Is Donald Trump Really the Worst President Ever? | News
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Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Is Donald Trump Really the Worst President Ever?

Posted by on Tue, Feb 20, 2018 at 9:01 AM

This post is excerpted from the INDY’s morning newsletter, Primer. To read this morning’s edition in full, click here. To get all the day’s local and national headlines and insights delivered straight to your inbox, sign up here.

According to an op-ed that appeared in The New York Times yesterday (i.e., Presidents’ Day), presidential scholars rank Donald Trump dead last in greatness, supplanting the godawful presidency of James Buchanan in the years before the Civil War. (This, of course, has absolutely no bearing on his legacy, which is atrocious, but as a historical footnote, Buchanan was almost certainly our first gay president [HuffPo]. He was also the only lifelong bachelor president.) Part of me thinks this is hilarious, if only because it will drive Trump absolutely batty. But if I’m being honest, it’s probably speaking too soon. Even for Trump, it’s a bit much to label him worse than the guy whose inaction brought about the Civil War—or, for that matter, the guy who died after a month in office, or the guy who showed up drunk at his own inauguration and was later impeached and nearly removed from office [Constitution Center]—after just thirteen months. I mean, sure, he’s a loudmouth, criminally incompetent jackass whose campaign is being investigated for colluding with Russia and who himself is being investigated for obstruction of justice, but he hasn’t bumbled into war (yet) or crashed the economy (yet).

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  • From the op-ed: “Where does Donald Trump rank on the list of American presidents? We surveyed presidential politics experts to sketch out a first draft of Trump’s place in presidential history. Since our previous survey in 2014, some presidential legacies have soared (Barack Obama’s stock has climbed into the Top 10), while others have fallen (Andrew Jackson toppled to 15, out of the Top 10). And President Trump? Let’s say that, according to the 170 members of the American Political Science Association’s Presidents and Executive Politics section who filled out our survey, he has at least three years to improve on an ignominious debut. … Trump’s initial rating places him in an ignominious category, but dozens of presidents have had slow starts and have course corrected to improve their public esteem.”
  • “On partisan-votes lines, Democrats ranked Ronald Reagan nine places lower than Republicans, while Democrats place Obama 10 places higher. Counting only Republican votes, William McKinley—best known for winning the Spanish-American war, for defeating William Jennings Bryan twice in contests for the White House and for being assassinated by the anarchist Leon Czolgosz—holds a spot in the Top 10. Independents admire George H.W. Bush, ranking him higher than Obama. Trump doesn't get much of a lift from Republican-only vote: Even in their eyes, he’s a bottom-five president.”

WHAT IT MEANS: Trump had a rough first year, much of it of his own making. Despite the roaring economy he inherited—the one thing that usually endears presidents to the American public—Trump has record-low approval ratings, owing to his Twitter outbursts and myriad scandals and the possibility that his entire administration will be enveloped by Robert Mueller’s investigation. However, there are some green shoots for the president’s supporters:
  • For the first time, the tax cuts Congress passed last year are polling well. According to a new survey, a slim majority of voters approve the tax-cut law, up from 37 percent in December [Axios]. More important than the law itself—which will likely have a modest-at-best impact on GDP—passing that bill gives Trump the ability to claim credit for the economy, and so long as the economy remains steady, that will help his political fortunes, albeit to a lesser degree than it would for presidents not prone to self-sabotage. The tax cuts, after all, were specifically designed to help the GOP in an election year; the effects of the surging deficit won’t be felt immediately, and much of the tax cuts for not-rich people and corporations will taper off in years to come. It’s a sugar rush, but people tend to respond well to more money in their pockets.
  • And as the economy rolls on, polls are generally starting to move in Republicans’ favor, which has Democrats worried ahead of the midterms [Politico].
  • Bottom line: Will Trump’s presidency be considered a failure? Maybe. Can we say that with any certainty now? Probably not.

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