Worst. List. Ever.

John Hawkins:

Out of all the gangsters, serial killers, mass murderers, incompetent & crooked politicians, spies, traitors, and ultra left-wing kooks in all of American history — have you ever wondered who the worst of the worst was? Well, we here at RWN wondered about that, too, and that’s why we decided to email more than a hundred bloggers to get their opinions. Representatives from the following 43 blogs responded…

101 Dead Armadillos, Argghhhh!, Basil’s Blog, Cold Fury, Conservative Compendium, The Dana Show, DANEgerus Weblog, Dodgeblogium, Cara Ellison, Exurban League, Fausta’s Blog, Freeman Hunt, GraniteGrok, House of Eratosthenes, Infidels Are Cool, IMAO, Jordan Woodward, Moe Lane, Mean Ol’ Meany, The Liberal Heretics, Midnight Blue, Pirate’s Cove, Nice Deb, Pundit Boy, Professor Bainbridge, Pursuing Holiness.com, Liz Mair, Moonbattery, mountaineer musings, No Oil For Pacifists, No Runny Eggs, Right View from the Left Coast, Russ. Just Russ, Say Anything, Don Singleton, The TrogloPundit, The Underground Conservative, This Ain’t Hell, The Virtuous Republic, Vox Popoli, WILLisms, Wintery knight, YidwithLid

All bloggers were allowed to make anywhere from 1-20 selections. Rank was determined simply by the number of votes received. Also, it’s worth keeping in mind that this is a fairly conservative group of bloggers and their selections reflected that. Also, I made a decision to combine the votes given to the Rosenbergs and Julius Rosenberg into one group since most people associate the two of them together. Some people may disagree with that decision, but I thought it was the best way to go.

Well, that’s enough about the rules — without further ado, the worst figures in American history are as follows (with the number of votes following each selection)…

23) Saul Alinsky (7)
23) Bill Clinton (7)
23) Hillary Clinton (7)
19) Michael Moore (7)
19) George Soros (8)
19) Alger Hiss (8)
19) Al Sharpton (8)
13) Al Gore (9)
13) Noam Chomsky (9)
13) Richard Nixon (9)
13) Jane Fonda (9)
13) Harry Reid (9)
13) Nancy Pelosi (9)
11) John Wilkes Booth (10)
11) Margaret Sanger (10)
9) Aldrich Ames (11)
9) Timothy McVeigh (11)
7) Ted Kennedy (14)
7) Lyndon Johnson (14)
5) Benedict Arnold (17)
5) Woodrow Wilson (17)
4) The Rosenbergs (19)
3) Franklin Delano Roosevelt (21)
2) Barack Obama (23)
1) Jimmy Carter (25)

Jim Geraghty at National Review:

I’m no fan of most of the Democrats on the list, and there are some good picks. But most of the modern political figures look ridiculous when we compare their actions to some of America’s most really notorious figures.

No Al Capone? No Machine Gun Kelly or the Lindbergh baby kidnappers?

No Jefferson Davis or anyone else associated with the Confederacy beyond John Wilkes Booth? Speaking of presidential assassins, no Lee Harvey Oswald? (Oh, I know, I know, he was the fall guy for the big conspiracy.) Aaron Burr gets a pass for killing Alexander Hamilton in a duel?

Isn’t Johnny Walker Lindh or Robert Hanssen a more clear-cut case than Jane Fonda or either of the Clintons?

No Charles Manson? Come on. You’re really telling me Al Sharpton and Michael Moore outrank somebody like Jeffrey Dahmer, who ate people? Race-baiting and rabble-rousing outrank cannibalism?

No Jim Jones (cult leader, not national security adviser) or David Koresh?

Not one villain from America’s business world? No ruthless layoff king like “Chainsaw Al” Dunlap? No Ken Lay? Bernie Madoff couldn’t reach the top 20?

Matt Lewis at Politics Daily:

Certainly, one could make the case that political leaders — because of their reach and immense importance — actually have much greater impact over our society as a whole than any serial killer ever could (though I would argue the Manson murders actually had a major impact on American culture, and essentially ended the ’60s).

But this, of course, is sophistry. Hawkins’ list was not titled “the worst political leaders,” but rather “the worst figures” in American history, and thus, the results seem to betray what we already know to be true: Too many political bloggers view their political opponents as being worse than serial killers.

Of course, this is not merely a reflection of conservative bloggers, but rather, of the current state of political discourse. I have no doubt that members of (as Robert Gibbs has called them) “the professional left” might rank Ann Coulter as being more harmful than, say, Al Capone.

Steven Bainbridge:

John Hawkins asked a bunch of right of center bloggers to list the “20 Worst Americans of all time,” from which he compiled the following list. The comments are mine. 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.

23) Saul Alinsky (7)–a bad guy, to be sure, but top 20?
23) Bill Clinton (7)–GOPers still mad because he beat the crap out of them; sour grapes
23) Hillary Clinton (7)–I don’t like her, but I think she’s making a good Secretary of State
19) Michael Moore (7)–agree
19) George Soros (8)–maybe top 40
19) Alger Hiss (8)–the traitors are way to low on this list
19) Al Sharpton (8)–eh
13) Al Gore (9)–depends on whether global warming is as bad as he thinks it is
13) Noam Chomsky (9)–annoying to be sure, but not in top 20
13) Richard Nixon (9)–fair enough
13) Jane Fonda (9)–has been much less annoying in recent years
13) Harry Reid (9)–he’s effective and wrong but not evil
13) Nancy Pelosi (9)–annoying? yes. one of the worst? no.
11) John Wilkes Booth (10)–finally somebody I wholeheartedly agree with, but should be higher
11) Margaret Sanger (10)–nope
9) Aldrich Ames (11)–yes, but should be higher
9) Timothy McVeigh (11)–yes, but should be higher
7) Ted Kennedy (14)–higher than the worst domestic terrorist? no
7) Lyndon Johnson (14)–ditto
5) Benedict Arnold (17)–too low
5) Woodrow Wilson (17)–huh?
4) The Rosenbergs (19)–good
3) Franklin Delano Roosevelt (21)–give him some credit for managing the winning coalition in WW II
2) Barack Obama (23)–way too high, even if socialized medicine ends up being his legacy
1) Jimmy Carter (25)– being feckless and sanctimonious doesn’t make him a bad guy
All in all, I have to agree with Jim Geraghty that:

I’m no fan of most of the Democrats on the list, and there are some good picks. But most of the modern political figures look ridiculous when we compare their actions to some of America’s most really notorious figures.

I agree with a lot of his alternatives too.

Anyway, I was one of the bloggers Hawkins polled, but as you’ll see my list differs in a number of respects from the norm. Mine’s in alphabetical order, BTW.

  1. Aldrich Ames–traitor
  2. Benedict Arnold–traitor
  3. John Wilkes Booth–killed our greatest President, contender for #1 on my list if rank ordered
  4. James Buchanan–feckless President whose inaction allowed the Southern rebellion to get off the ground
  5. Aaron Burr–traitor and murderer of Hamilton
  6. Robert Byrd–KKK member and the worst pork politician in history, plus an insufferable prig
  7. Jefferson Davis–leader of the traitorous Southern rebels
  8. Louis Farrakhan–race hate monger
  9. Nathan Bedford Forrest–treasonous Rebel general, caused or condoned the mass murder of black soldiers at Fort Pillow, founder of the KKK, contender for # 1
  10. Rutherford B. Hayes–President who threw Reconstruction under the bus to steal election
  11. Paris Hilton–personification of the celebrity obsessed culture
  12. Alger Hiss–traitor with really annoying apologists
  13. Jim Jones–mass murderer and race hate monger
  14. Ted Kennedy–Chappaquiddick, probable rapist, almost certainly a rape abettor, and progenitor of what might become socialized medicine
  15. Bernie Madoff–worst financial swindler
  16. Timothy McVeigh–worst domestic terrorist, probably # 1 on my list if rank ordered
  17. Michael Moore–he just oozes evil
  18. Ethel and Julius Rosenberg–atomic bomb traitors
  19. Roger Taney–Chief Justice who decided Dred Scott and Ex Parte Merryman
  20. Morrison Waite–Chief Justice whose decision in United States v. Cruikshank effectively disabled the federal government from protecting the freed blacks from white southern terrorists during Reconstruction

As you see, I focused mainly on traitors, since it is in some ways the worst of social crimes. Few crimes affect all of society in the way that treason does. Since I believe the Southern rebellion was the worst act of collective treason in our history, I gave it high priority. Since I believe the failure of Reconstruction is one of the great tragedies of our history, it deserved recognition too.

And then there’s just a couple of folks who really annoy the crap out of me. But I tried to keep them to a minimum. And I really think you can make a case for Byrd and Kennedy deserving to be at least in the top 100. In their own ways, they each personify and symbolize some of the worst aspects of our political life. So I’d argue that only Hilton and Moore are real reaches on my part.

The one person who slipped my mind, but whom I probably would have found room for if I had thought of him in time is L. Ron Hubbard as our worst religious false prophet.

Tyler Cowen:

It’s bizarre that Jimmy Carter comes out as the all-time worst from the right-wing bloggers and I don’t have to tell you who is number two.  It’s also hard for me to see how Bainbridge ends up with Paris Hilton and Michael Moore in his list of the worst and he seems to acknowledge this oddity toward the end of his post.

The most plausible picks are, I think, any number of political figures behind slavery and its continuation (it’s debatable who is truly focal here), Woodrow Wilson, the Rosenbergs, and any number of assassins, domestic terrorists, and serial killers.

Who am I forgetting?  Are there focal figures who held back public health advances?  Led slaughters against Native Americans?  What else?

Who is the worst Canadian of all time?

Rick Moran:

Absolutely astonishing. One mass murderer (McVeigh) and one assassin (Booth) made the list. No gangsters. No old west gunmen. Both Woodrow Wilson and FDR in the top 5 worst? If you’re going to penalize presidents so severely for having wrongheaded ideas about economic policy, why not include George Bush? Or the modern Republican party who never met a deficit they didn’t embrace as long is it was caused by tax cuts.

Frankly, this is embarrassing. Putting the Clintons, Pelosi, Reid, Gore, Sharpton, and other contemporary Democrats ahead of someone like Nathan Bedford Forest who was at least partly responsible for creating the KKK after the Civil War and spent his spare nights riding around the countryside whipping, lynching, and burning at the stake innocent African Americans demonstrates an extraordinary ignorance of American history.

No Aaron Burr? His descendant, Gore Vidal, might have made honorable mention on the list, but Burr was a genuine bad guy. He not only murdered Alexander Hamilton in a duel, Burr hatched a plot to take over large swaths of land in the west, set himself up as king, and secede from the US.

I guess making idiotic, dishonest documentaries about America (Michael Moore) is a bigger crime than killing one of the Founders and anointing oneself a monarch.

Here’s my list of “The Top 5 Worst Americans Missed by Idiotic Conservative Bloggers:

5. Ted Bundy. Might have killed more than 50 women.

4. William Randolph Hearst – the inventor of modern liberal journalism who singlehandedly whipped up war fever against Spain in his 30 newspapers while dominating the media – to the detriment of democracy – like no one before or since.

3. John C. Calhoun – his constant threats to take South Carolina out of the Union if the institution of slavery was touched were bad enough. But his embrace of the doctrine of nullification and his being an inspiration to the secessionists was a direct cause of the Civil War.

2. William Walker – one of the most unlovely Americans who ever lived. His attempts on behalf of the south to bring parts of Mexico and central America into an “Empire of Slavery” – setting up colonies that would then be annexed by the US – was not only a cockamamie scheme but thousands died because of it.

1. Bloody Bill Anderson – speaking of thousands being killed, how about the terrorist Bill Anderson? Not only did he ride through Missouri and Kanas during the Civil War, killing wantonly and with great glee, (200 massacred in Lawrence Kanas in 1863) some of his men ended up carrying on the “fight” for years afterward, including the James brothers and the Younger boys.

Doug Mataconis:

Obviously, this poll isn’t to be taken all that seriously but it has raised some interesting questions. Matt Lewis cites it as proof that American politics is broken, Mediaite’s Tommy Christopher notes the blatant political bias reflected in the list, and Ed Morrissey notes that this question came up in the political blogosphere before, about five years ago:

Just for disclosure’s sake, John usually invites me to participate in his polls, but I’m usually too busy to put much time into them (sorry, John).  This time, I passed for a couple of other reasons.  First, I had already done this exercise five years ago at Captain’s Quarters, about which more in a moment.

After reading through Ed’s list, which is very interesting to say the least, and following a few links, I realized that I had done the same thing five years ago as well. That list was made when I was still a relatively new blogger, so I’m going to take this opportunity to revise it. Like Stephen Bainbridge, I will list my choices alphabetically rather than by order of “worseness.” And, like Ed, I’m going to so with this definition of what “Worst American” means to me:

For my consideration, I decided that the status of American had to be part of their “crimes”. In other words, simply picking someone like Ted Bundy or Charles Manson would be too easy. Their evil, though real and in most cases worse than what you’ll read on this list, doesn’t have to do with their innate American heritage. I went looking for the people who sinned against America itself, or the ideal of America. Otherwise, we’d just be looking at body counts.

I also tried to avoid picking contemporary political figures, as we do not have sufficient historical perspective to make that kind of determination. (I do have one exception to this.) Don’t expect to see Harry Reid or Nancy Pelosi on this list, nor Teddy Kennedy or Bill Clinton.

So, with that in mind, here we go:

1. Benedict Arnold

Not just because he betrayed his country in it’s infancy, although that is certainly contemptible, but also because of what he did after he became a British General.

2. John Wilkes Booth

Of all the Presidential assassins throughout American history, Booth’s motives were the most venal and his impact on history was the greatest. But for the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, the post-war history of the United States, and the entire Reconstruction Era, would have been much different and, arguably, much better.

3. James Buchanan

What I said in 2005 still applies, “the bachelor President who bungled his way through four years in office and left America on the verge of destruction.”

4. Aaron Burr

In addition to murdering Alexander Hamilton, Burr also engaged in a conspiracy to foment a rebellion against the United States in the territory covered by the Louisiana Purchase.

5. Jefferson Davis

President of the traitorous Confederate State of America, defender of the slavocracy. Some will object to my putting Davis in the list because he was, admittedly, hardly alone in rebelling against the United States, but he was the leader so he deserved to be deserves to be singled out by name, and he stands in for everyone else.

6. Nathan Bedford Forrest

A Lieutenant General in the CSA Army, part of the mass murder of black Union soldiers during the Battle of Fort Pillow, one of the Founders of the Ku Klux Klan

7. Alger Hiss

A traitor to his country and a spy for a regime dedicated to eradicating freedom.

8. J. Edgar Hoover

For the reasons Ed Morrissey listed five years ago:

He didn’t last 47 years as America’s top cop by playing fair. He used his influence and abused his power to accrue files on almost every political player, friend or foe, to use as blackmail to increase his personal power or as leverage for legislative and executive action. He became the closest thing America has ever known to an emperor and managed to die before his empire came crashing down around him. The tragedy of his life can be seen in his contradictions: a gay man who persecuted homosexuals; his undeniable love of country getting consumed by his thirst for power; his desire to enforce the law giving way to his paranoid domestic-espionage activities designed to derail political opponents, such as Martin Luther King and others he deemed dangerous. Hoover did good work as well in creating a first-class law enforcement agency, but his ego forced it to miss the rise of the Italian Mafia and his racism kept it lily-white far past his death.

9. Andrew Jackson

For the Indian Removal Act, the forced re-location of Native Americans that followed, and the horrible precedent it set for future Americans dealings with native tribes

10. Lyndon Baines Johnson

As if lying to the American people about Vietnam weren’t bad enough, he also set in motion the tax and spend philosophy that lives with us to this day.

11. Joseph McCarthy

A man who did more damage to the anti-Communist cause, and the reputations of countless innocent Americans, than any Communist ever did.

12. Timothy McViegh

Because of this.

13. Richard Nixon

Watergate, Cointelpro, the Pentagon Papers case, Daniel Elsberg, wage and price controls, and the largest expansion of federal bureaucracy since his predecessor.

14. Roger Taney

Fifth Chief Justice of the United States and author of the Supreme Court’s decision in Dred Scott v. Sandford

15. Woodrow Wilson

The man who ushered Progressivism through the American political system, involved America in a war in which she had no vital national interests and stake, and took it upon himself to remake the map of Europe in such a way that made a Second World War virtually inevitable.

So, there’s my list. You’ll notice several changes from the 2005 version. Why no Jimmy Carter this time, for example ? Because I consider Carter incompetent, not evil. Anyway, criticize away !

Jazz Shaw:

At one end of the spectrum we have Ed Morrissey’s contention that we should discount serial killers, mass murderers and their ilk, since they boil down to nothing more than “a body count.” While I can see how Ed’s explanation of being misled by John’s rather vague invitation into thinking we should primarily include political figures, I disagree that “worst Americans” would leave out the real monsters. They did far more damage than the raw number of corpses they stacked up. Every mass murderer who terrorizes entire cities like Beltway Sniper John Allen Muhammad and every serial rapist ruining the lives of dozens of women steals something important away from everyone. They take away our faith in a civilized system to protect us. They make us look at strangers with wary glances rather than welcoming smiles. They continue to kill our innocence, not just the bodies of those they defile. They are clearly some of the worst Americans.

But does the wrong-doing in question have to be intentional? Doug Mataconis – to take one example – rightly (in my opinion) leaves Jimmy Carter off of his revised list because he considers the Georgia peanut farmer to be “incompetent, not evil.” Where does the line from incompetence to criminal stupidity get crossed? Edward Smith, captain of the Titanic, was clearly not out madly dashing across the Atlantic looking for icebergs to crash into in the hopes of killing all of his passengers. (Not to mention himself.) He was, by all accounts, an experienced seaman with decades at the helm under his belt. But he made one massive, terminal mistake which took hundreds of lives. Was he evil and malicious? No. Should he land on this sort of list? It’s an interesting question.

But that brings us back to the question of politicians in general. If you approach this as nothing more than an exercise in partisan rock throwing, it’s easy enough to compile a list of politicians from “the other team” that you don’t like and lump them in here. This has little or no value. People who aspire to a life of public service, including high elected office, should be considered to be trying to serve and improve the country, even if some of us completely disagree with their philosophy and how they go about it. (If you’re looking for an excuse to really hate me, those of you I see on Twitter every day talking about Obama’s secret plans to destroy America because he’s some sort of Manchurian Candidate simply put me to sleep.)

But again, at what point does a bad plan cross the line to a criminally bad plan which, given your experience and position, you should have known better than to implement? Going back once again to the choices by the other entrants, almost everyone selected Jimmy Carter. (Except Doug, who had him on his original list from five years ago.) Look, I served in the military under Carter. His economic policies were a disaster and his tentative stance on the use of military force damaged our international standing, in my opinion. He was awful. But was he a “worst American?” Did he have malicious plans for the nation he duped into electing him?

No. As I see is, he honestly – if misguidedly – thought his fiscal plans would help. On the national security front I saw him as a God fearing man who honestly believed that he could both speak softly and hold off using the big stick, preferring a path of peace and diplomacy. It was unproductive and, in the end, largely damaging. But I still believe he meant well and I would not today put him on a list of villains.

I have a few bones to pick with some of the common choices on several of these lists as well. Why is anyone selecting Aaron Burr? Doug and Ed are unhappy because he shot Alexander Hamilton. It was a duel! Nobody made Hamilton show up and he had a gun as well. Reports of his “intentionally missing Burr” have been widely disputed. He is also accused of trying to set up some sort of Western Empire and leave the union. He was eventually cleared of those charges by the Supreme Court and many analysts of the period believe it was a plot by his political rivals. The man served his nation for a lifetime, was a Vice President got beaten up for it. Give him a break.

[…]

I won’t even waste space on those who select currently elected Democrats with whom they disagree for such a list. Rick Moran already took care of that.

Frankly, this is embarrassing. Putting the Clintons, Pelosi, Reid, Gore, Sharpton, and other contemporary Democrats ahead of someone like Nathan Bedford Forest who was at least partly responsible for creating the KKK after the Civil War and spent his spare nights riding around the countryside whipping, lynching, and burning at the stake innocent African Americans demonstrates an extraordinary ignorance of American history.

Everyone who opposed the Iraq war could just as easily assemble their own list and put George W. Bush somewhere on there. It’s pointless.

But enough of that. This has already gone on far too long. Let’s get to my list of some of the worst actors in American history. I’ll follow Doug’s example and go in alphabetical order, since it’s hard to say here who is the worst of the worst. Here are the dirty dozen.

1.) John Wilkes Booth – See Oswald, below

2.) Nathan Bedford Forest – If you don’t know who or what he was, head for Google.

3.) John Wayne Gacy – Anyone who rapes and kills that many children deserves a special place in hell. And on our list.

4.) Alger Hiss – Enough said

5.) Jim Jones – He didn’t just poison a ton of people. He did it under the pretense of speaking for God and upset the applecart of faith for many.

6.)Ken Lay, Jeffrey Skilling and Bernie Madoff – All three come in at a tie. Not unlike religious examples robbing us of our faith in God, they robbed thousands of their cash, hopes, dreams, and faith in an honest marketplace where people could realize the American dream.

9.) Timothy McViegh – Patriots… please.

10.) Lee Harvey Oswald – I don’t care what you thought of J.F.K. or the fact that he led to Johnson, the guy shot the president and sent shock waves through the nation.

11.) D.C. Stephenson – Grand Dragon in the Klan and friend of one of the most corrupt politicians in Indiana history, his crimes against the nation and his fellow man are legendary.

12.) John Anthony Walker – You want to talk about intentionally doing things to destroy your own country? His picture is by the term in the encyclopedia.

There you have it. Some of the worst we have to offer. Sleep well.

UPDATE: Bill Scher and Matt Lewis at Bloggingheads

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