Public Nuisance

Random commentary and senseless acts of blogging.

The first Republican president once said, "While the people retain their virtue and their vigilance, no administration by any extreme of wickedness or folly can seriously injure the government in the short space of four years." If Mr. Lincoln could see what's happened in these last three-and-a-half years, he might hedge a little on that statement.
-Ronald Reagan

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Tuesday, August 05, 2003
 
While various bloggers on the left have been discussing obsessive political hatred, our friends on the right have once again displayed it in action. Right blogger John Hawkins has polled some of his fellows to compose a list of the most evil figures in American history. Coming in 3rd, after the Rosenbergs and Benedict Arnold - in other words ahead of Charles Manson, Lee Harvey Oswald, John Wilkes Booth, Johnny Walker Lindh, John Wayne Gacy, Aldrich Ames, Tim McVeigh, etc - is none other than Bill Clinton. If that isn't enough of an illustration of embarassing ideological blinders, the man right after Clinton and still ahead of those I've just listed is the most decent, if not the best, President since Eisenhower: Jimmy Carter, who is followed by Jesse Jackson. I guess we can be thankful that Martin Luther King didn't make the list - haven't these guys heard that he was a Commie?

Tied for ninth with McVeigh, Booth, and LBJ is Hillary Clinton. (Hawkins actually has this group at 8 - 11, but he has incorrectly counted John Walker and John Walker Lindh separately. I combined the votes, so Lindh is alone in eighth.) So here's a handy trick to identify a modern conservative: ask him if Hillary Clinton is worse than Tim McVeigh and John Wilkes Booth, then watch as he struggles with this 'difficult' question.

It's a useful guide for considering Conservative ethical standards. I suppose that even most Conservatives, if forced to really pick sides on the topic, would admit that slavery and Jim Crow were even greater evils than the Clinton administration. But while four people associated with the latter made the list, only two associated with the former, Booth and Robert Byrd, made the cut. And Byrd is clearly in less for supporting the Klan in his youth than for supporting Clinton in his maturity.

Franklin Roosevelt has the unique distinction ofmaking both this list and the list, drawn from roughly the same group of bloggers, of the twenty greatest Americans.

In all, the list consists of six traitors (including Ethel Rosenberg, who was probably innocent, Alger Hiss, who might have been, and Lindh, who probably is legally innocent of treason), three assassins (including the dueler Aaron Burr), one mass murderer, one terrorist, Richard Nixon (poor guy can't catch a break, even from Republicans), and nine largely moderate political figures. Although being a traitor is, second only to being a leader of the Democratic Party, the best way to make the list, the leaders and organizers of the greatest treason in the country's history are conspicuously absent. For a conservative all traitors are equal, but some are more equal than others.

Meryl thinks the list is sexist, and she may have a point. Although Ronald Reagan beats out Washington on the right's list of the greatest Americans, Nancy Reagan didn't make the list. Hillary rates close to her husband in the right's demonology; Nancy is far behind hers in their calendar of saints. This reflects sexism to some degree, but just as much it reflects intellectual dishonesty. Conservatives give Reagan credit for many things he didn't actually do: most famously, this includes winning the Cold War, but it also includes inventing Ronald Reagan. When he married Nancy, Ronald Reagan was past 40, an age at which most people's life paths are pretty well fixed - and he was a moderate to liberal Democrat whose only serious political activism had been as a union official in SAG. Bill Clinton found and married the ideal partner for his existing ambitions; Reagan, far more than his admirers have ever been willing to admit, found his ambitions largely in his partner.

Correction: As pointed out in the comments, John was right and I was wrong on the matter of John Walker. Walker was a low-ranking naval officer and the central figure in the family spy ring that was busted up about a decade ago. I knew of the case, but had forgotten the name. This doesn't change anything in the post substantively - it just substitutes in the bottom twenty a man who definitely is a real traitor for someone who, by the legal definition, probably isn't.



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