As we celebrate the birthdays of two of our most important and influential presidents, 2017 seems like a good time to ask: who was the WORST president? Some say it was Richard Nixon, whose rampant paranoia during his re-election campaign compelled him to authorize a break-in of the Democratic National Committee’s offices housed at the Watergate Hotel.
Now, every scandal that occurs in America has the word “gate” attached to it, as if the word is a synonym for wrongdoing. If a cover-up happened there today it would be referred to as “Watergate-gate.” In Florida, I once wandered onto a nude beach, and I remember thinking that Nixon would have been hailed a hero if he had ordered a cover-up there. Using electronic eavesdropping to gain compromising information that could be used for political gain is something that, thankfully, could never happen today.
The ninth president, William Henry Harrison, might have been one of the worst presidents in history. Then again, he might have been one of the best. He only lasted 32 days in office, then dropped dead of complications from pneumonia. As a writer, I can tell you that the most complicated thing about pneumonia is how to spell it. His grandson was Benjamin Harrison, who spent about 45 times as long in the White House. Luckily, a presidential term influenced by pneumonia is something that could never happen today.
Many historians think that Ulysses S. Grant was one of the worst presidents. His storied military career was succeeded by a term marred by corruption and abuse during the reconstruction era following the Civil War. Although Grant was not implicated, graft was so rampant during his during his watch, it’s a wonder they didn’t steal his watch. Due to laws prohibiting conflicts of interest, there is no way this type of malfeasance could happen today.
Even the worst presidents did something good every once in a while, even if it was by mistake. Grant expanded the Indian Reservation system, flawed as it is, and Nixon opened up long-dormant relations with China. I even heard a rumor that the current president is looking to buy a large parcel of land at the top of Mount Rushmore, who knows, maybe to preserve it as a natural habitat.
So take the day off, maybe do some shopping. These days a Presidents Day sale means something entirely different. It means that as a taxpayer, you are eligible to pay substantially inflated rates for Secret Service agents to stay at wonderful properties all around the world. These hotels will be carefully selected by the new administration, and they will be the best, absolutely the best. You can trust me on this.
After the shopping, look into a mirror so that you can reflect on some important things that presidents have said in the past that resonate more than ever today. As George Washington once said, “It is better to offer no excuse than a bad one.” Abraham Lincoln asked, “Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?” Or, in the words of President Donald J. Trump in 2014, “Tiny children are not horses.” Happy Presidents Day!
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