By Matthew Reilly
There is no inherent dignity in, or respect due, to the office of United States President.
Though President Donald Trump has not passed any important legislation during his time in office, he at least succeeded in destroying the jingoistic ideal that whoever holds the office of President of the United States is always to be respected. Many presidents have overseen or authorized heinous acts, including war crimes, espionage and human rights violations. This includes presidents that many still admire and respect, like Theodore Roosevelt, Thomas Jefferson, Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama.
It is rare for anyone to make a mockery of the office in the way Donald Trump has, though some obvious contenders have tried. George W. Bush started the “War on Terror” which single-handedly devastated and destabilized the Middle East, and inevitably gave rise to terror groups like ISIS. Richard Nixon resigned from office in disgrace after being caught up in the Watergate scandal and began the catastrophic failure known as the War on Drugs. Herbert Hoover is responsible for exacerbating the Great Depression, which was eventually ended by the great Franklin Delano Roosevelt through a series of social programs known as the New Deal.
This is the narrative many learn in high school, perpetuated by the media and the federal government. Many do not realize how instrumental FDR was with Executive Order 9066, which effectively imprisoned Japanese-Americans during World War II without due process, purely based on race. While many Japanese-American soldiers were fighting for the U.S., many of their families were interned. Yet FDR still remains a hero to many for his successful intervention in the Great Depression and leadership during a catastrophic war.
Ronald Reagan is still seen by many as a conservative icon. During each election cycle since he left office, Republican candidates for president have been rated based on how Reagan-esque they are. He is seen as a figure to admire and revere, but why anyone would want another Reagan is beyond the scope of human thought. For example, “Trickle-Down” economics worked exactly as intended, benefiting the wealthiest at the expense of the working class. It drastically increased economic inequality and shifted most of America’s wealth to the top.
Reagan was an imperialistic, far-right oligarch. He hated the poor. He hated gays. He hated leftists. He hated communists and was pretty sure you were one if you disagreed with him. He never met a social program he didn’t scorn. He never met an American in need he wanted to help. His response to the AIDS epidemic is one of the most sickening, cold-blooded expressions of pure murderous political evil in American history. He also illegally funded the murderous Nicaraguan Contras, illegally sold missiles to Iran, and gave assistance and comfort to Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden all while lying to the American people.
Even John F. Kennedy, who brought Camelot to the White House, had his fair share of terrible moves. The Cuba Missile Crisis resulting from The Bay of Pigs invasion put the U.S. on the brink of nuclear war. His actions to promote civil rights were slow and although he called for a ban on racial discrimination in 1963, he mocked civil rights activists like the Freedom Riders, once demanding of an advisor, “Can’t you get your goddamned friends off those buses? Stop them.”
Kennedy’s successor, Lyndon B. Johnson, is lauded for signing the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, but only did so after immense pressure and prodding from prominent civil rights leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He also escalated the Vietnam War, causing thousands of deaths.
Even William Henry Harrison, who holds the record for shortest U.S. presidency, does not have a clean record. Despite not doing anything in office besides sleeping in bed for 30 days, he was elected based on the premise that he was a war hero. In 1841, being a war hero essentially meant you had murdered countless Native Americans, which Harrison certainly did during the War of 1812. His death, resulting from an extremely long and overblown inaugural speech given on the coldest day of the year, gave rise to John Tyler, the only former president to side with the Confederacy during the Civil War.
Even a slight bit of research illustrates that no President is wholly good. Though some entered office with good intentions, most had moments when they left the path of service and light.