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There’s an awful lot of unrestrained hyperbole going around these days. People threatening to move to Canada, talk of states seceding, and my favorite: The communal anointing of George W. Bush as the “worst president ever.” Here’s an example from William Rivers Pitt of TruthOut.org: “If Bush’s first four years are any indication of what is to come, and if the movement continues to hammer him, history will remember him single worst President the nation has ever known.”
The worst president ever? This concept made me ponder Andrew Jackson riding roughshod through the land…Indian scalps hanging from his saddle. Also made me think of one of those giant white faces carved into Mount Rushmore: Teddy Roosevelt. TR said: “Democracy has justified itself by keeping for the white race the best portions of the earth’s surface.” He also said: “Every immigrant who comes here should be required within five years to learn English or leave the country.” And let’s not forget: “There can be no fifty-fifty Americanism in this country. There is room here for only 100% Americanism, only for those who are Americans and nothing else.” Not even David Duke sounds that bad today.
But, for fun, I focused mostly on Democrats…over the past 100 years. Woodrow Wilson and the lies he told to drag the U.S. into to a war far bloodier than Iraq. What about Wilson’s Espionage Act…does the PATRIOT ACT even compare?
Lefty icon FDR fought the war against racism with a segregated army, ignoring the Holocaust as long as possible and then, in the name of taking on the architects of German prison camps, became the architect of American prison camps…interning over 100,000 Japanese-American without due process.
When comparing Dubya with Harry Truman, it begins and ends with two words: Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
JFK waged a war of terror against Cuba and laid the foundation for the American invasion of South Vietnam. LBJ, well, he took the Tonkin and ran with it. Jimmy “Human Rights” Carter might best be judged by the people of East Timor, Central America, and Afghanistan.
Then we have William Jefferson Clinton…reviled by the right for no apparent reason. Bypass Bill out-righted everyone during his eight year reign of terror and is perhaps the best example to use when judging Dubya’s tenure.
During 1993 and 1994, when Clinton had the “advantage” of a Democratically-controlled Congress, he abandoned his pledge to consider offering asylum to Haitian refugees, reneged on his promise to “take a firm stand” against the armed forces’ ban on gays and lesbians, and backed away from his most high-profile campaign issue: health care.
He also signed NAFTA, increased the Pentagon budget by $25 billion, fired Jocelyn Elders, dumped Lani Guinier, bombed Iraq and the Balkans, renewed the murderous sanctions on Iraq, ignored genocide in Rwanda, and passed a crime bill that gave us more cops, more prisons, and 58 more offenses punishable by death.
Then came the much-hyped Republican “revolution” in 1994. The next two years of Clinton foreign policy provided us with more bombs and more sanctions over Iraq; covert support for war criminals in Haiti; a tightening of sanctions against Cuba, Iran, and Libya; and the overt support of a corrupt Boris Yelstin.
Domestically, Clinton continued his assault on the working class by delivering a telecommunications bill that further narrowed the already laughable parameters of public debate. As a final slap in the face of the “liberal” wing of his party, Clinton signed the welfare repeal bill.
What about the environment…allegedly Al Gore’s domain? In 1996, David Brower, former president of the Sierra Club, penned a Los Angeles Times op-ed entitled, “Why I Won’t Vote for Clinton.” In this piece, Brower offered a litany of Clinton- and Gore-sponsored moves, which utterly smashed the public image of them as “pro-environment.” Some of these include:
The passage of the salvage logging rider, the continuation of the use of methyl bromide, the weakening of the Endangered Species Act, the lowering of grazing fees on land, subsidizing Florida’s sugar industry, weakening the Safe Drinking Water Act, reversing the ban on the production and importation of PCBs, and allowing the export of Alaskan oil.
These, and other proud Clinton/Gore accomplishments, led Brower to declare that the dynamic Democratic duo had “done more harm to the environment in three years than Presidents Bush and Reagan did in 12 years.”
That’s Bush the Elder, of course. As for Bush the Lesser, consider this: the total logging cut in national forest during his first three years was less than the ANNUAL logging cut in national forests was under Clinton.
I could go into Clinton’s illegal war in Yugoslavia, how he ignored genocide in Rwanda, his bombing of a Sudanese pharmaceutical plant to distract us from Monica’s kneepads, a little something called the “Defense of Marriage Act,” and the fact that he chose NOT to pardon Leonard Peltier when there was no political price to pay…but I’d like to end with one last Clinton gem: the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, signed into law on April 24, 1996.
This USA PATRIOT Act prequel contained provisions that Clinton himself admitted “make a number of ill-advised changes in our immigration laws, having nothing to do with fighting terrorism.” This unconstitutional salvo severely restricted habeas corpus and expanded the number of federal capital crimes…and the PATRIOT Act is mostly an extension its legal foundations.
Is Dubya the worst president ever? It’s a nip and tuck battle between criminals of all varieties and the jury is still out…but I will say this with confidence: George Bush the Lesser is the worst president we’ve had since Bypass Bill Clinton.
MICKEY Z. is the author of four books, most recently: “The Seven Deadly Spins: Exposing the Lies Behind War Propaganda” (Common Courage Press). He can be found on the Web at http://www.mickeyz.net.