And the top 10 worst presidential blunders are...
From engaging in sexual relations with an intern to letting the Vietnam War escalate, U.S. presidents have been blamed for some egregious errors. So who had the worst blunder? President James Buchanan, for failing to avert the Civil War, according to a survey of presidential historians organized by the University of Louisville's McConnell Center.
The survey's top 10 presidential blunders were announced Saturday during a President's Day weekend conference called "Presidential Moments."
"We can probably learn just as much -- or maybe even more -- by looking at the mistakes rather than looking at why they were great," said political scientist and McConnell Center Director Gary Gregg.
Scholars who participated said Buchanan did not do enough to oppose efforts by Southern states to secede from the Union before the Civil War.
The second worst mistake, the survey found, was Andrew Johnson's decision just after the Civil War to side with Southern whites and oppose improvements in justice for Southern blacks beyond abolishing slavery.
"We continue to pay" for Johnson's errors, wrote Michael Les Benedict, an Ohio State University history professor emeritus.
Lyndon Johnson earned the No. 3 spot by allowing the Vietnam War to intensify, Gregg said.
Where does Bill Clinton's Monica Lewinsky scandal rank? Many scholars said it belonged at No. 10, saying that it probably affected Clinton's presidency more than it did American history and the public.
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Michael Wollin - 2/26/2006
What Monica did, or didn't, do to Bill Clinton in the Oval Office is nothing compared to what Andrew Jackson did to the Civilized Tribes. Why was Jackson granted a 'pardon' by the McConnell Center historians? Also have they been so blinded by the sorrowful end of Abe Lincoln that they would overlook his attack on civil liberties during the Civil War? Maybe this is where George W got the idea.
I suppose historians are just as human as the rest of us. But keeping a proper perspective on history means not falling for the emotional rush of the present or near present.
Lawrence Brooks Hughes - 2/23/2006
Rather naive to think Buchanan could have stopped the Civil War when Lincoln could not, in my view. And the modern indictment of Andrew Johnson for being too friendly to Southern whites is revisionist to the core. Johnson was a white Southerner, and was picked for VP because he was a white Southerner... And what do the words, "with malice toward none, and charity for all" mean, if not that the country should be healed as quickly as possible? At the close of the 19th century there was not a historian in American who would not think the present faulting of Andrew Johnson (for that) is preposterous.
leo paul ribuffo - 2/22/2006
Since mistakes 4-9 aren't listed on my screen, it is hard to offer a definitive comment tho the notion that Buchanan could have prevented (as opposed to having begun) the Civil War seems bizarre. But I do hope that somewhere within 4-9 we find Truman's decision to escalate the Korean war north of the 38th parallel. Even those who think the initial intervention a sensibile affirmation of American interests--as I do not--need to stop thinking that this expansion of the war was just some nutty MacArthur decision. At minimum, such a listing might nudge Truman from his "near great" status in those silly polls that rate presidents as if they were rock records on the old American Bandstand.
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