Firstly, let’s qualify this title before it’s misinterpreted the way so many others are. This is meant, by no means, as a defense of Trump, his policies, or his legitimacy as president. Rather, it is a simple, nagging thought bubble that submerges every now and then, prodding as to whether impeachment is necessarily the path we should take. Lately, I’ve been thinking no.
Trump deserves impeachment. He never deserved to be president. He probably doesn’t deserve human form; perhaps a Horcrux but okay, sorry, not even that. To put aside the platitudes surrounding his level of deftness for a moment though, let’s consider impeachment: what it means, what its effect on America and the cultural hegemony would be, and why beating Trump in the 2020 election may unfortunately be the option best waited on.
Impeachment, as established by the U.S. Constitution, can come about as result of treason, bribery, or other “high crimes and misdemeanors”. Trump’s probably guilty of these three in some form or another. The problem is these clauses are open to a wide spectrum of interpretation, particularly in the case of the latter. Realistically, as President Ford put it, it comes down to “whatever a majority of the House of Representatives considers it to be at a given moment in history”. The House is of course controlled by the Republicans and so is the Senate. So straight off the bat, we have a problem there. But here’s a few other hard truths:
Recently, Trump’s approval ratings have lingered in the mid-40s. This is not unusual for a president at this point in their first term. His support may have dropped but don’t fool yourself into thinking it’s gone.
His support eludes morality and reason. Remember back in 2015 when everyone thought his bid was a joke? Remember when no-one thought he could beat Hillary? We need to stop thinking the ludicrous can’t happen.
His endurance rests on: a) the flotsam of a post-truth world in which facts get lumped in with “Fake News”; b) the populist frustration that still exists with old Washington; and c) the inflammation of the Culture Wars and polarity between Left and Right
I’m not arguing that Trump’s levels of support cannot dwindle to the point of endangerment but for practicality’s sake, we need to accept that perception and emotion precludes reason, doubt, and logic at present. With regards to point 3.c. above especially, we must recognize that there’s a base of conservatives and even non-political individuals who’ve come to disavow much of what the far-Left are associated with; political correctness, identity politics, and liberal activist leanings in all areas of society (e.g. universities and the arts). Trump has fed off this polarity and taken things farther. Although there were some right-wingers who truly wanted “THE WALL” and a Muslim ban, there were also many people in 2016 who just wanted to stick it to the Left. They may be wrong- I won’t weigh in- but the image was drawn. That picture hasn’t changed.
Of course, you might wonder as to when impeachment should occur if not now. It is still possible, I suppose. Headlines continue to shock, even in recent days with that pantomime display in Helsinki. But impeachment, given the context above, will leave a lot of people unhappy and they won’t rest easy. They will see it as a means of encroachment on their civil liberties, freedom of speech, etc. and bullshit. It may even result in further mobilization of the Alt-Right, who would then seek to take down the next Democratic president without hesitation. (Clinton and Obama experienced increased pettiness on this scale and it’ll only get worse). Of course, that problem doesn’t go away even if Trump’s defeated in election. The Republicans will likely stew as they always have but- it will be that much harder to justify supporting a president who lost by electoral means than one who was “done in”.
As aforementioned, none of this may even matter as the Republicans are in control and they, collectively, have no spine. A few figures have criticized Trump’s rhetoric on occasion (like in Helsinki) but for the most part, it has become normalized among their ranks. Democrats may make major in-roads this November but given the seats up for contention in Senate, are unlikely to take a majority there. Plus, the impeachment process would be long, as anything in politics, ever is. 2020 may seem far away now but it may prove easier to just wait out as was the case with Lincoln’s successor, Andrew Johnson.
So where should the Democrats’ efforts go? Undoubtedly, a strong and media-savvy candidate will be needed for 2020 but even if 2018 proves a success, the Democrats must not give up on the House and Senate as they continually seem to do just when their president needs them. They must also try harder across the whole country, given the disastrous electoral college system that’s screwed them over twice in recent years. They should also not consider themselves “above” attacking Trump. After all, his wacky branding helped him knock off candidate after candidate in the Republican primaries. At the same time, focus on the issues the likes of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren hark on about; be the party of welfare and increased minimum wage but not the party that gets bogged down by identity politics and PC agendas. Those Trump supporters may very well be for the taking given enough room in that area.
It all essentially comes down to restoring order and sense in a chaotic time. Impeachment’s appealing and Trump deserves retribution but eliminating the Horcrux itself won’t eliminate the whole (all America’s problems). What he represents (or doesn’t) is far stronger than who he actually is.
It’s no secret that we here at the Washington Walrus hold Speaker Paul Ryan in low regard. It’s not that he’s as knuckle drawn and villainous as his contemporary right wingers, but rather that he’s so spineless and tepid in his approaches within this political sphere that he appears lame and useless as a result. In fact, we even covered this last year in a piece on just how pathetic he is, in case you want to read that.
Still, that word feels almost a little too cruel for this boy among beasts. Despite the level of authority and respect his position should merit, he has never really shined the way he should have- that is within the confines of a Republican snowglobe. No, he’s just been there somehow, haunting the halls of Congress like a a specter of mediocrity or Wormtongue-like essence- waiting for justification to leave; a legacy on which he can stand.
Has he achieved any sort of legacy therein? Not really. He may posit that his conservative agenda, with the likes of tax reform, has seen great strides in recent months but this has only haphazardly come to proposal under the tumultuous reigns of a man who pays porn stars to keep their mouths shut. He may argue that he never really wanted the position of Speaker and merely stood in to keep the reigns on the severing factions of the GOP. Even within that framework, he has largely failed- as evidenced by the election of a man he refused to even support one month out from voting. In fact, he has largely traipsed a line of abandoning any so called principles we thought he had in favor of appeasing a president who’s put him down more flagrantly than most political commentators. He may say he’s leaving to be more than a “weekend dad”, but does his family really want him at home?
Okay, so admittedly these musings are a little slanted. Let’s take a shot at assessing a more objective truth:
He may very well miss some quality family time. Republicans are all about the family unit and Ryan, compared to many of his cohorts, does seem like more of a traditional Republican.
Perhaps he needs some time to lay low and relax. The Trump Presidency has been an exhausting experience and Ryan hardly needs the stress of the job.
Strategically, this doesn’t seem to be a promising year for Republican candidates. They’ll all be held, to some extent, accountable for all the chaos that’s ensued the last two years. By taking the LBJ route and removing himself from the game altogether, Ryan need not get entangled in what will surely be a contentious and hard-fought race. (Even if his team were confident he would win, it seems likely that the Democrats are due a comeback of some kind this year).
Ryan doesn’t like ‘identity’ politics and that’s something you better get used to in 2018. Maybe the environment’s just become too toxic for a man like him. Maybe this party has just gotten too crazy for him.
Maybe he’ll return in some years for a Presidential run or some sort of other role. Hypothetically, if he was going for the top job, a bit of a break might do him some good. To follow up on point 3, it’d allow him to escape the embarrassment of a potential loss and to remove himself from the tendrils of the Trump campaign; give him some time to become his own man again. He could even write a book and earn a few bucks.
When one considers these five points, Ryan’s decision becomes all the more logical but truth be told, we can’t determine exactly why it’s time for him to step down. His overturning, like Boehner’s some years back, seems unlikely, given his stature and position within the GOP. Indeed, even his frothy relationship with Trump has stilled, probably owing to his decision to deal with the President increasingly in person, instead of in a public forum. One would hope, he finally came to the realization that ‘enough was enough’, but that seems a rather hapless and gullible approach to understanding this.
It may not matter- at least for now, our attention will turn to who will contest his seat on both sides come November and who, thereafter, will take the mantle of Speaker in January 2019. With many pundits already speculating about a Democratic takeover in the House, liberals will undoubtedly read this as a significant blow to their adversaries but if history has taught us anything, it’s that the GOP always have something up their sleeves (even if unintentionally).
It might seem like folly to try and summarize the events of a whole year in a single article, or even to surmise the prevalent themes which distinguished it. Nevertheless, we’re going to attempt to do just that because something needs to be gained from all this mayhem. (It’s also been awhile since we published anything.) So here’s a few thoughts:
Was it the residual hangover of 2016?
Yes, 2017 can in many ways be regarded as the dark sequel to its predecessor. This is the case with most inaugural years but of course, this year we had the Donald, whose presidency quickly bolstered sales of Orwell’s 1984. Everything we feared he might do came to fruition, although legislatively he was not successful. Rather he inspired fresh bouts of fear not felt since the early 1960s, from the Muslim Ban to unnecessary tensions with North Korea and everything in between. However, this is just the beginning of the hangover and it will not dissipate till at least late 2018, should the Democrats get their act together.
Was the “#metoo” movement a breakthrough?
At the Golden Globes next week, we will see many actresses dressed in black, in a sign of solidarity. Although, sexual harassment scandals can hardly be limited to Hollywood, the cases here have drawn so much attention because of the prolific figures involved (not to justify it.) They’ve also inspired a deep and intellectual, if highly sensitized debate, across the world. Can we merely dismiss the actions of men from another generation as of their time and thus tolerable? Can we separate their art from their character? Do we need to ensure perspective with relation to whats worse (from groping to raping) more readily? Can this then be seen as an attempt to undermine change by bracketing off areas, if less heinous, as forgivable?
There’s still much to suss out and I do not enter this foray lightly, for the level of media scrutiny and social media backlash can be detrimental even to those who have not themselves done anything wrong but who, in others’ opinions, miss the point and thereby contribute to the normalization of harassment (e.g. Matt Damon.) It seems to me, nonetheless, that this has overall been a watershed moment of positive change; one which must not be limited to being labelled as a 2017 talking point or more likely, a Hollywood scandal. In the coming years, it’ll thus be important to find balance between sensible, if insensitive opinions and a zero-tolerance approach.
Is “Fake News” just a thing now?
Has the word “lies” lost sustenance? The idea of “Fake News” grew during the 2016 election and was dismissed by most as a “stupid”. Unfortunately, like most Trump labels, it stuck and with it, an array of other baffling terms like “Alternative Facts”.
Yes, the media has been known to sensationalize the wrong things and some papers are more reputable than others but with Trump, fiction’s become redundant. You merely need to collect his quotes these days to form an article. It may be a coherent, slobbering mess but so is every Trump speech. So, in 2018, let’s stop paying into the idea of “Fake News” because you can’t hide the video footage of Sean Spicer hiding in the Rose Garden bushes, inauguration crowd sizes, or the words Trump spoke mere weeks ago. It’s out there, in the open.
Are people ready to accept the Left again?
Roy Moore was inexcusably awful but still, a Democratic Senator from Alabama is not something you hear about every day. Grouped with the #metoo movement (not exactly political, though women’s rights are generally sided with the Left), Trump’s low approval ratings, Obama topping Gallup’s most admired man poll, the Women’s March on Washington, and more however, it begins to paint a picture. In November 2018, we’ll of course see with the Mid-Terms but this time, we’ll need a United Left. Even though, we’re discussing 2017, the lesson of 2016 must not be forgotten.
Was The Last Jedi disappointing? (SPOILERS)
Yes, this is a political blog but we also love Star Wars. So did Rian Johnson deliver the goods? Ultimately yes- it was a beautiful and unusually thematic entry in the franchise. But come on! Is Snoke really just some nobody leader, dispensable to a larger purpose? He looks like a disfigured Goldmember, had a super cool throne room and guards, and obviously influenced Kylo Ren somehow. So, tell us who the Phantom Menace he is! And I don’t want to figure this out through some extended universe graphic novel bullshit or another needless stand-alone movie. He’s relevant to this trilogy! I also don’t care that we didn’t know who the Emperor was in the originals- his origin wasn’t important at that point and since Episode VII, we’ve been baited with questions. Rectify this please, J.J. Abrams. Otherwise, I enjoyed it a lot. Anyways, that’ all- have a happy new year!
In recent months, people could be forgiven for mistaking Trump as the greatest force for evil in America. After all, his Tweets, missteps, policy proposals, staff appointments,, attempts at consolation, and gaffes have given us immunity to the notion of a slow news’ day. And quite simply, he’s just an egotistical moron. Indeed, one could argue that the state of delusion and anxiety prevalent in every corner of American society, in issues such as immigration and education, can be attributed, at least on some level, to the manifest ignorance of the public sphere or concerted motive with weak justification of the political. It’s become clear, however, that the issue of gun control is just that extra bit twisted and demented- a disease ripping away at the moral fiber of American society.
Let’s start with the Second Amendment- a Supreme Court ruling from 1791, included in the Bill of Rights, which has since sparked endless debate for its openness: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” At the time, it was a relatively sound proposal. America’s founding fathers and those first legislators, after all, were regarded as being among the wisest men of their era. (Their era.) They were still working out the logistics of their country, however, placating fears that a single Federal army might be established to outdo all state militias. Also, they didn’t have semi-automatics. Or good home security. And there was probably a greater chance of being assaulted by a bear. Essentially, they weren’t designing a framework of law for 2017.
Gun Rights’ activists, without pause, will point to the Second Amendment as their scapegoat of justification whenever their ways come under attack. It’s so embedded in America’s culture that it can’t be undone. Indeed, its wisdom must not dare be questioned. It’s a part of the Constitution! What they systematically forget, of course, is that the Constitution isn’t perfect and that’s why amendments like this are made to it. And you know what? They can also be undone, as evidenced with the ending of prohibition in the 1930s. Tradition, unfortunately, is an illogical, if emotional, stranglehold.
And so we come to the NRA, the corporate embodiment of this way of thinking- the most sinister of lobbyists in America. Formed in 1871 for the improvement of rifle marksmanship (post Civil War), it has come to take on a much wider role in society since for its political and economic interests being held at stake (or as they’d argue, ‘defending freedom’). The organisation we recognize it as today, has basically existed for the past 40 years, since around the time when the nation began its dramatic rightward swing. In this time, they have been successful in passing pro-gun legislation such as the Firearm Owners Protection Act (1986) and opposing the renewal of less friendly legislation such as the Federal Assault Weapons Ban (1994).
Every time, a mass shooting occurs, their organisation is naturally brought under scrutiny by some whilst zealously defended by others. With 5 million members, their might is of course daunting but their economic influence over Republicans makes the real difference. For example, their investment of $50 million in the 2016 election, backing Trump and six Senate candidates, saw them succeed boisterously, losing their bet on only one seat. Now, while most data points to a fairly equal confluence in the number of mass shootings spread over the last 40 years, it should also be acknowledged that the nature of these shootings has become much ‘deadlier’ (Politico, 2017.) Even in a post-Cold War era, weapons’ technology has improved and automatics and semi-autos are readily available, even to those with mental illnesses. People apparently need these upgrades the way someone else might change their phone. There’s also one other facet however that’s kept this industry churning out pure madness for a living- gun pride.
Possessing a firearm is arguably necessary for some professions. It is a form of defense. It’s also a symbol of authority and pride, however, seemingly linked to American identity. As a PEW research piece revealed earlier this year, 42% of Americans live in a household with a gun and 79% have shot a gun. These might not, at face value, seem like staggering statistics but they highlight, at least, the normalization of this way of life. And the NRA, to swing back to those malevolent, victim-playing hounds, are happy to take advantage of this culture and emblazon it with the flag.
Ultimately, we must accept that the NRA probably has good people and that they do, for the most part, teach safe practice and respect for the weapons they hold. This diatribe is not intended to infringe on their respective, individual personalities, professions, or moralities. As a whole however, their fostering of a gun-proud, traditionalist, politically motivated base, speaks volumes to their detachment from reality and their willingness to let any ounce of remaining morality slide through the gaps.
I imagine Trump is quite relieved that his 9-day stint in foreign policy is over. Most assuredly, his staff will be cajoling him with ‘true’ news reports that things went ‘just fabulously’ and that it won’t be necessary to head outside of the US any time soon. Now, some of the more cynical ‘thinkers’ of the World Wide Web might be positing that these trips were anything but great with either his hypocritical change of rhetoric being brought into question or else his general disinterest in world affairs. To be fair to the 70-year old year renegade however, he had to endure countless conversations with God-knows-how-many al-somethings in the Middle East whilst others sullied up the good name of Mar-a-Lago. Can’t we give him a break? Well, let’s look at how things went to begin with:
Stop One- Saudi Arabia
It’s not the friendliest neighborhood and most presidents usually don’t choose it as their first foreign destination but you know Trump- straight to the grit! Of course, even he needed a little context for this one as Saudi Arabia has had a long and complicated relationship with the US. They’re the kind of bad-boy BF you know you should give up but they’re always there when you need them and with the goods (oil). Yes, it’s one of the most disappointing alliances the US has ever pursued but it doesn’t look to change anytime soon, despite slight withdrawals in recent times, including a $400 million arms deal last year (when it became apparent that these airstrikes in Yemen weren’t all that popular).
Not only have over 10,000 people been killed in these assaults in the last two years, but 17 million people are now facing starvation, according to the UN. On top of that, they consistently rank low in the Amnesty and Human Rights Watch reports on other matters like freedom of speech and women’s rights (though Ivanka did note they had made some progress, if you want to take her word for it). Even former US ambassador Robert Jordan (a Bush II appointee) remarked how the ‘humanitarian’ aspects of this conflict were being outright ‘ignored.’ Heck, even Trump himself has criticized both the regime for its ‘harboring’ of the 9/11 terrorists and Obama for bowing to the Saudi King in 2012.
So naturally, Trump brought in the reigns on his categorization of ‘Radical Islam’ (now ‘extremist ideology’), delivered an all-too diluted speech for his fervent supporters, accepted the Collar of Abdelaziz Saud from King Salmon, and capped it all off with a 10-year projected $350-billion arms agreement. In terms of his own campaign rhetoric, he therein delivered one of the most bamboozling if expected 180-degree turns in US history. On the other hand though, the Saudi press gave him and Melania glowing reviews. In the Trump book, this was therefore the best success ever achieved by a US president.
Stop Two- Israel
Not one to take a rest, Trump followed up his trip to the ‘Middle East’ with Israel, which is of course situated in the Middle East (although the President can’t be expected to know everything now, can he?) Unlike his previous foray however, which involved directly selling out any possible remaining US moral values, this was more of an exercise in tip-toeing delicate grounds- that is the whole Israel-Palestine thing. You see, it only became apparent to Trump in recent weeks that this decades-long tension wasn’t all that easy to solve (after a ten minute explanation). So this was going to prove a real test of diplomacy. Did he succeed? Let’s it put it this way- it was the least pugnacious part of his 9-day tour.
First, there was the media blitz that resulted when Melania swatted his hand away like some annoying fly- injecting life back into the widely held belief that she does not love him at all. We’ll just let that hang there…
Then it was off to meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and visit the Western Wall in Jerusalem- without recognizing it as the capital. Pretty slick, right? Of course, this was a historic part of his venture as he became the first US president to actually go to this wall (though frankly he may just have a fascination with walls in general). He then visited the Holocaust Remembrance Center and left a less than eloquent note, akin to something you might find at Disneyland or in a year book: ‘It’s a great honor to be here with all my friends. So amazing and will never forget.’ Obama had written something far more eloquent back in 2008 about the great suffering endured all those years ago but he’s a bit of nerd at the best of times. Trump, unjustly hounded by the press at every opportunity, was merely expressing how awesome it was to have Tillerson and crew along.
It was in his speech that US foreign policy came to the forefront most clearly however and by clearly, I mean ‘vaguely’, as picked up by reporters on site. While reiterating their commitment to regional peace, he managed to avoid the question of recognizing Palestinian statehood and the possibility of an embassy move to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv (a campaign promise.) This meant that things, more or less, remained the same upon exit for his next stumbling block.
Stop Three- Europe
‘He’s something’ Trump said of the Pope, ever the linguist. Now, most of you have probably already determined that this meeting was exceptionally awkward. Exceptionally… Anyways, the two held a 30-minute 1-on-1 meeting in which issues such as Climate Change and terrorism were discussed. The former would haunt Trump the last few days of this sordid tour but the latter is perhaps one of his favorites. These two men naturally must have disagreed, given their polarizing alliances to God and the Devil, but they were nevertheless able to pose for a picture which speaks more words than any review ever could.
It was then on to the G7 Summit, the highlight of this entire trip. Again, there were the awkward faux pas- be it shoving aside other world leaders to get the front for a photo-op or engaging French President Macron in another one of those aggressive Smackdown handshakes. There was also the speech he delivered in which he chastised a majority of NATO countries for not investing enough of their GDP in defense, which he believed made them over-reliant on US military might. Where the real difficulty was always going to lie however was in Trump’s stance on the Paris Climate Accords, committed to under President Obama in December 2015. Long story short, he said he’d make up his mind sometime this coming week. The other world leaders were left in dubious doubt however, with German Chancellor Merkel eluding to the notion that Europe would have to endure on its own and that Germany could no longer ‘rely’ on Trump’s America. Upon departure, Trump told US naval sailors in Sicily that the 9-days been a ‘home run’.
The media largely focused their attention on what was ‘awkward’ during these visits but a few talking points arose between the many reports given: the downplay of his Islamophobic rhetoric; the ‘America First’ policy on display; the reaffirmation of Gulf alliances; the growing division in US-European alliances; and the fact that Trump is still finding his footing on the world stage. For some, it was a meager lightweight trip that amounted to very little we didn’t already know before. For others, it was a calming reminder that Trump can restrain himself at times. For most, it was a meme-centric carnival of diplomatic embarrassment, the likes of which we will never see again until his next foreign escapade or Twitter-bowel-movement-tirade.
The divide of cultural thinking in America is becoming more and more apparent with every passing day of the dystopian Trump administration. On one side, we have the so-called backwards’ thinking red-necks keeping Kid Rock clocking in the millions and on the other, we have high-minded intellectuals who will take down anything even approaching the shade of intolerance in the comments’ section of their Facebook newsfeed. A few months back, we discussed this latter conglomerate in relation to Clint Eastwood’s denouncement of the millennial generation. Today, we will delve into that ever-relevant subject in the context of the student body and protests at universities; not for any particular instance but because in this new environment, liberals (whose ideas such as health care are widely more popular with the public) must realize that not every little thing is worth losing their minds over.
Colleges should be bastions of free speech and open-mindedness. Third-level education is about exploring new ideas which not only intrigue but challenge you. You do not necessarily have to agree with someone’s line of thought (even the professor’s) but you should be exposed to it because intellectual thought gains credence when it is tested and critical thinking, as we have also discussed before, is pertinent to keeping power and established notions in check.
So how come in many cases, colleges have come to exhibit the exact opposite philosophy?
Well, let’s take a look first at how many students’ intolerance of perceived intolerance has manifested:
In 2014, Condoleeza Rice (US Secretary of State under Bush II) was supposed to deliver the commencement address at Rutgers University in New Jersey but was protested over her administration’s handling of the Iraq War. Although the university’s president Robert L. Barchi defended their choice of speaker on the grounds of her being ‘one of the most influential intellectual and political figures of the last 50 years’, she decided to drop out, stating that the occasion should be a ‘joyous’ one and that her involvement might prove a distraction.
Later on that same year, comedian and political pundit Bill Maher was opposed by the students of Berkeley for criticizing Islam. In a viral debate with Sam Harris and Ben Affleck, he contested that as a set of ideas, Islam was a tough one to tackle because of the connotations associated with attacking a religion. In a change.org petition, signed by nearly 6,000 people, the student body objected to his ‘blatant [bigotry] and [racism]’, furthering that Maher’s kind of beliefs only served to conflate the ideas of extremists with the greater Islamic population. Maher went on to deliver the commencement address anyways but not before commenting that ‘liberals should own the First Amendment the way conservatives own the second’.
Women’s rights’ activist Ayaan Hiris Ali, meanwhile, was scheduled to receive an honorary degree from Brandeis University until the throngs came out against her. The offer was rescinded owing to the fact that past statements of hers against Islam were not compatible with the ‘core values’ of the university. Her activism, of course, can be attributed to a more controversial nature than Bill Maher’s but the student body’s disavowal of her, in light of the other causes she has promoted, spoke volumes for the culture in which we live.
Richard Dawkins, the famed biologist and atheist, has posited that political correctness has been replaced by an ‘unofficial’ Orwellian Thought Police. With instances such as the ones mentioned above, he believes that we have seen a ‘betrayal’ of the free speech movement which grew out of Berkeley. This philosophy, for many, undermines the values of a true democracy and lends gravity to the arguments of conservatives who conjecture that the left are out of touch with the common man.
Not all liberals are ‘regressive leftists’ however (to borrow a phrase popularised by Sam Harris.) Many, like former President Obama, have espoused the need for students to balance their ideals with an open-mind. Militant political correctness, he stated in an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopolous, serves as nothing more than a ‘recipe for dogmatism’. Even the leadership of the Civil Rights’ movement, he furthered, ‘sought to understand the views… of the other side,’ no matter how appalling. Students have become ‘coddled’ in today’s world, he asserted; a view shared by the likes of Robert L. Shibley, the vice-president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (a non-profit organisation), who stated: ‘Colleges and universities are teaching students to think like censors… [fueled by] overboard harassment policies, free speech zones that render most of campus a censorship zone, and a focus on civility and comfort at the expense of lively debate’.
On the flip-side to be fair, one can argue political correctness has been born out of necessity. After all, hateful or embittered rhetoric can be influential- just look at the effect it had in driving anti-semetic practice in the 1930s. Plus, the need for racism or any alternative forms of exclusiveness is about on-par with the need for two more season’s of The Big Bang Theory. (Seriously, cancel the f*#$ing thing already… not to make light of this…) Let’s face it however; universities err on the side of caution a stretch too far. It may be because they have always been havens of progressive thought; it may be because the media thrives off sensationalist stories; it may be the power of a group mentality; and it may be because even the slightest association of a racist, homophobic, or sexist thought is enough to ruin one’s social standing today, but such thinking does not always precipitate action.
Free speech is ‘indivisible’ for Mick Hume, the author of Trigger Warning: Is the Fear of Being Offensive Killing Free Speech? When one makes it a ‘privilege’ and not a right, ‘who are you going to trust to make the decision about where to draw the line through [it]?’ That does not mean we should allow bigotry, sexism, or any other forms of discrimination to thrive but if their preachers or their ideas have gained enough momentum, why not give them a forum from which to be challenged? Why not ask Condoleeza Rice, herself, about Iraq? Because her answer will offend you? It’s high time we ditched the emotional baggage of our PC culture and adopt an idea so foreign to America today, that you would swear its visa had been suspended- reason.
We here at the Washington Walrus feel passionately about US presidents in a way that can only be described as ‘slightly obsessive.’ And while the Oval Office has been hijacked by a demented Sasquatch, we still felt it was worthwhile taking a look back at better times. Unlike C-SPAN however, we will only be ranking the leaders of the post-war years. Besides a list of 45 being exhaustive and frankly tedious to most (have you even heard of Rutherford B. Hayes? oh… you have?), the position as we know it today really began to take shape in the wake of the New Deal and with the Cold War.
How did we decide? Well, we evaluated each president against the others on an extensive range of factors including: economics; foreign policy; domestic policy; leadership qualities; the tone they set for their times; the context in which they led; bi-partisanship; lasting legacy within these factors; chat show appearances; and more. Some of our choices may raise eyebrows but we didn’t choose frivolously, there was a very definite consensus reached. So, without further ado, to celebrate Presidents’ Day- the United States Presidents from worst to best as ranked by Andrew Carolan (AC) and Matthew O’Brien (MOB):
13. Donald J. Trump (2017-hopefully 2017)
It hardly seems right to rank a president of one month but then nothing he’s done has been fair. Even if the current president (shudder) was ranked on the hilarity of memes alone, he would still lose to Obama and Biden. Also, his policies are over-rated. Sad. AC & MOB
12. George W. Bush (2001-2009)
The affable younger Bush never ranks highly in these lists and… well, do we need to justify this one? The invasion of Iraq, notwithstanding, he had already turned a surplus into a defecit by the time of 9/11 and his slow, baffled response to Hurricane Katrina proved he was anything but fit for the job. America lost its stature of respect across the world where most people could not have imagined this man getting re-elected, much less, surviving another four years without impeachment. And yet, he hung on, leaving the US in the ‘mess’ Trump thinks Obama brought about. It’s easy to criticize Bush though, so for the sake of some balance, we should note that his Medicaid package has proved very popular and PEPFAR has made him nothing short of a hero to Africans, even if it was at the cost of the American taxpayer. AC
11. Gerald Ford (1974-1977)
The ghosts of John Tyler, Millard Fillmore, Andrew Johnson, and Chester Arthur welcomed a new member to their exclusive club on August 9, 1974, the equally unexceptional, equally un-elected, Gerald Ford. It’s hard to postulate as to whether Ford would have ever considered running for president but there is no doubt that he inherited a poisoned chalice. Perhaps his biggest claim to fame came at the beginning of his presidency as he granted Richard Nixon a presidential pardon for the trials and tribulations of Watergate. This would set the tone for the next three years. Yet, many historians have credited Ford with strengthening the frayed fibers of the country through projecting a positive outlook for the American future. His foreign policy was marked by the signing of the Helsinki Accords, which aimed to strengthen the relations between Europe and the Soviet Union. Domestically, Ford struggled to work bilaterally with Democratic majorities in Congress, which tested his parliamentarian ability. Ford, unlike so many of his predecessors, was never destined for the White House. MOB
10. Jimmy Carter (1977-1981)
It pains me to put Jimmy Carter so far down the list. He’s my own personal favorite because I wrote my MA dissertation on him and he has the most moral fibre of any of these fellas (no shots fired during his time). He set a tone of restraint and fiscal conservatism for America, for energy conservation, and for the promotion of human rights internationally. While this may have seemed amicable on the surface; combined with his unfruitful relations with the Democratic base, it only served to corroborate the popular image of him as a weak leader. This, along with the Hostage Crisis, paved the way for a resurgence of the Right in 1980 and his eventual defeat. Carter’s batting average with Congress, on the otherhand, was not bad but many of his measures and examples for the country (including solar panels on the White House) were promptly abandoned in the following administration. Thankfully though, he has gone on to boast perhaps the finest post-presidency. AC
9. John F. Kennedy (1961-1963)
The iconography will never be dispelled but I’m sorry, the ‘what if he had survived…’ postulation is not enough to have him deemed a great president. Man landed on the moon by the close of that decade and yes, the Cuban Missile Crisis was resolved but Kennedy merely made an epic speech in the former’s case and with the latter, helped spark the fuse in the first place with the Bay of Pigs operation. I like him and the image of his presidency remains a great inspiration for many politicians today but I’m sorry, he’s over-rated. There’s no two ways about it. AC
9. Richard M. Nixon (1969-1974)
For Richard Nixon, it was nearly a case of “always the bridesmaid, never the bride.” He had served as Eisenhower’s VP for eight years, and lost out to JFK in the Presidential election of 1960. Yet, he emerged as perhaps one of the most misunderstood presidents in U.S. history. There is no doubt that if you remove Watergate from the equation, Nixon would rank higher. Tricky Dicky assumed control of a country that was deeply bifurcated. Nixon’s domestic record is chequered, yet while he is credited with the progressive initiatives of ‘New Federalism,’ such as Affirmative Action, he is criticized for his economic policy in which inflation drastically increased during his time in office. Unequivocally, his greatest achievement lay in his foreign diplomacy as he opened a previously moribund diplomatic channel with China, and simultaneously eased tensions with the Soviet Union through Détente. Nixon also had to deal with the national dilemma of Vietnam, exercising a policy of Vietnamization. While this was an admirable move, the Christmas bombing campaign in 1972 would set a morose tone for the remainder of his presidency. MOB
7. Harry Truman (1945-1953)
When Truman took over from FDR, he had only been vice-president for three months and had no prior knowledge of the Manhattan Project. He had big shoes to fill and daunting decisions to make; perhaps the toughest of any US president. He’s often ranked highly in these lists for that reason as well as setting the tone for US morale and policy in the Cold War, with the Berlin Airlift, Marshall Plan, and Domino Theory. From an outside perspective, these measures can be interpreted as a signs of an increasing American aggression however. The Atomic Bomb and Korean War too, while necessary to many, are hotly contended by others as sinful acts. In my opinion, the former may never have been needed to defeat Japan (they were on the verge of surrender) but Truman saw no need for further American loss (and a sneaky chance to show Russia what’s what). For that reason, he is a patriot but his values of leadership elsewhere are (let’s say) controversial. AC
6. Dwight D. Eisenhower (1953-1961)
Dwight Eisenhower can be cast in the old American romanticism of a military hero turned Commander in Chief. A denizen of European battlefields, Eisenhower was a progressive Republican that continued the legacies of both the New Deal and the Fair Deal, which placated Congress. His domestic policy advanced the Social Security Program and increased the minimum wage while creating the Interstate Highway System. He brought an end to the Korean War and strengthened the mandate of NATO. Ike fostered a staunch anti-communist policy both at home and overseas with various counter-communist CIA operations. Through the ‘Red Scare’ anti-communist sentiment reached fever pitch, aided by the unchecked actions of Senator Joseph McCarthy who was only silenced when he targeted a sacred U.S. institution, the Army. Eisenhower also loses face for the apathetic national implementation of Brown Vs. Board of Education Supreme Court ruling, which found that segregated schools were unconstitutional. MOB
5. William Jefferson Clinton (1993-2001)
Clinton’s sexual forays remain much of what he is remembered for, unfortunately. The context in which his impeachment arose, however,sheds light on the environment of Washington at the time. Much like Obama, his was a presidency mired by what Hillary referred to as a ‘vast right-wing conspiracy.’ Unlike Obama however, he managed to eventually hammer out a relationship with New Gingrich and the Republican-run Congress, leading to a productive if unintersting string of bills tackling issues like crime. In terms of foreign policy, he is remembered for early blunders in Somalia and failing to act more decisively in Bosnia and Rwanda, but he even found his footing there, leading a substantive effort in the late ’90s in Kosovo. Plus, the country was left with its first surplus since Truman and the North American Free Trade Agreement. It was a time of steady progress which brought America into the Globalized Information Age. AC
4. Ronald Reagan (1981-1989)
“You know there’s a ten-year delay in the Soviet Union on the delivery of an automobile…,” so went the intro to one of Ronald Reagan’s Soviet jokes. Known as the ‘Great Communicator,’ Reagan’s rhetoric resonated with the average American. Inheriting a rotten economy, Reagan went about his policy of supply-side fiscal reform, appeasing many while neglecting minorities. The detriment of ‘Reagenomics’ later manifest in swollen national debt that was bequeathed to H.W. Bush. Foreign policy under Reagan rapidly evolved to establish America as the only dominant global force. Military spending was increased in tandem with the Reagan Doctrine. The faux-pas of the Iran Contras damaged the reputation of the president and exposed the ugly, insidious actions of political back-channeling. However, through escalated efforts to tackle the de-escalation of tensions, Reagan and Gorbachev signed the ground-breaking INF Treaty, eliminating short and intermediate range missiles. A man who, even by his own admissions, was not the brightest, shone like a beacon for many Americans who believed that he had instilled a sense of pride and reignited the flames of patriotism. Just as with JFK, image was important to the successes of Reagan. His unique eloquence restored a nations confidence in an office that had lost all credibility. MOB
3. George H.W. Bush (1989-1993)
By 1992, the elder Bush’s image was one of a jaded veteran fazed by the economic troubles of the MTV generation. Perceptions change however. Historians now, have come to recognize the importance of a steady hand like his in a time of great international upheaval. When the Berlin Wall fell, he acted cautiously, mindful of the consequences this left for Gorbachev. When the more militant hearts called for an invasion of Iraq after the liberation of Kuwait, he thoughtfully withdrew, claiming the mission had been accomplished. When a recession encroached, he put the country ahead of his own political credit, abandoning his pledge to not raise taxes while working with Democrats. And while it may be hard to envisage such a policy with a Republican today, he actually passed a Clean Air Act. In a word- underrated. AC
2. Barrack Obama (2009-2017)
A popular sentiment that emerged in the aftermath of Obama’s historic election in November 2008, was that America had transitioned to post-racial era. This, of course, has not been the case. Elected on a wave of optimism and hope, Obama would face vicious partisanship with a Republican controlled Capitol. Obama initially took the pragmatic approach, but later was forced to use executive powers as he tried to implement his agenda. A historic stimulus package was signed within his first two months of his presidency, much to the chagrin of his friends in the emerging Tea Party. There can be no doubting that his Magnum Opus, the Affordable Health Care Act, is now deeply in jeopardy, and with it, a large portion of his presidential legacy. Obama has been criticized as being weak on foreign policy issues; Benghazi, Russia, Syria, and yet he excelled in restoring diplomatic relations with Cuba, and reaching agreements with China to substantially reduce carbon emissions. We at the Walrus are admirers of Obama, not quite in the same category as the doughy-eyed former VP, Joe Biden, though. Through his presidency, he exemplified integrity speaking to Americans as if they were adults rather than children – perhaps an error, retrospectively. MOB
1. Lyndon Johnson (1963-1969)
There was almost immediate consensus in establishing LBJ as the number one on this list– particularly when we decided that FDR wouldn’t feature because it just simply wouldn’t be fair. In recent years, there has been a rekindling of LBJ’s presidency in television series, and films, namely relating to his landmark racial domestic policies. First the Civil Rights Act of 1964, followed by the commensurate Voting Rights Act in 1965. While some historians are critical of Johnson’s motives, I believe that he was a moral man (at least in regards to civil rights), who had seen the perniciousness of segregation first hand as a school teacher in Texas. Johnson was a spectacular bully, who, unlike Ford when he inherited the White House in freak circumstances, could assert his dominance over just about anybody. The legacy of his domestic agenda was the herculean vision of the Great Society. This encompassed many socially progressive streams such as the War on Poverty, and a plethora of Welfare programs. Johnson’s vision was to provide Americans in need with a hand up, not a handout. The Vietnam War dominated Johnson’s foreign policy and rapidly escalated through his presidency. It remains the major black mark on his presidential record, and discouraged him from seeking re-election in 1968. MOB