Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Mad Rant: Bad Presidents

The United States recently celebrated Presidents Day, a holiday to honor all presidents which grew out of lumping together the birthdays of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, widely considered to be the best American presidents. It will not surprise readers of this weblog to know that I disapprove of both of these individuals though it may surprise some to know that I have a much better opinion of the “revolutionary” George Washington than I do of the first Republican Party President Abraham Lincoln. I actually think George Washington was a pretty decent American president. Not stellar by any means but he kept the country on an even keel, had a pretty conservative attitude on things and resolved to stay out of world affairs and have the USA mind its own business. Where I offend the “Yankee Doodle” crowd is when I point out that Washington was a military idiot. So sorry to offend the honor of your “god” Yankee doodles, but that is simply a fact.

George Washington, aside from the whole “traitor” thing, had flaws that were mostly personal and nothing to do with his presidency. He was stuck-up, vindictive, quick to take offense and good at trying to blame others for his own mistakes. He pulled the teeth out of his own slaves when he was in need of some and cursed his soldiers after losing a battle. And he lost plenty of them. The British basically thrashed him from one end of New England to the other with the only battles he ever won basically being minor skirmishes in which he had the enemy grossly outnumbered (such as the time he famously crossed the Delaware to capture a handful of drunk Germans). The only ability he ever seemed to show was in retreating and the best he ever achieved was in not-being-destroyed by the British army. And don’t talk to me about Yorktown either for everyone knows that the French won that battle, not George Washington. However, his side did win the war and he deserves credit for that (the presidency was a fitting reward) since he surely would have been blamed had they lost.

Abraham Lincoln, however, is an entirely different story. He is often rated even above Washington as the greatest president in American history and if you don’t believe me about the lengths to which this goes just take a little trip to Washington DC where his colossal image is enthroned in his very own Greco-Roman temple. I am, frankly, completely at a loss to explain how this is possible. I am bewildered by the praise heaped on this tyrant of a man for things which he actually did the very opposite of. Admirers will say that he “kept the United States together”. Umm, no, in fact it was his election that drove half of the country into open rebellion against him. Admirers will say that he “freed the slaves”. How is that possible when the law that abolished slavery was passed after Lincoln was dead as Julius Caesar? Well, but, but, his admirers will say that he was an honest, God fearing and decent man. You are talking about Lincoln, right? The same man who said at his inauguration that there could be no war between the states without the south being the aggressors and then called for tens of thousands of troops to invade the south? The same man who promised that he had no plans to interfere with slavery where it legally existed only to then say he had made a promise to God to eradicate slavery when issuing the “Emancipation Proclamation” (which actually freed practically no one as it applied only to areas not under Union control)? “Honest Abe” my aching…

As for the “God fearing man” part, Lincoln is actually the only American president who was never a member of any church nor did he have any religious affiliation. And as for the decent part, I am sorry Lincoln worshippers, but the man purposely killed more Americans than any foreign nation or potentate in history. Whatever you think of the righteousness of the cause of the war, Lincoln is the only American president to ever fight a full-scale war against Americans. His troops killed American civilians, looted and burned American towns, starved American children and devastated entire regions of the country we call America. He used U.S. soldiers to break up properly elected state governments (Maryland) as well as to arrest anyone who exercised their freedom of speech to voice disapproval of the war he was fighting. “Honest Abe” tried to justify this by saying that secession was illegal yet he engineered the secession of the western counties from Virginia to form the new state of West Virginia to gain more representatives in Congress. Honest someone said?

Now I know that the hundreds of thousands of dead Americans, trampled rights and tyrannical rule will still be excused by many as being justified means to the end of abolishing slavery. In the first place, I find that just a tad disturbing as it is, and in the second place I do not see how that can possibly be true. Great Britain, the Netherlands, Spain, Portugal and Brazil all ended slavery without a horrific bloodbath. The Tsar of Russia ended serfdom without butchering his own people by the hundreds of thousands. Are people really arguing that the only way the greatest President of the United States in American history could end slavery was by brute military force that utterly devastated half the country and killed nearly 700,000 people? Were he one of the greatest statesmen to ever walk the earth, could he not have found a better way? It simply baffles me that the man hailed by so many as the greatest American President is the same one who trampled on the constitution, suspended civil rights, arrested thousands without warrant or hope of a trial simply for speaking against his actions, waged war against his own people and, after his death, had most of his actions denounced by the U.S. Supreme Court as totally illegal and unconstitutional. It utterly baffles me and I doubt I will ever understand this odd sort of republican logic, but, I suppose, that is why I am … The Mad Monarchist.


  1. I make no secret that style has a great influence on my opinion of people.
    In that light, would you consider Theodore Roosevelt a good President? He did make some... questionable policies (Monroe doctrine expansions), and was too great a believer in democratic rule of the people, but the man had class and character that is lacking in Presidents and indeed, most politicians today.

  2. France would have practical reasons for liking Teddy -he called Wilson a cowardly scoundrel for not rushing to the aid of France in 1914 at the very start. I do admire his style and much of the "tone" of his presidency. On the political front however, he in many ways put America on the path of 'soft socialism' that ultimately, down the road, set us up to be in the mess we are in today.

  3. Excellent article! I completely agree with you about Bloody Abe the Tyrant.

  4. You see it and I see it so, what's wrong with everyone else? It makes my head hurt. The same man who set people to killing their fellow Americans on a scale never seen before or since in history is the one they call the great "unifier"? I wish someone could explain it to me.

  5. To give solace, many know and reject the Myth of Lincoln, especially in the South. Although even herein Dixie Abe is seen as a Hero, and it seems that even here the Monoculture experience of a Pan America has taken root and abolished our History.

    But I think it ties back to what I said about “The Gladiator”, Ridley Scott’s movie you recently reviewed.

    Even in the midst of the Civil War, people needed a Hero and a Righteous Cause to justify their actions, so created the Idyllic version of the world, and projected the Principles and Ideals they fought for onto several Rally points. Those points featured the Union Flag, the Eagle, and of course, the Commander and Chief himself, Abraham Lincoln.

    The war was very much Mr. Lincolns war. He caused it, he ordered it fought, and he was the driving personality behind why it needed to be fought. Without Lincoln, there would be no Civil War.

    If you were a Union Soldier, young, and sent far form home in an era where you can’t just hop a plane and be there in hours, and can’t call on a Cell Phone the girl you left behind or check on your sick mother, then its learn you have to find some reason why you are there, something to justify that presence and the fact that you just killed 6 men today. You can’t just say “Well, Abe wants to keep the Union together because it’d look bad on his Resume if he looses the South, and we loose the crop, cotton, and Harvest money we get, and the port taxes. Abe also shuts down our Freedom. But I’m here to ensure his goals are met.” That doesn’t sound like a convincing argument to go several hundred miles from home, sleep in the dirt and cold and rain, and risk getting shot while living on Rations. That is not a reason to fight a War, and kill others, least of all other Americans.

    Abe the Tyrant just won’t motivate the Troops.

    So they Rationalise the bad things he does, like closing down Newspapers Critical of the War. Ironically the evil Villain Jefferson Davies let people print nasty things about him, including claiming he was incompetent, or criticisms of the War, with impunity, while the Great Hero Lincoln arrested those who were critical, shit down Newspapers, and even had one Senator Deported to the South, which I never understood as he also refused to accept the South as another Nation yet deportation means it is… But I digress…

  6. Still, Lincoln was made a Hero simply because he represented the Union Cause and people were behind that cause, whether for good or ill, and they rallied to it. He embodied that Cause. The result is tat all that is good about America, and the Union Cause of War, was projected onto Lincoln in order to personify it and give the people something tangible to see and reference. (One reason I am a Monarchist in fact…tis Human Nature to do this.)

    After the war ended he became a Living Symbol of America United against all odds, of American Triumph, and of all American Ideals.

    So naturally all good things are projected onto him, and Abraham Lincoln the myth becomes whatever our highest Ideals are. He is a living Embodiment of America. He represents the Constitution, the end of Slavery, the dream of all men being Created Equal, of a New Era of American Greatness, in his words, a New Birth of Liberty.

    Thus, he is also imbued with all the personal Traits we would find great, and represents all of the personal Characteristics we would see in an Ideal Man. Truth, Honesty, Valour, Courage, dependability, Constitutionality, Chivalry, Abe has it all. He must, for he is our Hero, and whatever ideals we hold to, he must also.

    He has become a god of sorts.

    That’s why even groups that are radically different use him to support themselves. I’ve seen Gay Rights activists say Abe would back them too, and some even say Abe was gay himself. Others who oppose things like Same Sex Marriage will say Abe is on their side as well. As he’s dead, we can make him say whatever we want him to say.

    And to top it all, he died a Martyrs death at the hands of John Wilkes Boothe in Fords Theatre! Right after the Civil War had ended! Its great storytelling, truly engrossing Drama. Its as if Fat had aligned, and now the Great man dies a Great Death.

    Boothes bullet also spared Lincoln months of being placed on Trial for his Constitutionally questionable behaviour. What if the Supreme Court had ruled him Guilty? He may even have been Impeached.

    No, his Death allowed him to escape Criticism, and enabled him to avoid any disasters in a Second Term that would stain his image.

    So I understand why Lincoln is a Hero.

    Because he represents what we want him to, and we don’t bother with real Historical Facts, but revise History and project onto it our own desires and ideals.

    and the same is True of Washington. I will discuss him later.

  7. I suppose it baffles me more because of how the "other side" pulled off that trick of needing a hero. The south did not idolize Jeff Davis (indeed many hated him passionately and weren't shy about it) but rather they idolized Robert E. Lee. The difference was that Lee actually possessed the qualities for which he was admired. He was a gentleman, a devout Christian, a strategic genius and was the ideal southern aristocrat. Lincoln ... I just don't see him inspiring anyone and the facts are facts. Some have been hidden from view but what astounds me is the obvious. On his 'watch' Americans set to killing each other in record numbers. How can he then even be considered as a "great" leader? Even those who admire him as a man would have to, I would think, admit that he was NOT a great or even successful president. How they still do just leaves me bewildered.

  8. Lee makes more sense from a Confederate standpoint. The Confederates saw themselves as a Second American Revolution, much like how that term is now used by the Tea Party, only they meant it literally.

    In the American Revolution, no one "On the Ground" really concerned themselves with the Continental Congress. As the Revolution was mainly centred round Military Action, the Military got all the atenton, thus Washington, who commanded the Military, was the focus.

    The same exists for Lee. The Confederate Cause was ourely focused around the Military. Thats why even to this day the Confederate Battle Flag is the COnfederate Flag in the minds of most, and many are unaware of what the National Confederate Flag even looked like.

    Add to that hiw myths are made. Lincoln had popel who proested the war arrested and the Newspapers were shut down who were critical of the War or his Administration. The only things most heard of Mr. Lincoln who were northerners was positive. Not only was he the embodiment of the War in their inds, beign an already established country, he also got nothign but Praise.

    To use Godwins law and compare Lincoln to Hitler... Had Hitler and the Axis won World War 2, hen Hitler woudl today be remembered as a great hero. To us, he is rh living embodiment of Evil, and basiclaly the Anti-Christ. he is the most evil Man to ever live. Many have critisised this Image as Stalin was by far worse, but it is the popular image. Hitler is pure evil ad the most evil Leader to have ever lived.

    But had he won, and if today France spoke German and so did Poland, and if the only Jews left were in America or other laces not under NAZI control, if Hitler had secured the Third Reich and it endured today covering most of Eurooe, then, at least in Europe, he'd be seen as a Great Saviour, and a Hero whi restored German Honour and National Pride. Hitlers name woudl go down throughout the ages as one of the Greatest men ever to have lived. Biys woudl idolise him and seek to grow up to be just like him, girls wodl fantasise about findign a husband like him. His ways woudl be the ways of the world.

    And, even after society changed aftert he war (though I doubt in the same ways uit has in our real History) Hitler woudl be redefined as embodyign those ideals, regardless of what he really beleived in.

    Hitler wodl be a Hero.

    Lincoln won the War. That means his side win the prpaganda campaign too. Everyone will nwo sinf his praises. Had Lincoln lost the Civil War, then not only woudl he still be seen as a Tyrant and Villain in the South, but a Failure int he North. People woudl grow bitter towards him at all the lives lost for nothing, as the South still manage to seceed. Then, wihtthe Supreme COurt denounceing his actiosn as Unconstitutional he may have been Impeached. He likely woudl not have been assasianted so he'd have to listen tot he music, unless he ommited suicide or fled.

    Lincoln woudl be remembered as a Failed president who saw the Union rent asunder, and at the cost of 700'000 American lives.

    But, he won, so he's a hero.

  9. True, but it still amazes me that 200 years later, with all the information at hand and with people critcizing recent presidents for similar (though far less aggressive policies) that image still remains.

  10. Heh... people don't look up real information, and if you give it to them they call you a lunatic whose never learned anything.

    I on another Blog just yesterday told them the often told claim that Easter was a Pagan Holiday honouring Ishtar was wrong, as it had nothing to do with Ishtar even in the original Pagan origins of Easter routine. Plus, the Easter Pagan connection comes from the name, but it sonly Easter in English, and Ostern in German. Most others have something akin to Pascha, and this means Passover.

    Easter is connected to the Jewish Passover, not to a Pagan fertility goddess. Yet, you hear this every year. The same with Easter Eggs and the Easter Bunny, neither of which were actually Pagan.

    No one checks the facts though, its just taken for granted that Easter was a Holiday the Christian Church stole from the Pagans to make the transition easier, because we all know Christians did this often, and weren’t creative enough all on their own to come up with anything.

    Or look at how TEA Partiers and Glenn beck and WND push the 5000 Year Leap, a book that is preposterous in its re-evaluation of American History and its claims that Israel was a representative republic and a sort of Proto-American system, that America’s Founders used as they were all devout Christians.

    Or look at how the general consensus is that America broke from England, and how the Celtic Culture in the last 50 or 60 years is Lionised. Basically Scotland and Ireland are good so never included in the Revolutionary History, we broke from England. When I tell them that it was great Britain people get confused. They become more confused when I notify them that there is no Queen of England, she’s Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and her other Realms. Heck, half of the Americans I speak to are oblivious even to the fact that Canada is a Monarchy.

    They certainly don’t seem to realise that most of the Redcoat Army of 1776 were actually born in the Colonies, imagining hem all shipped in from England, because we all know everyone in the 13 Colonies wanted to break free from English Tyranny.

    Speaking of which, did you know King George the Third was a Tyrant? Yup, absolute fact.

    George Washington also had wooden Teeth.

    Lets not forget how the Inquisition tried pagans and killed them if they didn’t convert, and how the crusaders went to Jerusalem out of Greed and a lust for power and killed innocent Muslims indiscriminately because the big bad evil Christian Church is just nasty in that time, an clearly the aggressor and clearly wrong.

    People don’t check facts, they repeat the information they take for granted, and often just believe whatever it is that they want to believe as it lends support for their own particular political or personal agendas. If people actually checked Facts, then Glenn Beck would be off the air and so would Keith Olbermann, and today’s New Atheist Movement would have stalled a long time ago.

    Instead, people buy into it because what these men say appeals to their prejudices and makes them feel better about their own values and Ideals.

    Most simply don’t care about the Reality.

    Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to Kenya to find Obama's Kenyan Birth Certificate. Along the way I may stop off in DC to pick up the evidence that Bush and CHeaney planned 9-11.

  11. I completely agree with you on Lincoln, but differ with you somewhat on Washington, particuarly your characterization of him as a military idiot.

    The fact that there is a United States at all is due largely to George Washington. He wsn't Emperor Napoleon, or Julius Caesar but he still, after a steep learning curve, emerged still a good general.

    He committed some egregious blunders in the New York campaign, but he did not repeat that period's mistakes, holding his indifferently supplied, untrained and raggle-taggle army together, and doing much better in the winter of 1776-77, managing a surprise river crossing of the Delaware in a winter storm and clobbering British detachments at Princeton and Trenton while avoiding being flattened himself. The defeated British commander in the Princeton operations, Cornwallis, better known for losing later at Yorktown, thought this campaign Washington's finest work.

    Washington went on to lose more battles. But he was never decisively defeated, nor (after New York) did he ever give the British the chance to decisively defeat him. He always kept between the British and his refuges in the back country, only gave battle on favorable terms -- that he was still beaten was no surprise at the regimental level, the British Army was then the finest in the world bar none.

    Of course, while fighting the finest army on the planet with raw troops who did not even have shoes, Washington had to keep one hand free to keep the politicians in Philadelphia off his back – these worthies all being convinced that they were better qualified to do his job. Had good sense not finally prevailed with the politicos, the British, in spite of everything, no doubt would have prevailed.

    I think Washington was an eminently more capable general than the King's principal commander, Sir William Howe. Howe passed up several chances to destroy Washington’s whole army around New York, apparently deliberately, because he perversely thought allowing his enemy to escape would facilitate a negotiated settlement.

    At least, nothing else makes sense of Howe's failure to pursue Washington out of NY harder than he did. Turned out to be a fatal error – depriving the Americans of their one functioning army, at that point in the war, might well have opened the path to negotiations. Had Clinton or Cornwallis commanded in that campaign, matters might well have developed differently.

    Oddly enough, I think the best general of that war was not Washington, or anybody on the British side, but was one of the people who performed most poorly in the New York campaign -- Nathaniel Greene. His southern campaigns -- underfinanced, underresourced always on a shoestring, were masterpieces.

  12. The man was not without his positive qualities but, looking at his overall career, my opinion of his military abilities remains unchanged. At Trenton he, as I said, simply surprised a handful of drunk, sleeping Germans he had grossly outmatched. Again, at Princeton, he had the British outnumbered roughly 4 to 1, doesn't take a genius to win with those odds, and it wasn't a decisive action. As far as not giving battle, that was an ultimately successful 'strategy' but I would not equate the ability to retreat with military brilliance. To rate him above Lt. Gen. Howe is a new one for me. I don't think I've ever seen that opinion voiced before. Even sources obviously partial to Washington admit that as a military strategist and even a battlefield tactician, Howe was by far superior. His fault, as you say, was that he did not take advantage of his victories to totally destroy the rebel army.

    As for Greene, he is widely held to be Washington's best subordinate, and yet another master of retreat (he himself famously saying, "We fight, get beat, rise and fight again". Still, it would be hard for me to rate him very high consdering that, at the end of the day, he lost almost every battle he fought in. And again, he lost battles when, despite his ragged army, he had the British outnumbered almost every time.

  13. Greene and Washington both lost battles. . .But the battles were ultimately irrelevant, because British victories (with one exception, mentioned below) did not advance the strategic objectives of the Crown a whit.

    Neither Howe in 1776-77 nor Cornwallis in 1780-82 had the slightest idea, strategically, what they were trying to accomplish.

    Howe shows up with that splendid army at New York, along with terms from London that would have been perfectly acceptable in 1775, but were useless in 1776, unless he could grind Washington into powder. He beats him at Brooklyn and around New York, but, amazingly, lets him escape into New Jersey and across the Delaware despite two fine chances (at Long Island and at the Hudson) to bag the lot. He goes into winter quarters, then leaves Rall and other outposts isolated in NJ, with predictable results.

    Trenton not impressive? I don't see why not. The acme of skill is to surprise your enemy in inclement weather, while he's off his guard, with better odds than he can bring to the field. Washington then very neatly outmanuevered Cornwallis at Princeton. Years later, Cornwallis, when Viceroy of India -- rated Washington very highly, mostly based on that campaign.

    So he lets Washington escape to do more damage in 1776-77, which does not advance the king's objective of negotiating with the rebels. Then in the 1777 campaign, he forgets his strategic objective -- destroying the ability of the rebels to carry on the war, and hares off to take Philadelphia (he thinks its important because it's the capital). The garrison requirements of Philadelphia and New York alone usually ate the whole British Army in America, except for occasional penny-packet expeditions.

    That alone prevented him from focusing on what he really needed to -- which was running Washington to earth. Also, by going to Philadelphia, he took too much power out of the New York/New Jersey area, and left Burgoyne unsupported. Saratoga was the result.

    Time was of the essence for Howe, but he never understood that. He had to bring the rebels to the table before the French intervened -- and that was virtually inevitable.

    Howe the Admiral was the best. But if I had been picking a general to put down the colonies, I'd have gone with Cornwallis or Clinton, probably the latter.

    As for Cornwallis, when the British finally prised some forces lose to send South, where they should have been to begin with, the Battle of Camden gave him a chance to hold the Carolinas (SC at least) and Georgia for the King. By 1780, given French intervention, that was absolutely as much as could be expected.

    Greene was sent South by Washington and Congree with virtually nothing to work with, but he parlayed guerrillas and a couple threadbare regiments of Continentals into an army, and baited Cornwallis into coming north after him. Cornwallis had some splendid regiments, but he marched them to death trying to chase down Greene and guerrillas -- and his desire to try to get NC AND Virginia cost the British everything.

  14. Well you could just as easily say none of them at all mattered because the Americans ultimately won -and I gave credit to Washington for that -though that was ultimately because of French intervention. I look at the bottom-line, even going back to Washington's early career and the utter imbecility of "Ft Necessity" in the French & Indian War, but, sticking to the Revolution here is the bottom line:

    Long Island -Washington lost
    Harlem Heights -Washington won but won nothing
    Pelham -Washington lost
    White Plains -Washington lost
    Ft Washington -Washington lost, needlessly
    Ft Lee -Washington lost
    Trenton -Washington won but accomplished nothing more than raising morale
    Princeton -Washington won, still retreated
    Brandywine -Washington lost
    Germantown -Washington lost
    Monmouth -tactical loss, strategic stalemate
    Yorktown was the only majot battle in the southern campaign Washington participated in and he won but only with land and naval support from the French.

    If you like the revolutionary Greene that's your business, but I won't go into that because he has nothing to do with the original subject. Nor does arguing the records of British generals, most of them have their own pages. I will only also add that "almost" doesn't count on the battlefield. Napoleon nearly won at Waterloo too. Nor do the mistakes of British generals make Washington's shortcomings any less. If anything, the alleged incompetence of the British generals would only make it more humiliating for Washington that they beat him time and time again and his greatest accomplishment was in constant retreat.

  15. I think Washington Won more in the minds of later thinkers, who project on him an image of an unmatched General out of Romanticism and a sense of False Nostalgia.

    I also feel in regards to General Washington that his greatest Military Feat, Retreating to save his own skin and his Troops, ultimately was enough to win the War. American Independence was an idea, which won as soon as it as accepted (Whether liked or not) by the Majority of the Colonists. Late in the War, Even had Washington been Killed many of the Colonists simply wouldn’t take the British Government demands Seriously, and the British Government would have to be Draconian in imposing itself on the Colonies, which it had never been and likely wasn’t willing to do. All this contrary to the Image of course of a Tyrannical King and Parliament.

    Unlike the average War, which is won by Brute Force and Brilliant Tactics alone, The American Revolution was one of Ideology, Principle, and Propaganda. I can Imagine Washington being killed in 1782 and the Revolutionary Propaganda reading that he was Mercilessly Slaughtered by Heartless Redcoats. He’d instantly become a Martyr for the Cause of Liberty, and his Military Record would be elevated to “Exemplary General” regardless of the Facts of his actual accomplishments.

    The people who raised very little or nothing of their own Lives would see to it Washington’s Death was put to good use while another General replaced him as the Leader of the Continental Forces.

    Even if that General Died and the Revolutionaries were crushed with no chance of Recoup, the Colonial Dissidents alone would cry “OPPRESSION AND TYRANNY” and bemoan the horrible imposition of British Law onto the Colonies who should be Free, and endlessly bicker about how much hardship they endure. If this didn’t eventually lead to the Crown just saying “Forget about it” and walking off, then either the Colonies would just start ignoring the officials, or would begin to Harass them again till a new force could come up. Or, the British would bend over backwards to accommodate them and they’d make out like Bandits whilst still crying “Tyranny and Oppression!”

    Mind you all that could have been avoided if George Hanover had taken the Lincoln out and “Reconstructed” the Colonies, but he simply wasn’t that sort of a Chap.

    Which brings us to the Irony: Kind men are often by those looking back Remembered as Tyrants, and Tyrants as Great Men.

  16. Very true. It had been the same for King Charles I in the English Civil War -he was so reluctant to shed blood that he allowed opportunities for victory to pass by a lack of aggressiveness. Of course, that did not change anyone's opinion of him. Julius Caesar was merciful and spared his enemies -look where it got him.

  17. Quite right about Julius Caesar. A little less mercy, particularly in the case of Messrs Brutus and Cassius, might have been wise and avoided years more of war and unrest, not to mention the great man's own murder.


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