hereby nominate Woodrow Wilson as the worst of the bunch: In fact, the very worst president of all time.
Just consider the highlights of this man’s despicable record. He won election by promising to keep us out of the war in Europe—all while he was scheming to get us involved. The contrived sinking of the Lusitania gave him the excuse he needed.
Millions of people suffered and died needlessly in Wilson’s war “to make the world safe for democracy.” For that alone he deserves to be rebuked and repudiated by every honest historian. But the dirty misdeeds don’t stop there. Wilson was an early One-Worlder; we have him to thank for the aborted League of Nations, without which there would be no United Nations.
Oh, and let’s not forget the trickery that got Congress to adopt a key plank in the Communist Manifesto—a progressive income tax. The rules had already been rigged so the super-rich could hide their wealth in foundations and family trusts. The income tax would keep most of us from ever hoping to compete with them—while giving government the funds it needed to offer a gullible public all of the bread and circuses it could want.
There are other things I could mention, but this should be enough to persuade you that Woodrow Wilson belongs high on a list of presidents who have betrayed the great trust the public put in them. Should he really be No. 1—the worst of all time? I say “yes.” But you’re certainly entitled to disagree. After all, this is still a free country, isn’t it? No thanks to the five gentlemen I’ve listed above.
After reflection, I’m willing to consider a motion to have Barack Obama replace Bill Clinton in the top five. Bill may have done more to embarrass us than our Teleprompter in Chief. But he wasn’t very successful getting his socialist policies passed. Wish we could say the same thing about Obama.
Until next Friday, keep some powder dry.