August 15, 2010

That "20 Worst Americans of all time" list compiled by Right Wing News by surveying conservative bloggers.

It's a ridiculous list, as lawprof Stephen Bainbridge points out:
Personally, I find the collated list pretty much of a joke. It reflects the partisan passions of the moment, not anything resembling a serious verdict of history.
But it was predictable that the list would be ridiculous, because of the methodology:
All [43] bloggers were allowed to make anywhere from 1-20 selections. Rank was determined simply by the number of votes received. 
So, if everyone put Jimmy Carter or Barack Obama on the list, he'd come out as the worst person in American history. (The expression "of all time" highlights the silliness of the list. When in history do we start having "Americans"? 1776... 1787... or thereabouts. There were no terrible Americans in the Middle Ages or ancient times. Saying "of all time" makes you sound like a bombastic know-nothing. (It's an expression we've been using jocosely, chez Meadhouse, ever since this happened.)

In fact, only 25 of the 43 put Jimmy Carter on their list, and that was enough to put him at #1. Obama was second with only 23 selections. They're easy to think of, so they got on a lot of lists. (Surprisingly few, actually.) More obscure but more evil Americans were less likely to come to mind, but would probably have raked in votes if the surveyed bloggers had been given a list to chose from.

So, tweak the methodology. Have 2 stages where you first take suggestions for who should be on a list, then have the voters pick however many they want from the list. If I have to pick 20, I may need to pad it out with individuals who aren't really that bad. Or give everyone 20 votes and let them pile the votes on their choices in whatever proportion they want. You could dump 15 votes on Obama and 5 on Carter, for example.

By the way, oddly enough, my name appears in the first comment over there at Right Wing News:
What an [sic] spectacularly ignorant list. I'm a progressive, and I could do a better job of being a right-wing butthole than the people who voted.....

Michael Moore over Upton Sinclair or Lincoln Steffens? Jane Fonda over Paul Robeson? Not one member of the Warren Court? Not Theodore Roosevelt? Where's Daniel Ellsberg or Seymour Hirsch-- or Julian Assange?

This is why we make fun of your lack of intellect, folks-- you can't even identify the people who've done the most damage to your belief system. It would be as if progressives compiled a list of the most vile and bigoted conservatives in history and picked Wally George, John Schmitz, Ann Althouse and Orly Taitz.
... whoever they are.

If you click over to Bainbridge, you'll see his comments on each of the individuals on the RWN list. Bainbridge also makes his own "Worst Americans" list, with a decided emphasis on traitors. He puts Aldrich Ames and Benedict Arnold at #1 and #2.

Now, for some reason he puts Paris Hilton at #11. Huh? I guess he thought there had to be a female on the list and that was the best he could do. He called her the "personification of the celebrity obsessed culture." Isn't the obsession with celebrities the fault of the people doing the obsessing? (Let's take responsibility for our own faults. It's the conservative way, I've heard.)

In an update, he defends his #11 selection of Hilton "as one of the earliest examples of how it is now possible in our culture to be famous merely for being famous without having any significant merit or worth."

Earliest examples? Earliest examples??!!! If Paris Hilton seems like an early example, you might not know so much about history.  The definition of "celebrity" as someone who is "known for his well-knownness" appears in a book that came out in 1962 — "The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-events in America" by Daniel J. Boorstin.

Can we think of some earlier examples of famous-for-being-famous Americans? Who was Boorstin writing about in 1962? We had empty celebrities then, for sure. Somebody motivated Andy Warhol to say "In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes." Or is that why we can't remember the empty celebrities of the past? Their fame-time ran out, and we forgot.

And how about giving Paris Hilton credit as an entrepreneur? You try creating a compelling character out of yourself and making money out of that product? The fact is, she's a model and an actress, and the way she annoys people like Bainbridge and seems dumb and pointless is part of the fabulous image-product that has sold so well.

79 comments:

HDHouse said...

Paris Hilton...dumb and pointless or just pointlessly annoying...

Hey Paris - say it isn't so......

AllenS said...

The people who voted on this list, didn't read the instructions.

c3 said...

I thought Keith Olbermann had the copyright on this schtick.

lucid said...

Bainbridge's point about Paris Hilton isn't that she is not successful--it is that what she is successful at is noxious in itself.

I think you are a little compulsive and overconcerned about defending females. What do you suppose that is about?

AllenS said...

Very good point, Mr. House. Always read the instructions on voting for something, and using a hand dryer.

Flexo said...

Well, it may be the worst poll ever, but it is also true that Jimmy Carter is history's greatest monster.

Yes, there is far too much contemporary bias. Did people have to think up names themselves, or did they have a list of 100-200 names to choose from? Some of the more unsavory characters from the late 1700s and the 1800s could easily be overlooked.

DADvocate said...

Lists like this are almost always skewed towards the present. Usually I'm dismayed that some historically bad figure didn't make the list or is far down it. That shows the ignorance of our current population.

Flexo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Flexo said...

And it is also likely that some of the absolute worst of all time are unlikely to come to the minds of most people, namely various Supreme Court justices, such as guys named Taney, Blackmun, and Holmes.

Nearly all of the most shameful episodes and eras of America's history can be traced back to an autocratic and despotic Supreme Court.

Fred4Pres said...

Professor Bainbridge's list cracked me up. Good points made.

But of course, lists like this are in themselves, nonsense. What is more interesting is the rationale of picking one over another. That is far more interesting and revealing.

America's Politico said...

The grapes are sour for GOP. Obama/Biden are doing well. They will win in 2012. GOP cannot stomach this and so compiling such lists makes them happy. Well, don't waste your time and energy. There will be no change. Instead focus everything on helping to build the next GOP leadership. Why? Because there is no leadership in GOP since Nov. 2008. Dry spell, GOP?

GMay said...

So I head on over to the comments. What a fucking cesspool.

And the blogs cited - I don't visit many rightwing blogs, but I've never heard of 90% of those guys.

Big Mike said...

You'd find a good start at any such list by reading The Devil and Daniel Webster.

As to why Wilson is on the list, may I remind Bainbridge that Wilson was an unrepentant segregationist who re-segregated the Federal Civil Service, who ran for reelection on the slogan "he kept us out of war," and then plunged the US into WWI within weeks of his second inauguration.

Just prior to the election of 1912 Wilson wrote to a prominent Black bishop "to assure [Black Americans] through you that should I become President of the United States they may count on me for absolute fair dealing and for everything by which I could assist in advancing the interests of their race." He was sworn into office on March 4th, and in April he and his cabinet issued the necessary orders to re-segregate what had been a mostly desegregated Federal Civil Service. When Black leaders protested, Wilson made perfectly clear his position on segregation: "Segregation is not a humiliation but a benefit, and ought to be so regarded by you gentlemen."

Wilson was also responsible for he Espionage Act of 1917 and the Sedition Act of 1918, which made it a crime to speak out against administration policies. Not to mention the infamous Palmer raids.

Bainbridge may find it questionable that Wilson is included in the list of "20 Worst Americans of All Time," but in my book he's top ten.

GMay said...

America's Politico,

New? Is that you New?

David said...

This is the Right Wing's day to look ignorant and stupid. The Left will return to leadership soon.

edutcher said...

Since I've never read RWN, the list is kind of irrelevant to me, although I've read about a quarter of the bloggers at one time or another.

A couple of thoughts on who deserves to be where (just to annoy HD):

Jeff Davis should be lower on the list (he modernized the US Army as SecWar just in time for Fort Sumter) and some would put Lincoln high on it as the first statist POTUS.

Flexo is right about SCOTUS justices.

FDR should be a little lower - after all, he was right on WWII.

Where's JFK, a blithering incompetent if ever there was one?

How about some of the Robber Barons?

Dump Moore, Hilla, and, maybe, Soros. Willie and Bucketmouth need some more time to be judged through the prism of history.

Where's Simon Girty? (Big Mike has a point about The Devil and Daniel Webster) He's also on track about Woody Wilson who, among other things, segregated the US Navy.

Alex said...

What I find interesting about Althouse lately is she seems to be morphing into Charles Johnson. More intent on going after right-wingers then the real fascist powers led by the Democrats. I guess Althouse felt that she's a left-winger after all.

Peter V. Bella said...

America's Politico must not read or be a total illiterate. Obama's poll numbers are sinking and Biden has been voted the dumbest White man in America. Doing well?

Congress, both houses led by Democrats, have ratings in the sewer. Leadership by Dems?

Worst people of the year- the Democratic Party.

Paul said...

Big Mike, you list several of the reasons that Woodrow Wilson belongs in the top ten on such a list, but let me add another: he instituted the Federal Income Tax, which set the stage for the Leviathan State.

Flexo, I agree that some of our worst problems have come at the hands of SC judges that few people even remember.

Big Mike said...

DADvocate is right on the money -- hardly anyone knows their history. Going back ten years, a large number of sportswriters picked Muhammad Ali as the greatest athlete of the 20th century. Talk about skew toward the present! Muhammad was probably not the best Black heavyweight fighter of the 20th century (Joe Lewis and Jack Johnson would have had him for lunch and asked for dessert), much less the best heavyweight fighter, period (Rocky Marciano retired undefeated), much less the best boxer of the 20th century (am I the only person who's heard of Sugar Ray Robinson?).

As to the best athlete, Jesse Owens set three and tied one world record during the span of only 45 minutes during a collegiate track meet.

So getting back to the worst Americans of all time, there are plenty of villains from colonial days (Simon Girty gets a whitewash in Wikipedia, but was loathed during Revolutionary War days), and the 19th century (there's Aaron Burr, Andrew Jackson and the "Trail of Tears," James K. Polk started a war with Mexico for no good reason except to enlarge America at Mexico's expense, James Buchanan, any number of the Southern "fire eaters," William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer fomented the Spanish-American War merely to sell newspapers).

But with modern education being what it is, it's hard to fault people for not knowing much history.

HDHouse said...

breaking news:

Faux Noise viewer poll rates Obama the worst politician in history with 89% agreeing.

MSNBC "Ed Show" poll rates Sarah Palin as a threat to the republic by 91-6 with 3% undecided".

Randy said...

Did anyone mention Charles Ponzi? I think his historical influence is undeniable.

As for "famous for being famous," Caroline Astor and Alice Roosevelt Longworth, to name but two, pre-date Hilton by a few generations.

Beldar said...

The whole exercise is Olbermannesque, which is reason enough to shun it.

amba said...

So, if everyone put Jimmy Carter or Barack Obama on the list, he'd come out as the worst person in American history.

That's so ... where did I see the word "presentist"? Here or on the twit?

former law student said...

Daniel Boorstin was one of the many Librarians of Congress who was not a librarian. Somehow this does not bother people the way picking a non-attorney for Attorney General would.

george said...

At some point our culture decided to reward people like Paris for being ignorant, drunken sluts. Paris' "career" was started solely because she attended a lot of parties and put out a sex tape. That and the fact her parents were rich.

The media tries to find the extremes. I have to constantly tell my daughter that the people she sees on the reality shows aren't real at all. They have been selected from the most insane, screwed-up portion of the population and that if she runs into someone like them in real life she would do well to put some distance between herself and them.

News shows do the same thing when they seek out the most unhinged leftists they can find to give "the other side." Eventually this sort of behavior and this sort of stupidity becomes accepted as the norm and the entire culture is degraded.

BTW, I get a kick out of the leftist Althouse quoted lecturing the right about how stupid they are when all he is doing is pointing out the fact that he doesn't understand anything about human nature or how the poll was conducted. Does he really think if he asked 100 leftist bloggers to come up with a list like he did that he would get any of the same names?

He makes the classic liberal mistake of equating knowledge with intelligence. He knows a lot of history but he is not smart enough to realize that it doesn't apply in this situation because of the nature of the poll. Obama "knows" a lot of things (most of which are untrue) but isn't smart enough to apply any of that knowledge in a way that is useful or comports with reality.

Randy said...

That's so ... where did I see the word "presentist"? Here or on the twit?

I think you read that on twitter via the redoubtable @thatcher

Randy said...

One minute Althouse is a rightest. The next minute, Althouse is a leftist. Could it possibly be that Althouse is, heaven forbid, a centrist?

edutcher said...

Big Mike said...

...there's Aaron Burr, Andrew Jackson and the "Trail of Tears," James K. Polk started a war with Mexico for no good reason except to enlarge America at Mexico's expense, James Buchanan, any number of the Southern "fire eaters," William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer fomented the Spanish-American War merely to sell newspapers

Can't agree on Old Hickory or Polk. Jackson beat the Limeys at NOLA and did a couple of good things as POTUS, mostly taking the Presidency out of the hands of the Virginia-Massachusetts aristocracy (need somebody like that again).

Polk saw the reality of American expansion and tried to get a peaceable purchase of SF Bay, an overland route to it (he didn't want AZ, NM (outside of the Santa Fe country), or Southern CA), and a settlement of the Rio Grande business in TX (Santa Anna's political rivals wanted a fight as a means of seizing power). He also peaceably settled the Oregon issue. He was one of the best POTUSes.

And there was a little more to the war with Spain than, "You furnish the pictures, I'll furnish the war". Hearst and Pulitzer (especially Hearst) could be venal, but they don't make the list IMHO.

Since you mention the fire-eaters, how about those Abolitionists who wanted a war (John Brown, etc.) and the dough-faces (the Whig version of RINOs)?

Bob_R said...

What could be more appropriate than having Paris Hilton represent something that she had nothing to do with creating.

Randy said...

Robert E. Lee anyone?

Did/does Henry Billings Brown get any votes?

What about Theodore Hall or Harry Dexter White?

I'm sure Walter Duranty was on someone's list.

lyssalovelyredhead said...

Instead of a worst people in history, I think it would make more sense to list the people most responsible for the world's current problems. It would still skew towards the present, but would allow historical figures as well, and it would be more relevant than a mere exercise in historical trivia.

Fred4Pres said...

What I find interesting about Althouse lately is she seems to be morphing into Charles Johnson.

So what does that make Meade, Kilgore Trout or Sharmuta?

Hey wait, Sharmuta got the boot from LGF, in one of CJ's Stalinistic purges.

Fred4Pres said...

The only bad thing of the Mexican-American war...was we did not take Baja too.

lyssalovelyredhead said...

Using worst as I described it above, I'd like to throw some hate on LBJ. Sure, he did some good on the civil rights front, but his great society programs were and are an utter disaster that has decimated the nuclear family unit among the lower classes. This has lead to a cycle of poverty and broken homes, yet the benefits cannot be backtracked once they are in place.

Disgraceful.

Randy said...
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Randy said...

The only bad thing of the Mexican-American war...was we did not take Baja too.

Perhaps. To his dying day, Ulysses S. Grant had a different opinion.

Freeman Hunt said...

I voted in that poll. My votes were quite a bit different than the final list. My guess is that the votes were split over the many possible historical figures. I'd like to see a list of all the figures who received votes.

Why would Bill Clinton be on anyone's list?

Paul said...

Randy said... Robert E. Lee anyone?

Have you ever read a biography of Lee? Next to George Washington, he's one of the finest people this country ever produced.

c3 said...

HD;
breaking news:

Faux Noise viewer poll rates Obama the worst politician in history with 89% agreeing.

MSNBC "Ed Show" poll rates Sarah Palin as a threat to the republic by 91-6 with 3% undecided".


Wow, are you making a CENTRIST point?

Randy said...

Have you ever read a biography of Lee? Next to George Washington, he's one of the finest people this country ever produced.

Yes. Lee betrayed his nation and the armed forces in which he was trained and serving. Thanks to Lee, the war lasted longer than it would have otherwise. Hundreds of thousands died as a result.

Bob_R said...

If a list is compiled by more than two or three people I can almost guarantee that I will hate it. At least Bainbridge's list is interesting. It doesn't tell us much about good and evil, but it tells us about Bainbridge. You average a bunch of mildly interesting lists and you get mush. All of the quirky, interesting choices get lost. In the end we get left with the Marge In Chains choice: Jimmy Carter, history's greatest monster.

Freeman Hunt said...

I voted for John Marshall on the basis of judicial review. I think Jefferson will be wholly vindicated on that. If you had the President, who is also sworn to uphold the Constitution, deciding, and you didn't like what he decided, you could undo whatever he did. Even if he were a tyrant, his tyranny could only last for his term. However, if the Court makes tyrannical decisions, they are set then as precedent for all time and quite difficult to overturn. Plus, you're stuck with the judges for their whole lives, and they are just as human as any executives or legislators. I see no reason to believe that they are personally more bound to the original intent of Constitutional than any other who has sworn as much.

Freeman Hunt said...

And it is also likely that some of the absolute worst of all time are unlikely to come to the minds of most people, namely various Supreme Court justices, such as guys named Taney, Blackmun, and Holmes.

I voted for Taney. It would have been easy to get stuck in one category. Bad Judges, Civil War Era Racists, Civil Rights Era Racists, Enablers of Statism, Machine Politicians, Organized Crime Leaders, etc. The hard part was trying to pick a representatives for those categories. I think that's why the list came out the way it did. People's choices of representatives differed.

Fred4Pres said...

Holmes? I like Oliver Wendell. He was for judicial restraint. Didn't care for his stand on eugenics, but hey, everyone has a bad day.

Bruce Hayden said...

If I had to go back 100 years, my list would be, essentially, Wilson, Carter, and Obama, with LBJ and FDR as close runs.

I give LBJ some credit for his civil rights work, but his War on Poverty and Vietnam more than offset this. The former institutionalized single parent households, resulting in many, if not most, of the problems we are seeing today with our under classes, and, in particular, the Black community. And the later was a war of choice, badly fought for all the wrong reasons. And, he tried to fight it at the same time as he implemented his ill fated War on Poverty by instituting fairly robust inflation.

FDR would get on my list for the New Deal, forcing the U.S. to endure maybe an extra decade of depression through implementation of some of the worst policies imaginable for solving our economic woes of the time. But he was there for us when we went to war, and did what few of his successors could have done, in the way that he led us through those harrowing times.

I frankly don't see putting JFK on any such list. It would just be political. Sure, he made a lot of neophyte mistakes in foreign policy, and might have gotten himself, and the country, in trouble, with his philandering, esp. with a mob moll. But he died before he was able to do any real damage, and there is some reason to believe that, except for the security issues of his womanizing, he might have done the right things for the country, if he had been allowed to live out his Presidency.

Big Mike said...

@edutcher, you're welcome to disagree, but IMAO the "Trail of Tears" is still, 172 years later, a national shame. And I'll stick with Lincoln's assessment of the Mexican War, thank you. No way I'd put Polk among the best of our presidents.

As to the fire eaters versus the abolitionists, the former actively wanted, specifically, war. The latter wanted only the abolition of slavery.

And I've overlooked people like Quantrell and "Bloody Bill" Anderson, and other Civil War partisans, who introduced terrorism to America 140 years before the Trade Center fell.

Nathan Bedford Forrest, for his role as the first Grand Wizard of the KKK should have been on the list.

I can see Freeman's point about John Marshall, especially in light of Dred Scott.

There's lots of candidates.

rcocean said...

Bainbridge is an idiot, but then I repeat myself. Besides Hilton, he includes Michael Moore and Madoff and even poor old Rutherford B. Hayes. I guess to Banbridge mediocrity IS a crime.

BTW, the list is supposed to be political and not who was the worst assassain, criminal, or "domestic terrorist". I guess Hawkins overestimated the intelligence of his critics.

Here's my 20 unranked:

01) Alexander Hamilton
02) Calhoun
03) Jefferson Davis
04) Benedict Arnold
05) The Rosenbergs
06) George Soros
07) JP Morgan
08) Harry Hopkins
09) Earl Warren
10) Ted Kennedy
11) John Paul Stevens
12) LBJ
13) Harry Dexter White
14) Charles Sumner
15) Woodrow Wilson
16) Lillian Hellman (gotta have a woman)
17) Howard Zinn
18) Jon Dewey
19) The Sulzberger Family
20) Felix Frankfurter

Freeman Hunt said...

Nathan Bedford Forrest, for his role as the first Grand Wizard of the KKK should have been on the list.

That and Fort Pillow. He was on my list.

Fred4Pres said...

The Trail of Tears is a national disgrace and it happened on Jackson's watch, but I would not define the man by that alone. Jackson's interaction with the tribes was not great, but it was complex. It is too easy to just blame him for something that was not necessary somethng he intended.

Jackson also paid the national debt to zero. And that was a good thing.

But hey, Glenn Beck has been vilifying Jackson lately too. That might persuade some of you to vote the other way.

edutcher said...

Big Mike said...

@edutcher, you're welcome to disagree, but IMAO the "Trail of Tears" is still, 172 years later, a national shame. And I'll stick with Lincoln's assessment of the Mexican War, thank you. No way I'd put Polk among the best of our presidents.

I see your point about the Cherokees, although I don't believe Jackson gets on the list for that, but Lincoln, like a lot of other people - a certain Hiram Grant, for example, saw the war with Mexico as a Southern plot to create more slave states, which it wasn't. Again, Polk tried to avoid a war, but the Mexicans in power did everything they could to start one. This is akin to blaming FDR for Pearl Harbor, in my book.

Donna B. said...

IF the reason for including Civil War generals is who made the war last longer, Robert E. Lee would not be my first choice. The #1 & 2 spots there would go to George McClellan and Stonewall Jackson.

McClellan for dithering incompetence, Jackson for leadership & strategy. Jackson's death shortened the war considerably, IMHO. McClellan's dithering lack of leadership lengthened it by allowing Confederate victories at the beginning.

I have little patience with people who think either state's rights or slavery were "the cause" of the Civil War. I have even less patience with those who think all Confederate soldiers were racist haters and all Union soldiers were non-racist, fair-minded progressives. This is especially egregious when it's applied to their descendants.

LonewackoDotCom said...

I can't believe the list turned out so bad. I mean, DLoesch - Queen of the Tea Parties - was one of the contributors, and others involved are no doubt strong supporters of the teaparties. In fact, I'll bet almost all of those contributing are ardent teaparties fans.

Based on the extremely high intellectualism of 'partiers this is the last thing I'd suspect!

traditionalguy said...

@ All Andrew Jackson critics...What differed in Jackson's decision about the Cherokees from the other Presidents' decisions about Indian Tribal removal to Oklahoma Territory? Jackson was the leader that the western settlers needed to open up the manifest destiny doctrine for the Scots Irish families and Army scouts like Kit Carson. Would you genteel easterners really prefer that France , England and Spain still ruled west of the Mississippi?

Bill said...

"Now, for some reason he puts Paris Hilton at #11. Huh? I guess he thought there had to be a female on the list and that was the best he could do."

So, an affirmative-action pick?

paul a'barge said...

But, Jimmah Car-tair and B. Hussein are indeed the two worst Americans in all of American history.

Paul said...

Randy said... Yes. Lee betrayed his nation and the armed forces in which he was trained and serving. Thanks to Lee, the war lasted longer than it would have otherwise. Hundreds of thousands died as a result.

Bless your heart, what a childish perspective.

Paul said...

Randy, let me add that there are a lot of people on the right who think Lincoln was an evil person because instead of allowing the South the secede, which is a political remedy implicit in the Constitution, he forced the war that as you point out killed hundreds of thousands of people.

I think it would be absurd to put Lincoln on a list of worst Americans of all time, just as it would be to put Lee on that list.

Both were men of tremendous courage, decency, and integrity. They made decisions based on what they truly thought was right. You disagree with the decision Lee made, so to you that makes him one of the worst Americans. I find that very shallow.

The high regard in which Lee was held in the South made a conclusion of hostilities much easier than it could have been.

By the way, Lincoln wouldn't have put Lee on a list of worst Americans. He had a broader perspective than you.

fivewheels said...

Want a woman? I continue to stump for Rachel Carson. In addition to the DDT disaster, she helped institutionalize the paranoia of the scientifically illiterate that has had far-reaching negative effects on society, from opposition to GMOs to the litigation culture to anti-nuclear hysteria to economic witch-hunts like alar and Dow Corning to pretty much every excess of the environmental movement.

James said...

"They made decisions based on what they truly thought was right. You disagree with the decision Lee made, so to you that makes him one of the worst Americans. I find that very shallow."

Um, wouldn't that rationale disqualify the vast majority of the people currently on the list, with the exception of the spies and McVeigh types? I agree with you though, and the people participating in this exercise were quite shallow.

Randy said...

Donna: Had Lee accepted Lincoln's invitation to command the Union army, the dithering McClellan would have been largely irrelevant. Had Lee not turned his back on his country at the one time in his life it most desperately needed him, the war would have ended much sooner than it did.

Paul: Decisions have consequences. Lee's decision was wrong. He led an insurrection against the lawful government of the nation and lost. The war answered the question as to whether or not his was a noble cause. It wasn't. As a result of Lee's personal decision, and his tactical genius, hundreds of thousands died.

From my perspective, Lee's decision to abandon his nation in its hour of greatest need, and to take up arms against it, far outweighs an otherwise exemplary life.

If you want to beatify him for what he did, go ahead. You have plenty of company, despite the fact that the issues he promoted and fought for were irrevocably resolved almost 150 years ago. Just how pernicious Lee's actions were to our nation is evidenced by his continuing glorification.

Penny said...

History's a bugger.

Flexo said...

Had Lee accepted Lincoln's invitation to command the Union army

Lee loved the Union, did not favor secession, and although his wife's family (Custis, the step-family of George Washington) owned slaves, Lee was not especially in favor of slavery either. So those are not the reasons for his decision.

But the very fact that President Lincoln was even raising the Army, so as to essentially invade Lincoln's and Lee's own country and march on their own countrymen, was a factor in Lee declining the invitation and accepting an invitation to defend against same.

It is so very easy from the comfort of our cushy homes, 150 years distant, to say that Col. Lee should have been eager to kill his fellow Virginia neighbors, to burn and destroy the Virginia countryside, but it was a little more complicated for him.

DaveW said...

Bainbridge doesn't like the list because it "...reflects the partisan passions of the moment, not anything resembling a serious verdict of history." and then makes his own list that includes Paris Hilton, Robert Byrd, Louis Farrakhan, Ted Kennedy and Michael Moore?

OK.

I think he's making a joke.

Anyway, Carter belongs on any list of worst presidents that's for sure. Carter was and is a venal, dishonest, hateful and incompetent little man, the worst president of my lifetime. His incompetence as president inspired and noursihed the revolutionaries and tyrants that created the problems in Iran and Afghanistan that we still struggle with today.

People seem to have forgotten what a horrible president Carter was. He was so bad that Reagan won 47 states running against Carter in 1980. Other than GHWB, who lost in a 3-way election, no other president in the modern era has failed to get a second term.

Paul said...

James said...
"They made decisions based on what they truly thought was right. You disagree with the decision Lee made, so to you that makes him one of the worst Americans. I find that very shallow."
Um, wouldn't that rationale disqualify the vast majority of the people currently on the list, with the exception of the spies and McVeigh types?


That's a good point and it occurred to me after I posted. I think the evaluation has to take into account how the person's actions are viewed in the light of history.

Whatever Tim McVeigh, John Wilkes Booth, or the Rosenbergs thought of what they were doing, they have few supporters outside of a few cranks.

Paul said...

Putting Paris Hilton on a list like this reminds me of one of Jack Handey's "Deep Thoughts": "Can't the Marx Brothers be arrested and maybe even tortured for all the confusion and problems they've caused?"

What not Bernie Madoff on the list, instead?

James said...

Lee Harvey Oswald - not on the list. I can't tell if this means that not even 7 of these people would consider killing President Kennedy to make you as bad an American as someone making a documentary about global warming, Bush, or health care, or if the entire group of bloggers are all conspiracy nuts. I'm going with the former.

This is also a site that ranks Althouse as the 16th best conservative blog of the first quarter of 2010, and the 20th best of the second quarter. What did Althouse do to warrant this drop? I guess she just must not post enough about how Obama is the "worst evahhhh!" For comparison's sake, raving nutjob Pam Gellar ranked 17th and 14th respectively. So now you know what you must do Ann, to improve your rankings. Start talking about how Obama is the secret Muslim love-child of Malcolm X, and call for Islam to be made a crime, and RightWingNews will move you back up.

Freeman Hunt said...

I didn't vote for Oswald because I think he was probably crazy.

traditionalguy said...

As to Robert E Lee, he was very ordinary without Jackson. Then he went insane on the third day at Gettysburg when he ordered a reverse Fredericksburg (a southern up hill charge against a stonewall) charge even though Longstreet begged the old fool not to do it. As to Andrew Jackson, his theory of legitimate southern slave state secession is summed up in his famous for saying that the one regret he had in life was not hanging John C Calhoun during the nullification insurrection.

Revenant said...

You can fill up a list of the 20 worst Americans of all time without going any further than the leadership of the Confederacy.

Trooper York said...

Hey I voted for you. I hope you win.

Oh wait a minute....

James said...

I'm just wondering what made the guy at RightWingNews decide to actually post this, once he started seeing the responses. All it does is make the bloggers polled, and him by endorsing it, look foolish. I'm sure if Kos asked all the top posters at his site to come up with a list of the 20 worst Americans, he would have had equally disastrous results, just on the opposite end of the political spectrum.

Just a stupid, stupid idea all around, executed poorly.

Paul said...

Revenant said...You can fill up a list of the 20 worst Americans of all time without going any further than the leadership of the Confederacy.

A deep thought from another well-indoctrinated product of our education system.

Randy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Revenant said...

A deep thought from another well-indoctrinated product of our education system.

Whatever. The Confederacy was run by slave-owning traitors.

That ranks them somewhere below cow shit in terms of worthiness.

Christopher said...

Ann: Professor Bainbridge's list is in alphabetical order. Ames and Arnold may make a good #1 and #2, but it's sheer coincidence.

James said...

Well, to that guy (and probably many of the polled bloggers) they were just honorable proponents of states-rights fighting off Northern Aggression, dontcha know?

Spit.

Scott M said...

There were no terrible Americans in the Middle Ages or ancient times.

That's not necessarily true. I'm sure the Cahokians had their share of shitty kings/high priests/whatever. After all...they did die out before the forked-tongue white man showed up.

jimspice said...

I'd add any one of the hypocrite millionaire televangelist hucksters to the list. Take your pick: Bakker, Swaggart, Haggard, Popoff et al (http://bit.ly/Zq2df).

As key as Freedom of Religion is to our nature, anyone who preys upon, and benefits financially from those practicing it, all the while privately thumbing their nose, surely should make the list.