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Miscellaneous thoughts and ramblings
Thursday, December 29, 2005
Bad Americans
What do J. Edgar Hoover, John Wilkes Booth, Benedict Arnold, Nathan Bedford Forrest, Stephen Douglas, Richard Nixon, Joe McCarthy, Aaron Burr, John Walker Jr., and Jimmy Carter have in common?

They made the Captain Ed's list of the 10 Worst Americans (3 parts: 1-4, 5-7, 8-10).

I found Carter's inclusion a little surprising at first, but Ed makes a compelling case. Carter's impotence, indecision and general incompetence while in office wouldn't be enough to include him on my list, but his willful undermining of U.S. interests throughout the past decade legitimize his inclusion.

Read the complete list and comments, and you'll know more about American history than you do now. :)

Edited to include Ed's explanation of the criteria:

In response to Alexandra's challenge at All Things Beautiful to name the Ten Worst Americans of All Time, I asked CQ readers to make their own suggestions as I considered the choices. Speaking from a historical perspective, it really is quite difficult to come up with a list of "worst Americans". Most of our history is spent pursuing what we did well, and our failures tend to get shoved under the carpet. Some people simply rise to the occasion, however, and our history has its fair share of the scandalous and the downright evil.

For my consideration, I decided that the status of American had to be part of their "crimes". In other words, simply picking someone like Ted Bundy or Charles Manson would be too easy. Their evil, though real and in most cases worse than what you'll read on this list, doesn't have to do with their innate American heritage. I went looking for the people who sinned against America itself, or the ideal of America. Otherwise, we'd just be looking at body counts.

I also tried to avoid picking contemporary political figures, as we do not have sufficient historical perspective to make that kind of determination. (I do have one exception to this.) Don't expect to see Harry Reid or Nancy Pelosi on this list, nor Teddy Kennedy or Bill Clinton.

A couple of people barely missed the list. Earl Warren came under strong consideration for his efforts to set up the Japanese internment camps, as did Chief Justice Taney for his concurrence in the cowardly and cruel Dred Scott decision. Someone suggested William Randolph Hearst, a yellow journalist of the first order, and that was very tempting.

In the end, I came up with ten that I think will be intriguing and provocative, and I wrote explanations for each. Below you will find posts in groups of three, except for #1 which will have its own spot. The essays make it too long to put into a single post. I'm going to really enjoy the commentary for each of these, and I think we will have a great debate over this -- and I may just surprise a few people.
What a great post. He makes a strong case for condemning each one of those guys. Note that the worst Americans are all white men.

Of course, with any list, you want to test it. Where are the child pornographers and the serial killers?
I should have linked to his explanation. In fact, I'll edit the post to include it now.

In short, he ruled out base criminals whose crimes were really independent of their being American.
I'm surprised that he didn't choose Timothy McVeigh.
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