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Saturday, January 27, 2018

Who is the most embarrassing political figure in American history?



Future generations will read in their history books the tale of how millions of Americans voted for a reality TV host
About two months ago, a poll conducted by the American Psychological Association claimed 59 percent of the public believes this is the “lowest point in our nation’s history that they can remember.” And the sentiment was shared across demographics, with majorities of every age group positing this opinion in the results.

This could be a reflection of people’s attention extending no further than five minutes ago, since the lifetimes of some of the respondents would include World War II, the Vietnam War, the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr., the darkest points of the Civil Rights Movement, the September 11th attacks, etc.

But, for some, the past year has been that damn bad. 

This got me to thinking about objectively looking at figures from American history and asking: which one should we be embarrassed by the most? Who has their name on a building or a monument, or their picture on a stamp, which we should really be ashamed about? Or who is the person that makes one wonder why anyone takes their opinion seriously?

And the term “political figure” can be an expansive one, since it applies to politicians, pundits, media personalities, and (theoretically) family members who decided they wanted to have a go at moving the needle of politics.

From the Lisa Ross and Stephen Kehole at the Edelman Trust Barometer:
In a year marked by turbulence at home and abroad, trust in institutions in the United States crashed, posting the steepest, most dramatic general population decline the Trust Barometer has ever measured.
It is no exaggeration to state that the U.S. has reached a point of crisis that should provoke every leader, in government, business, or civil sector, into urgent action. Inertia is not an option, and neither is silence. The public’s confidence in the traditional structures of American leadership is now fully undermined and has been replaced with a strong sense of fear, uncertainty and disillusionment.
Among the informed public, the trust crash is even steeper, with trust declining 23 points, dropping the U.S. from sixth to last place out of the 28 countries surveyed. The informed public trust crash is universal across age, region and gender. As a result, the gap in trust between the informed public and the mass population has been all but eliminated.
Now, before I get started, let me be clear. The list below is in no way meant to be definitive. So no comments like: “How could you forget to mention … who’s a huge moron!“ This is more like throwing some options on the table to get the discussion started.

During the more than 200 plus years of existence for the United States, there have been more than a few horrible presidents and national leaders. Here are some considered to be among the worst, and possible answers to the diary’s title.
  • Donald Trump: No explanation necessary.
  • Warren G. Harding: Usually considered among the worst presidents ever based on scandals (e.g., Teapot Dome) which came to light after his death. While scholarly appraisals of Harding are very negative, it should be noted that when he left office, he was very popular. However, with the revelation of affairs and bribery, the image of his administration was stained with corruption.
  • Aaron Burr: The third vice president of the United States, murderer of Alexander Hamilton, and alleged to have committed treason against the United States in an attempt to create his own country out of areas of the present-day Southwest United States and Northern Mexico. Although, Burr was acquitted of these charges when brought to trial.
  • Andrew Jackson: Considered to be one of the founders of the Democratic Party, Jackson is infamous for killing anyone who impugned the honor of anyone he cared about, and loathing central banking, which is part of the reason his place on the $20 bill has been controversial and is slated to be modified. Jackson is remembered for espousing populist tendencies, and used his outsider credentials to reach the presidency. However, he’s also remembered for his part in the forced relocation of Native Americans, contributing to a genocide.

anti-nixon-poster-1960-granger.jpg
“Always remember, others may hate you, but those who hate you don't win unless you hate them. And then you destroy yourself.” —Richard Nixon, Farewell Address, August 9, 1974
  • Richard Nixon: Since he is the only president to have resigned the office after the Watergate scandal hit full tilt, Nixon is usually the modern image of presidential corruption in pop culture. However, the record of “Tricky Dick” as president is more of a mixed bag. He opened relations with China and people like Noam Chomsky have called Nixon the “last liberal president,” since he supported the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, Endangered Species Act, the Equal Rights Amendment, and some other significant left-of-center domestic policies. But those accomplishments are largely negated and overshadowed by enemies lists, the Southern Strategy, and 18-minute gaps.
  • Joseph McCarthy: A drunk whose name is the source of the term “McCarthyism,” and is the symbol of everything connected with the “Red Scare,” blacklists of anyone considered to be un-American, and the use of fear for political ends. McCarthy, as well as his chief counsel Roy Cohn, are responsible for the destruction of lives.
  • Herbert Hoover: The stock market crash of 1929 occurred less than seven months after Hoover took office, signaling the start of the Great Depression. Hoover’s actions during the economic crisis are usually criticized for doing too little (Hoover largely rejected heavy government intervention on the basis of championing “rugged individualism”) and too much (he signed into law the Smoot–Hawley Tariff Act, which even economists of the time thought was a horrible idea). But when the 1932 presidential election came around, the unemployment rate was near 25 percent and thousands of banks were collapsing, leading to the election of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
  • George W. Bush: At the beginning of 2000, the United States was ascendant in its power as a nation and the lone superpower in the world. In eight short years, the country would suffer setbacks economically, militarily, and culturally that have redefined how we look at ourselves in the 21st century. The effects on the rest of the world due to the Bush Administration’s policies can still be seen in the lingering problems in the Middle East, especially the problems with ISIS and the aftermath of the Iraq invasion. The lives lost and the economic impact of Bush’s policies are staggering, and this is before even considering the Bush Administration’s part in leaving an American city to drown underwater through incompetence.
Broadening things out, here’s a selection among the current crop of politicians.
  • Sheriff Joe Arpaio [R-AZ.]: Convicted felon who was brought to justice for being an abusive asshole. Pardoned by the current crook in the Oval Office, and now a celebrated Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate.
  • Rep. Joe Barton [R-TX.]: Chairman of the House Energy Committee, who has claimed carbon dioxide isn’t a pollutant because it’s in Coca-Cola and Dr. Pepper. Also famously apologized to BP for the Obama administration urging the company to create a relief fund after the Gulf spill. Barton characterized the fund as a “shakedown.”
  • Sen. Rand Paul [R-KY.]: Child of noted wacko Ron Paul, and recently in the news for getting his ass kicked by his next-door neighbor. Whatever policy makes the most sense, Rand Paul is probably a good bet to be against it. Has stated a “right to health care” is tantamount to “slavery” for physicians such as himself. Interesting factoid about Rand Paul’s doctoring: Paul is an ophthalmologist. After a disagreement with the American Board of Ophthalmology, he started his own board and certified himself.
  • Rep. Virginia Foxx [R-NC.]: Representing North Carolina’s Fifth Congressional District and Chairwoman of the House Education Committee, Foxx has claimed Matthew Shepard was not killed because he was gay, and claims in the affirmative were a “hoax” used for passing hate crime legislation. She has also taken the quack conspiracy position that the Sixteenth Amendment is not constitutional.
  • Rep. Louie Gohmert [R-TX.]: Trump buddy and Russia apologist, Gohmert started his stupidity as a judge where he ordered people who were HIV positive to get written consent from any future partners. Also claimed Alaska needed an oil pipeline because it was a hookup spot which aided the caribou population.
  • Rep. Steve King [R-IA]: One of the dumbest people ever to walk the halls of the Capitol, a disgrace to the state of Iowa, and a reflection of the dumb idiots in the Fourth District who sent him to Washington. Has made many comments which have been dog whistles or outright appeals to white nationalism, including claiming only white people have made significant contributions to civilization. Has opposed immigration reforms and stated that for every undocumented child who’s a valedictorian, there’s another who’s “hauling seventy-five pounds of marijuana across the desert.”
Media pundits can be embarrassing as the politicians and politics they cover. Ever since the late 1960’s, the idea of “discussing an issue” has largely been centered on bringing two or more people on television to scream at each other for three to five minutes, and provide no context or objective analysis when one side is obviously wrong. Much better to cater to crazy, since it’s sexier than having an actual discussion about the ins-and-outs of policy.

There’s an interesting overlap between sports commentary and political commentary.

Both are reliant on stating the obvious, or contrived shouting between high-paid idiots. Sports talk, whether on ESPN or the radio, and political coverage, whether on the radio or cable news, largely operate on the same dynamic of having commentators with obvious biases rant and rave an opinion, which reinforces the opinions of the people listening. At a very base level, modern commentary in both sports and politics is not really about insightful analysis, nor does it give much of a positive value for correct predictions. It’s about the spectacle of things, since being as wrong as wrong can be has an entertainment value all its own, especially if one is preaching to an audience which wants to hear all the wrong things.

And that’s the biggest rub in my opinion. No one ever eats crow. The worst of these people, at any level of these levels ever acknowledge they were wrong. They rationalize or ignore.
  • The Fox and Friends Crew: Like the president they cater to every morning, objective reality has no meaning. Although, I guess to work at a network known more for sexual assaults than the quality of their reporting takes it toll.
  • Mark Halperin: Even before the sexual harassment scandal hit Halperin and hit him hard, he gave some of the most insipid insight into politics, which he delivered with full smugness.
  • Sean Hannity: Being a conservative blowhard is bad enough. But a conspiracy promoting conservative schmuck who slurps up anything Trump or the RNC squirts out is maddening and frankly pathetic.
  • Alex Jones: I don’t know which is more frightening. The fact this asshole, who pushes chemtrails and truther bullshit has a line with the White House, or people are dumb enough to buy “health supplements” from this prick.

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