History proves that Donald J. Trump (R-Florida) was not not America’s worst president. The historical record shows several chief executives were far worse presidents than the Donald.
I consider Trump a terrible president who did vast damage in the White House. However, several presidents did far more damage to the country than Trump.
Four presidents who were worse than Trump include James Madison (R-Virginia), James Buchanan (D-Pennsylvania), Woodrow Wilson (D-New Jersey), and Herbert Hoover (R-California). I think Madison, Buchanan, and Wilson were worse than Trump because they started or entered destructive wars.
For all his faults, Trump was the first president since Ronald Reagan (R-California) who did not send American forces into a prolonged war. Unfortunately, Trump has done nothing to end the senseless wars America is fighting.
Four Presidents Who Were Worse than Trump
James Madison (R-Virginia)
In 1812, Madison encouraged Congress to declare war on the world’s greatest power: the British Empire. The British had the largest and most powerful Navy in the world. America had no navy.
Madison’s hope was that America could conquer Canada because the British Army was tied fighting Napoleon I in Europe. That plan failed when Napoleon lost the war and abdicated.
With Napoleon in exile on Elba, the British were free to throw large numbers of troops into the American conflict. Predictably, the American military efforts were a complete failure. Canada was not conquered, and the British captured the key American outpost of Detroit, and threatened the Midwest.
Worst of all, Madison’s war nearly split up the United States. In 1814, a meeting of New England leaders proposed leaving the Union and making a separate peace with the British Empire.
Fortunately, the war ended before the so-called New England Convention could secede. However, Madison’s war came close to tearing America apart.
British forces entered the Chesapeake Bay in 1814 and burned Washington DC. Another British Army nearly captured New Orleans and almost seized control of the Mississippi in 1815. Only, the presence of America’s only competent general, Andrew Jackson, saved that city from British capture.
After thousands of deaths, the destruction of the nation’s capitol, and the near capture of one of America’s most important cities, Madison’s War of 1812 achieved nothing. The only victor was Jackson; the savior of New Orleans, who parlayed his military triumph into two successful presidential campaigns.
Compared to Madison’s war, Trump’s bungling is a nuisance.
James Buchanan (D-Pennsylvania)
Many historians consider Buchanan America’s worst president because of his failure to prevent the Civil War.
During the 1850s, Buchanan ignored rising anti-slavery sentiment and antagonized Northerners with pointless efforts to expand slavery. For example, as Secretary of State Buchanan sent proposals to buy Cuba from Spain;and make the island into a new slave state, to Congress. However, many members of Congress were antislavery Republicans.
In particular, Buchanan failed to secure America’s largest naval base at Norfolk, Virginia. That enabled the Confederates to capture several powerful warships, large amounts of naval artillery, enormous amounts of munitions, and shipbuilding facilities.
Buchanan’s inaction led to the Civil War by giving the Confederacy the weapons and forces it needed to wage war. Buchanan’s legacy to America was four years of the bloody Civil War that destroyed the institution he wanted to save slavery. Therefore, no President was a greater failure than Buchanan.
Woodrow Wilson (D-New Jersey)
Had Wilson lost the 1916 presidential election; and not served a second term, we could remember him as a good president. Wilson’s first term was marked by some impressive achievements, including the creation of the Federal Reserve.
However, Wilson’s second term was a rising crescendo of increasingly poor decisions. First, Wilson entered World War I on the Allied side for incomprehensible reasons.
Among the rationales Wilson cited for entering the war was the Zimmerman Telegram, a promise by the German government to help Mexico attack the United States. Wilson ignored the reality that Germany was incapable of sending military forces to Mexico.
In 1917, the Germans were incapable of invading Britain a few hundred miles from their shores. Wilson failed to say how the Germans could get to Mexico. Or note that the US Navy could easily sink or capture any German ship approaching Mexico.
Bizarrely, Wilson actually withdrew American troops from Mexico and shipped the to France. Had Wilson truly feared a German presence in Mexico, he should have left American troops there to keep the Germans out.
Wilson’s war effort was a disaster marked by poor planning, bad reasoning, and lack of strategy. For instance, they shipped hundreds of thousands of American soldiers to Europe with no strategy for their use beyond “defending Paris.”
At home, Wilson’s clumsy efforts at strategic planning damaged the economy and led to shortages. A vicious attack on civil rights and abandonment of the Constitution accompanied the bungling.
Wilson’s administration imprisoned numerous critics of the “war to make the world safe for democracy” for exercising their First Amendment Rights. Wilson’s administration imprisoned people for making speeches and producing a movie that showed British soldiers oppressing Americans during the Revolutionary War.
In 1919, Wilson tried to salvage his reputation at the Versailles Conference by asking British and French leaders to abide by his Fourteen Points. The British and French ignored Wilson and expanded their empires by stealing Turkish and German territories.
Many observers, including John Maynard Keynes, believe the so-called Treaty of Versailles was a cause of World War II. One of the few beneficiaries of the Treaty was an obscure German politician named Adolph Hitler. Hitler became a hero to many Germans by opposing the treaty’s punitive causes.
The US Senate ultimately rejected the Treaty of Versailles because Wilson had excluded Republicans from his negotiating team. That was a terrible mistake because Republicans controlled the US Senate. Consequently, America refused to join Wilson’s creation, the League of Nation because of Republican opposition.
However, many prominent Republicans; including former Presidents Theodore Roosevelt (R-New York) and William Howard Taft (R-Ohio) were sympathetic to the League. Yet Wilson did not invite Taft who was out of office to join him at Versailles. Consequently, Republicans viewed the League as a Democratic creation and voted against it.
Wilson’s legacy became 63,114 needless American deaths in World War I* and 675,000 Americans killed by the Spanish Flu pandemic. World War I spread the Spanish Flu, which was first detected among US military personnel in Spring 1918.
Similarly to Trump, Wilson ignored the epidemic and probably made the pandemic worse through inaction. Wilson’s administration did little to stop the Spanish Flu and sped up the movement of troops which spread the virus faster.
Ironically, many historians think Wilson himself was a pandemic victim in another similarity to Trump. Wilson became ill in Paris at the Versailles Conference.
Wilson could have suffered brain damage because of the Spanish Flu. After a flu attack, the president became delusional and began calling everybody around him a French spy. After the flu attack, Wilson was incapable of negotiating and there was nobody to take his place. Another reason Taft’s presence could have been invaluable. French Premier Georges Clemenceau and British Prime Minister Lloyd George dominated the conference.
A year later Wilson became incapacitated after a stroke in Pueblo, Colorado, and became incapable of decision making. Ironically, Wilson was campaigning for the League of Nations on a whistle top tour when he had the stroke. Nobody knows if brain damage from the Spanish Flu caused Wilson’s stroke; however, it is a possibility.
Wilson’s legacy is terrible, increased racism, World War I, needless deaths, the trampling of American rights, and American involvement in actions that led to World War II and the Holocaust. Compared to Wilson, Trump is a good president.
Herbert Hoover (R-California)
Hoover and Buchanan committed the same mistake: failure to act in the face of an obvious threat. Just as Buchanan failed to react to the crisis that sparked to the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln’s election. Hoover failed to react to the catastrophe of the Great Depression.
Hoover’s chief flaw was a mindless faith in capitalism. Hoover believed that the economic crisis that began with the Great Stock Market Crash of 1929 could sort itself out.
To be fair, earlier crises including the Panic of 1907 did not end in depressions. Instead, the economy recovered quickly. Hoover thought 1929 was a repeat of 1907. However, the crisis got worse and worse. Similarly, Buchanan thought the crisis of 1860 could end in a compromise as earlier crises in 1850 and 1821 had.
Hoover refused to back direct federal aid to the Depression’s victims. Instead, he felt private charities and local governments could handle the crisis. Without federal aid, the Depression overwhelmed the charities. As the crisis grew worse, people saw Hoover doing nothing.
By 1932, the crisis came to a head with the so-called Bonus March on Washington. During the Bonus March, thousands of unemployed veterans came to Washington demanding the cash bonus Congress promised them for serving in World War I.
The Bonus March ended in tragedy when Army Chief of Staff General Douglas MacArthur attacked the marchers with troops, tanks, and cavalry. Hoover was ultimately responsible because he refused to control MacArthur.
The inaction led to catastrophe at the ballot box. In November 1932, Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt (D-New York) defeated Hoover by a margin of 472 to 59 Electoral College votes.
Similarly, Democrats gained a 59 vote majority in the US Senate and a three to one majority in the US House of Representatives. Hoover’s bungling turned the American people against the Republicans. The Republicans did not recover from the debacle until the 1990s, 60 years later.
Trump is a horrible president, but the damage he has done is small compared to the catastrophic administrations of Madison, Buchanan, Wilson, and Hoover. Similarly, one can argue several other presidents including Andrew Jackson (D-Tennessee), John Adams (F-Massachusetts), Andrew Johnson (D-Tennessee), Grover Cleveland (D-New York), Warren G. Harding (R-Ohio), Lyndon B. Johnson (D-Texas), Richard M. Nixon (R-California), and George W. Bush (R-Texas) were worse than Trump.
In the final analysis, Donald J. Trump Sr. is far from America’s worst president. Conversely, Trump is far from America’s best President.