Who was the worst president? Tom Woods and Michael Malice were presented with this question in one of his recent podcast episodes. He and Malice spent a good deal of time debating if Woodrow Wilson or Franklin Roosevelt did more damage to America. Both were awful, and Malice makes a compelling case for Wilson, while Woods at throws a few stones at FDR. But this question is too simplistic and it leaves out a host of other bad guy presidents in American history.
One dreadful executive whose reputation scholars are attempting to rehabilitate is Lyndon Johnson, and a case could be made that he was ultimately worse than both Wilson and FDR for modern America.
Johnson’s policies of “guns and butter” have done more long-term damage to the American economy than either FDR or Wilson, and his escalation of American involvement in Vietnam expanded the Cold War and set the stage for the “Vietnam syndrome” in American foreign policy. Getting rid of the ghosts of Vietnam’s past was a driving force in the First Gulf War in 1991-2. We had to kick someone’s butt.
The Great Society has radically transformed the way Americans think of government spending and government programs. It hooked vast sections of the American economy on the morphine drip of federal cash and created perpetual government dependents while ruining traditional American values. The snowflake generation and their sense of entitlement are a result.
Nixon’s decision to remove the United States from any precious metal standard would not have been possible without Johnson’s foreign and domestic policies and the doubling of the “federal” budget during his administration.
We still live in Johnson’s Great Society while Wilson’s New Freedom and FDR’s New Deal are largely forgotten or have been eclipsed by Johnson’s more sweeping agenda.
I discuss Johnson and his Great Society in Episode 154 of The Brion McClanahan Show.
And don’t forget to pick up my 9 Presidents Who Screwed Up America. Johnson, Wilson, and FDR get the “treatment” in that book.