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worst american figures? no.

If John Hawkins wants his polls to be taken seriously, he best start inviting some people outside of the "right wing blogger" circle to the polls.

Today, the survey says: Bloggers Select The 20 Worst Figures In American History. [Full disclosure: I was invited to participate in this poll, but I did not send my ballot in]

Let's take a look at the list:

17) Franklin Delano Roosevelt (6)
17) John Walker (6)
17) Lee Harvey Oswald (6)
17) Robert Byrd (6)
16) Aldrich Ames (7)
14) Richard Nixon (8)
14) Aaron Burr (8)
12) Al Sharpton (9)
12) Charles Manson (9)
8) Timothy McVeigh (10)
8) Lyndon Johnson (10)
8) Hillary Clinton (10)
8) John Wilkes Booth (10)
7) Alger Hiss (12)
6) Noam Chomsky (13)
4) Jesse Jackson (14)
4) Jimmy Carter (14)
3) Bill Clinton (15)
2) Benedict Arnold (19)
1) The Rosenbergs (15) & Julius Rosenberg (5) (20 total votes)

While I am no fan of the Clintons - especially the wife - there is no way they belong on this list. Neither does Jesse Jackson or Noam Chomsky. Some of the others are debatable as well.

With all the murderers, serial killers, traitors and spies that have come and gone in American history, the Clintons would be a long way down my list had I made mine.

Are the Clintons worse figures than Ted Bundy? John Wayne Gacy? Assassins and would-be assasins? Does the name James Early Ray come to mind? Ted Kaczynski?

Hey, where are the people who were behind 9/11? Where's Saddam Hussein? Gaddafi? The Ayatollah?

For clarification on worst American figures, the email John sent read: What I'm requesting that you do is send me a list of people that you consider "The Worst Figures In American History." What qualifies someone as a "worst figure" is entirely up to you. Which is why I mention people who aren't American, but played a large part in American history.

If anyone reading this is one of the people who put the Clintons up above such horrible figures in our history, please give me an explanation as to why. Frankly, I think this poll only ends up making right wing bloggers look foolish, immature and petty.

To give John credit, he does mention the fact that Bill and Hill would not have been on his list, either. But I can't imagine that he didn't know they would end up on the list, considering who he invited to participate.

I challenge John to run this poll again, but without the limited select company. Open it up to everyone who wants to vote. Send some invitations to Libertarians, left wingers, socialists, centrists, whatever ians and ists ers there are.

If he doesn't do it, I will. I would really just like to see how the lists changes and who, if anyone, from the current list remains on the other.

John?

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Comments

I'm not going to split the vote, but having right wingers and left wingers in on it at the same time because I'm more interested in getting the opinions of Conservatives when I do these things.

However, I have been seriously considering putting together a list of 100 lefties or so and asking them for their opinions on some of these same subjects. I'd really be interested to see who for example the Daily Kos, Oliver Willis, Atrios, crowd thinks are the greatest Americans and worsts Americans in history.

And yeah, I knew the Clintons would be on there -- shrug -- what can ya do? People on the right really hate Hill & Bill, ironically about the same way that people on the left hate W. now.

And I'd have to disagree on Chomsky. He's been highly influential poisoner of young minds. Few people have worked harder and have had more success at getting Americans to hate their own country. Jackson didn't make my top 20, but if I had gone 40 deep he would have been on there. He makes a living exacerbating racial tensions. I'd actually say he's worse than scumballs like WIlliam Pierce & George Wallace, because Jesse Jackson isn't treated like the sick profiteer that he is.

Tell you what, I'll put together a LEFTY list over the next couple of days and send it out on the same question. I may not get as many responses (they may not want to cooperate with a Conservative, but what the heck?) Should be fun right?

And still it wouldn't be an accurate survey, because such is solely a figment of the imagination. One thing I have always prided myself for is my ability to think what I want to think no matter how many people think differently. All surveys are actually a bunch of crap that pleases some small segment of society interested in what the survey says most people think. ;)

Hey, I'm with you, and I've been called a "right winger" more than any of the other options given above.

I'm no Clinton fan, but I too was a bit dumbfounded when I first saw the final results over at John's site. It struck me as the result of a lack of imagination.

With the new, more open/agnostic poll you're proposing, though, do be prepared for a lot of votes claiming Ronald Reagan was a more villainous cur than, say, Pol Pott or Gary Heidnick.

Still, I look forward to it and am mentally filling out the last few slots in my own list now in preparation.

I'm a lefty and I'll cooperate with a conservative!

But then, I'm a fairly conservative lefty. But I can say this for certain: no president of the United States would make my list.

Bill (and Hillary) both very easily make my list, for some of the same reasons that Nixon was included on my list - the damage that they did to the office of the Presidency; how they used it, not for the good of the nation, but to satisfy their own vanities -

Some might think they should be given a pass because we, as the American people, allowed them to do so. Many people may cast rocks at Ken Starr and those that called for Clinton's impeachment - but the fact remains that he lied under oath, then lied to the American public about it, over something so goddamned petty.

Taken together with the lowering of the bar that the pair of them brought to 'civil' discourse in this nation, the activities of foriegn policy which can be easily characterized (based on timing if nothing else) that the United States was not serious, was ripe to be swatted on the nose, and that nothing would come of it.

They were a selfish pair of actors pushing the 'me' show, and the epilogue played out in Houston at Enron, and in NYC and DC on September 11th.

Yes, they make the list.

At least Benedict Arnold has the excuse of claiming that his acts were for a greater good - the end of the revolutionary war, just to stop the bloodletting in a cause, that by all accounts at that point, had very, very little hope of turning out in anything other than a British Victory over the rebels.

What is the Clinton's excuse? What was their greater purpose, other than a Canadian style health care system, and all the world having a coke and a smile while we all teach each other to sing?

Guess we'll have to agree to disagree on this one.

What surprised me was FDR. It was his drive, his ideas, his leadership that got the US out of the great depression.

Maybe to the right wingers, someone who uses public money to help the disadvantaged in our society is evil.

That's why I seldom make any lists except for my personal opinion lists.

All lists like this are personal and subjective. Even the most well-thought-out ones.

The only way you can make an objective list is to list, like, the Ten Wealthiest Americans in History. Indexed for inflation, of course.

Further, the lists don't correct for degree.

If John had people order the lists, he could assign points, and rank them (so that if Bill is listed at #20 on 10 lists, he won't rank above Ted Bundy finishing first on 8 lists).

Besides people, these things are conversation starters, and little else.

Well here's my 2 cents. The list is lame lame lame. And to me all I need to know is that the US is a minimum of 225 years old and goes back in some form 350 years to it's bold beginnings.

And yet in a list of worst figures in American history, six of them were only prominent in the last 20 years and over half of them were only prominent in the last 30-40 years.

Talk about a myopic view of American History.

And five presidents ? The only ones worth their salt over the last 30 years are Kennedy, Ford, Reagan and the Bush boys ? Come on already.

That is weak weak weak.

I call it "round up the usual suspects."

Actually, the problem with these "best of/worst of" lists of Hawkins' is that the criteria is too broad. So of course people will take the easiest way out and put up the ten personages whose names they have been hearing/reading about the most in the last few months. What I would like to know is, just what the heck does "best (or worst) American mean? Best American what? Best American doctor? Best piemaker?

Of course I am being facetious here -- I realize that what John actually means is "Most influential American in a negative way" just as his "best of" list meant "most influential American in a positive way." If he had just come out and say so I think people wouldn't be so mad at the results.

Michele, if you and James Joyner and other moderate righties declined to reply to John's poll, then there's little wonder why the list wound up as buggered as it is -- response bias does funny things. That said, the poll does make conservatives look bad, so maybe John should've considered how it would play to the blogosphere as a whole.

Kennedy was President 40 years ago, Sherard. Besides, there have only been seven Presidents in the last 30 years -- why would it be unusual for only 4 to be considered "worth their salt", especially considering Nixon and Carter are two of the seven?

Anyway, I wouldn't have put any serial killers, mass murderers, or assassins on the list, because by and large they had little effect on anything. The average President orders policies and/or military adventures that kill more people than Manson's orders ever did, often for little reason other than personal (or party) political gain. State power is scary.

I would put Chomsky on the list, because he's basically his generation's answer to Joseph Goebbels (complete with excuses for, and denials of, genocide by his allies).

Errr... why's FDR on the list???

This one was a little too hot and the criteria too broad for me to submit a list as well. As Meryl said, they are subjective and are really designed to spark discussion.

However, the way I would have interpreted it, none of the mass murderers would have ended up on it unless they had political ends -- maybe the KKK. I would have looked for those who poisoned the body politic, so to speak. Chomsky would have definitely been on the list.

Furthermore, I think "in history" has a different connotation than "all time", in that Ted Bundy didn't really affect the history of this nation, its direction, its society, its laws.
Yeah, we all know his name. He was pretty dispicable. Far more dispicable in many ways.
...although, you could make a case that cold-bloodedly engaging in character assassination to protect your power perqs is far more evil than killing people because of a mental illness...
But if I had been asked to do this survey, I would have looked first at the figures that I expect to be in history books 100 years hence, and I don't think you can argue that each individual serial killer will be mentioned more often and in more depth than the Clintons.

Well jeez, Dan, I guess I was giving the voting public a little credit, since leaving off Kennedy gets you the only "good" presidents of the last 30 years as

Ford
Reagan
Bush I
Bush II

Hhhmmmm.... I'm sensing a pattern here...

I don't care which side of the fence you ride, but let's not be quite THAT lame, ok ? Of the 20 worst Americans EVER, the last 3 democratic presidents qualify. That is just pathetic. As would a list of leftie bad guys that included Reagan, Bush I and Bush II.

This line is somewhat self serving, I think - "The average President orders policies and/or military adventures that kill more people than Manson's orders ever did, often for little reason other than personal (or party) political gain"

Then why is it that outside of the last 30 year there is only one president on the list, FDR. Who is one of the more revered Americans in history and who the people of the day seemed to like enough to elect him FOUR times. I guess for conservatives, who didn't apparently get the memo about the big Depression, the New Deal sucked eggs and everything we still have related to it still does.

You know another one that isn't on the list but DAMN WELL should be is Joe McCarthy. Despite Ann Coulter's best attempts, he is still leading the list of shredders of the US Constitution. That qualifies in my book.

I stand by my assertion that this is an EXTREMELY myopic view of American History, nevermind a narrow-mindedly skewed version. I mean really. Can we get past the petty partisanship for one freakin' second ?

Since some of these were head scratchers, I digged a little deeper...

Gained prominence in the last:

5-10 years give or take: 8 of 20
10-30 years: 5 of 20
30-50 years: 4 of 20
Rest of American History: 3 of 20

Are you serious ? All bad guys in American history - save 3 - have all been in the last 50 years. So all but 3 Americans for the remaining 175-300 years were all peachy keen?

I guess that whole civil war thing was just a misunderstanding.

oops, after the first few, I skimmed down, and missed a few people saying basically the same thing. Sorry.

Depending on exactly what the long-term implications of the Clinton transfer of nuclear and missile technology to China, the Clintons might well belong high on that list. We won't know (I hope) for a long time.
My personal list of the 20 worst in all American history is probably different, well, it's a subjective list.
I suggest that we'd all be happier and live longer if we don't get too exercized over it.

Actually, from even a strict libertarian point of view, most of the damage to the US has been done in the last 100 years. Most of the New Deal (especially Social Security) has been one of the biggest disasters of all time, and yet members of both parties tend to consider it a feature rather than a bug.

Tyler: Errr... why's FDR on the list???

It was his policies that began the modern welfare state and prolonged the Great Depression.

Check out the Cascade Policy Institute's paper, "Great Myth of the Great Depression":

Click here for PDF Format

Click here for HTML Format

"What surprised me was FDR. It was his drive, his ideas, his leadership that got the US out of the great depression."

Were there any Japanese-Americans among the bloggers surveyed? It would be hard to blame them for taking FDR's decision to pack their parents and grandparents off to internment camps a tad personally.

As for FDR getting us out of the Depression, it was WWII that got us out of the Depression, not anything else FDR did with the economy. He was a good wartime President, though, if you didn't happen to be Japanese-American.

I remember reading a long time ago about a survey that Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum in London took annually for quite some time (they may still be doing it, as far as I know). The survey asked the visitors to name the five most evil people in history. IIRC, whoever the current US President was at the time the survey was taken was voted #1 most evil eight times out of every ten (with Der Fuhrer usually #2). Reading that was one of my first experiences with anti-Americanism, so it stuck in my head.

John Cole had a similar comment on his site...

http://www.balloon-juice.com/archives/002919.html

Hey, you want to see a truly LAME list of the 20 worst Americans ? Go here

Are you serious ? Kurt Cobein, J Lo, Eminem ?!

And I thought the compiled list was myopic. Nothing like including people who will barely even be remembered in 5 years. Cobein's influence on anything has long since passed. In 5 years the entirety of the generation 18 years old and younger won't even know who he is.

Oops, try HERE

I don't like Clinton, so he was on my list. That's my explanation.

Excellent comment. All these lists are demonstrating is that selected conservative bloggers are woefully ahistorical and the echo chamber is a live and well in a very small corner of the universe.

The Clintons don't belong on the list, but I'm not sure I'd attribute that to partisanship per se. After all, the same group also picked Nixon, who doesn't belong on the list either.

Sorry on this one you are totally out of line. Calling people "foolish, immature and petty" is not the best way to engage in an intelligent debate. You disagree with how people interpreted the poll...that is fine, but don't attack their maturity or intelligence.

Your view of what "worst" means may not necessarily be the same interpretation used by others. To certain extent its the fault of the poll. Worst is a fairly flexible term.

I agree with your challenge. However it would be good if he defined the parameters a bit more.

Well jeez, Dan, I guess I was giving the voting public a little credit, since leaving off Kennedy gets you the only "good" presidents of the last 30 years as

Earth to dumbass -- I don't like repeating myself, but (once again) Kennedy was not President within the last 30 years. He died almost 40 years ago; maybe you heard about it?

But sure, let's go back 40 years. That adds Johnson and Kennedy (finally) to the list. The guy who gave us both the "Great Society" Welfare State AND 50,000 dead Americans in a war that wasn't in our national interest very much deserves to be on a "worst Americans" list.

Then why is it that outside of the last 30 year there is only one president on the list, FDR

Because "killing a few dozen people" isn't enough to get you on a list of "100 worst Americans". There are thousands, if not tens of thousands, of Americans (like people of any other country) whose orders or actions have caused or contributed to the deaths of large numbers of people. Slaves and "Native Americans", anyone? To qualify as a "worst American", you have to do lasting harm to the country. FDR did, and the Rosenbergs did, I rather doubt Clinton did (but history will tell); McCarthy certainly didn't, except inasmuch as he made it politically difficult for other people to attack American communists.

[FDR] is one of the more revered Americans in history and who the people of the day seemed to like enough to elect him FOUR times

Once upon a time, Jim Crow laws enjoyed enormous popular support. Today we recognize them as monstrous and evil. Homosexuality was, for millennia, considered sick and evil by virtually everyone in the west -- today, much of the west realizes it is isn't (the Pope obviously not being one of them), and in another generation or two it'll be as accepted as interracial marriage is today. People's immediate popular opinions are not a useful measure of lasting value, moral or otherwise.

You are a breath of fresh air among conservative bloggers. I don't always agree with you (although I do agree with this post), but you have integrity and you clearly think for yourself. If only there were more of you...:)

Where is Walter O'Malley on this list? It looks like somebody left out the third most evil man of the 20th century.

Eric

"Are the Clintons worse than Ted Bundy ?"

Ahhhh, between the 'Arkancides," the rape case, the sexual harassment case, the gruesome abuses of power, the blatant violations of law and order, the innocent people harassed and ruined by the IRS on Clinton's leash, the failure to stop Osam bin Laden and his terrorist organizations, theacts of treason quantified by his sale of military technology to the Red Chinese.....
I'm hard pressed to see where they're any better. They've caused death, poverty, ruination, and have imperiled the lives of every single American by their actions... and helped lay the groundwork for our subjugation by those who despise our nation.
Ted Bundy only wishes he were that destructive.

Who cares?

After all, this poll was for and by a group of semi-literate pogues who feel the need for a circle jerk from time to time.

It speaks volumes when this group of losers rate Timothy McVeigh--a guy who shares your rightwing values and bombed a daycare--higher than our last democratically-elected President.

So do republicans actually believe Oswald shot Kenedy?

Michele, I read it to pertain to Americans only (and no, I didn't have the Clintons on my list).

This is being spun out of the blogosphere....A few folks (like myself) comprised their list mostly of murderers/traitors and some others made up theirs consisting of politicians/figures that they don't like.

And they were all Americans.

It's that simple.

No Warren Harding? No Joe McCarthy? How 'bout the guy who defected to Russia? Please, That list is as Fair and Balanced (and deep in its historical knowledge) as Faux News. Props for remembering Aaron Burr, but several points off for pinging FDR while forgetting what Hoover did in the face of the worst economic disaster in U.S. history (nothing).

Byrd? A minor historical figure. Chomsky? Less than a blip. Manson? He was a criminal, but not a threat to the country. Geez.

My family's burial plot is next to Julius & Ethel Rosenberg's. That's pretty much our only claim to fame.

What a delight! I'm so happy you've initiated this. Here are obvious additions to your list (how they didn't make it is one of those anomalies in life that causes you to scratch your head and go, "What the fuck?!?!?!"):

1. George W. Bush
2. George H.W. Bush
3. Dick Cheney
4. Paul Wolfowitz
5. Donald Rumsfeld
6. Douglas Feith
7. Colin Powell (yes, him; I know, seems unfair; but he's an empty-vessel shill, and a disgrace to his race...the human race, that is)
8. Rush Limbaugh
9. Sean Hannity

I'm gonna stop there, 'cause methinks you see the pattern. These are the despicable freaks who currently hold/occupy the position of "most loathsome Americans to have ever lived, yea, perchance the most loathsome on earth that have ever lived." For they are (as you know) perverted, twisted freaks. Who like blood. A lot.

Thanks, pardners!

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