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Interesting topic and conjecture. But von Hoffman's treatment is somewhat scant. It goes through the administrations of John Tyler, Zachary Taylor, Benjamin Harrison, James Buchanan, Warren Harding, Herbert Hoover, James Madison and Richard Nixon, right up to the awaited obvious choice, George W. Bush. The expected conclusion was that we will have to wait and see how harshly history treats Mr. Bush.

The criterion stated by von Hoffman was how much lasting damage the President did. That being the case, waiting out the current executive, there is one President who was omitted from the list: Harry S Truman (1945-52). His track record says it all, and I suggest would rank him number one.

Mr Truman was an insistence by the Democratic big wigs who convinced Franklin Roosevelt that even he could not get a fourth term with liberal incumbent VP Henry Wallace on the ticket. I guess FDR just figured he would last a full term, and apparently foolishly yielded--one of his great, though rare, mistakes. It was his beloved Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins, a most respected counsel, who could not reach him on the abandoning of Wallace.

Truman's record is still with us. He allowed the Taft-Hartley bill, the most anti-labor enactment in our history to ride through the Hill without protest. And although he did refuse General George Patton's offer to continue the 1945 march on Berlin with one on Moscow and then General Douglas MacArthur's request to invade the Eastern powers after Korea, his staunch anti-Red hysteria was carried out in other ways. Truman sat by as Joseph McCarthy raged with more rabid clamor that created yet more hysteria that threatened every American freedom up to this very day. He squandered the chance to expose the viciousness and lies of the Rosenberg persecution that led to their state murders. Most glaring of all, it was then Senator Harry S. Truman who, on the day after the German invasion of the USSR on June 22, 1941, took to the floor of Congress and said that if we see the Germans are having too difficult a time in that campaign, we should help them out and supply them with weapons and war materiel. Yes, he openly advocated our aiding and abetting the Hitler forces against Russia. It is all in the Congressional Record. As President Truman, he carried out that policy as a Cold War architect.

Moreover, it was on his watch that the war ended successfully and he had the opportunity to revive the New Deal of FDR that had brought America and the world to its greatest social accomplishments in history as we all recovered from the Great Depression. Instead of that, he prefered to shake hands with Winston Churchill and their declaration of the cold war that denied the world its peacetime greatness.

But without question, the event that puts Harry S,. Truman in a worst class by himself is that he was the one who ordered the dropping of the twin atom bombs on the twin cities in Japan in 1945. He was therefore essentially responsible for the immediate nuclear deaths of almost a quarter-million Japanese civilians and perhaps that many more from the aftermath, these over targets without demonstrable military merit to allegedly end a war that was essentially over. This legacy fits von Hoffman's criterion if anything ever did.

On the day Congress acquitted President Bill Clinton in the 1998 impeachment hearings, some reporters were at the home of author Gore Vidal in Italy and asked for his reaction. When he surprisingly said he would have voted for conviction, he explained that he was would have voted to impeach all f0rty-three Presidents as being unworthy. Maybe the Perkins appointment would have been enough to excuse FDR.

So while I thank von Hoffman for his naïve thoughts, more homework would have added Harry Truman, who indeed met the author's criteria.

Don Sloan

New York, NY

Jan 24 2008 - 6:13pm

Web Letter

I would have to say that while George W.'s legacy is still not set in stone, he will certainly be near the top of the stink pile of Presidents. Although I am surprised only one other person had the smarts to come up with the real stinker, Teflon Ron. His economic legacy of big military spending and tax cuts for the rich has led us into one of the longest lasting recessions of American history.

His privatization of government services which George Sr., Clinton, and George W. so willingly followed along with has left us with the mess of hurricane Katrina and a crumbling infrastructure.

And finally let us not forget the legacy of his foreign policy, which George W. has followed so obediently. He was the one who armed Iraq in the first place and he also poured all those arms into Afghanistan all in the name of fighting the cold war. And let us not forget his arms-for-hostage deal with the Iranians.

George W.'s mess was already there, he has just made it worse because of his increasingly bad judgment.

Joshua Henkin

Baltimore, MD

Feb 15 2007 - 12:40pm

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"Misled the nation into a disastrous war, fumbled a horrific national disaster, authorized secret wiretaps on civilians, and pissed off the rest of the world."

We have had Presidents who done all of these things before. America was misled into the Spanish-American War and we have invaded lots of countries that never threatened us, going back to our invasion of Mexico. Our little intervention in the Philippines at the beginning of the twentieth century certainly did not turn out quite as well as the country was led to believe it would. As bad as New Orleans was, can anyone really think to compare it to the Dust Bowl? And at least Bush eventually did something. Hoover completely ignored the Great Depression and hoped it would go away. Wilson was probably our worst President when it comes to ignoring the Bill of Rights. He practically declared martial law when the First World War started, and arrested anti-war advocates simply for stating their opinions. Wilson also used his power to control the press to keep the influenza epidemic of 1918 out of the press. This undoubtedly led to thousands of avoidable deaths.

As bad as Bush is, the country has had his type before. Hoover prepared the country for the policies of FDR. Perhaps we can hope that Bush will prepare the country for a great leader with progressive policies.

Thomas Paul

Plainview, NY

Feb 13 2007 - 6:04pm

Web Letter

I guess no one on this thread attaches any import to the phrase "business as usual." That is exactly what Bush is. Certainly no better, but in general no worse than what the real power in this country expects from a Chief Executive.

Come one, folks, this is The Nation here!! You'd think an evaluation of Bush's relative standing among US Presidents conducted at one of America's (putatively) most progressive weeklies would eschew the risible notion of American exceptionalism. Yet bletter after bletter proceeds with this notion in mind, at least implicitly. Of course, what can one expect from liberals but this. These are, after all, the sort that style themselves progressives because radical is for them as dirty a word as reactionary. Oh well, there's always Alexander Cockburn at Counterpunch.

Douglas Presler

Minneapolis, MN

Feb 13 2007 - 11:36am

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I feel that this President will be remembered for attacking a country that never attacked us. In modern times, the case for using our military has been that of defense, and aid. Never have we used our military in such a mission as we have in Iraq. Our military have been being used as the pawns of big business. They were used to overthrow a legitimate government, for no apparent reason. Intelligence was cooked for this purpose. The deception that has been perpetrated upon the American people is staggering. Bush will be remembered for this, as well as all of the reasons mentioned above. He truly, will go down in history, or herstory, as the absolute worst American President in all time.

Rocco Rizzo

Rosendale, NY

Feb 12 2007 - 8:04pm

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It may be a three-way tie for the worst President of the USA! But, this is a subject more appropriate for the twentieth century after our nation was more fully formed and the memory of three to four generations, most of whom are now living, can be involved.

The candidates for this dubious honor should be Hoover, Carter and Clinton.

Hoover methodically oppressed and generally ignored the suffering citizenry of the nation rather than responded to its dire distress after the 1929 stock market crash and bank closings.

Carter stumbled, fumbled and functioned more like a low-level civil servant through the gas crisis, Iranian hostage taking, affront to the sovereignty of our embassy and nation, and every other challenge to his presidency. Giving away the Panama Canal--a creation of our American heritage--and his ignominious crediting himself for Middle East advances are just some.

While Carter, Reagan and Clinton may all be faulted for ignoring the Islamic terror threat the more heinous cases of clear and present danger were under Clinton and his eight-year "party spirit" reign of terror against cherished American institutions, Christian religion, our military, and his politics of personal destruction unparalleled except by nineteenth-century scandals!

John W. Kerr

Jones, Oklahoma

Feb 12 2007 - 3:15am

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Nicholas von Hoffman is a fine writer when it comes to putting nouns and verbs together. But as a student of history, not so much. Grant was the last President until Lyndon to go to bat for blacks? What about Harry S integrating the military and Ike and JFK sending troops into the south to make sure schools were integrated? These were executive actions and they were sort of optional.

Maybe Nick should be a little more specific about what he means by "go to bat for."

Ron Adami

Flossmoor, Il

Feb 11 2007 - 9:43pm

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Labeling George W. Bush the worst President the United States has ever seen is an understatement. He is probably the worst democratically elected leader the world has ever seen, period.

Norm Bell

Vancouver, BC, Canada

Feb 11 2007 - 8:48pm

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You missed the most obvious candidate, at least for worst President of the twentieth century: Jimmy Carter. If he had had the courage to confront Islamic fasciscm in its earliest stages, perhaps GWB wouldn't have had to go in and clean up the messes left by JC's aversion to confronting this insidious evil with which we are now plagued.

Juan Delacruz

Simpsonville, SC, US

Feb 11 2007 - 8:04pm

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If G.W. Bush were heading a conservative government we would all be merrily getting on with business as usual. However, this is not really a conservative Administration.

Privatization is the key word with this Administration. Remember it was Benito Mussolini that said, "Fascism should more properly be called corporatism because it is the merger of state and corporate power." With the old Nixon Administration back in power within the Bush Administration we have become a fascist state without even recognizing it. How? Privatization = Corporatism = Fascism.

The United States can survive and prosper with a conservative government. The United States can survive and prosper with a liberal government. The United States cannot survive with a fascist government, at least not as we knew it. All fascist states need wars to survive (war is very profitable for corporations connected to governments), and we are already getting the propaganda now to set us up to invade another country. So my vote for worst President has to be G.W. Bush.

We need to talk about our new fascism, not liberals vs. conservatives, etc.

David Andrews

West Palm Beach, Florida

Feb 11 2007 - 7:57pm