America’s Stupidest Presidents

The Decider

The Decider

People claim George W. Bush is the most stupid man ever to be elected president.   My response is,”define stupid.“  True, Bush must have the lowest I.Q of anybody who has infested the Oval Office, but having a high I.Q doesn’t make one smart.   Bill Clinton could do the New York Times crossword puzzle in a minute and a half flat, but he wasn’t as smart as Warren G. Harding.   Harding was bright enough to take his mistresses into the Oval Office closet.

In honor of eight years of utterly unenlightened leadership, let’s take a trip back in time and visit other stupid presidents.

His Rotundity The Second President of the United States

His Rotundity The Second President of the United States

John Adams

John Adams was both a Royalist and a Puritan at heart.   Adams wanted the President to have the same pomp and trappings as the king of England.   We can blame him for the imperial presidencies. Adams wrote extensively on how American Constitutional law fit into Puritan predestination.   We can blame Adams for the Puritan Work Ethic finding its way into our legal system as well as the President’s unconstitutional role as religious leader.  It was John Adams who first realized that capitalism was a dandy way for God to show us who was going to heaven.   If God granted you wealth, you were heaven bound.

Of all the Founders, Adams had the strangest twist on American Independence.  He did not wish to be free of the King, he simply wanted to be free of Parliament.   His argument was that since America was a crown colony, Parliament had no authority to tax Americans.  That one stood as the weirdest argument in American jurisprudence until Bill Clinton tried to prove that fellatio wasn’t sex.

Adams was a Royalist through and through.  As Vice President he was determined to make the Senate a hereditary position.   Loathing the title Mr. President, he tried to change it to “His Majesty the President”, or (my favorite) “His High and Mightiness, The President”.  By all accounts, Adams made himself such a pain that the Senate called him “Your Rotundity”.

Adams believed that God showed the world who was the true aristocracy by willing people to become rich. He called it the natural aristocracy.   Taking a look at Barbara Bush’s most stupid kid, we can only presume that the natural aristocracy has become as inbred as the European species.

What Do You Mean We Won?

What Do You Mean We Won?

Ulysses S. Grant

I don’t know what to make of U.S. Grant.  The man wasn’t a leader; he was a born follower.   His parents named him Hiram Ulysses Grant, but he was renamed Ulysses S. Grant through a bureaucratic mistake that he didn’t bother to correct.  Then everybody started calling him Sam.  Grant was never a big smoker until the Civil War, when he felt he had to smoke all the cigars admirers kept sending him. His wife kept him away from booze until he was stationed away from her.  Then he just sort of drifted into alcoholism.  Grant sort of drifted through life with very little effort of his own.

Some believe Grant had Asperger’s Syndrome or some other autism spectrum disorder because of his uncanny talent for tactics.  He retreated when other generals would attack and attacked when other generals would retreat.  He either pressed his advantage in hopeless situations and exploited a hole in the South’s strategy nobody else saw, or he inexplicably retreated and saved his forces from a trap nobody else could see coming.   It was this talent that made him a successful general, even if he did faint at the sight of blood.

Too bad his talent didn’t warn him away from The White House.   As a President, Grant was a disaster. Unable to choose competent people for his cabinet or staff, he couldn’t even hire a decent chef.  Every member of his cabinet got caught taking bribes, influence peddling, and embezzling.  His own personal secretary was arrested for embezzling thousands of dollars. While this went on, foreign dignitaries were treated to army cooking. Grant set a precedent by pardoning everybody including the cook, who also embezzled.

Thanks to the corruption in his Cabinet, Reconstruction became a criminal’s wonderland. Gold speculation led to the US’s first bank failure and stock market crash. To give the man credit, Grant did try to provide justice for the freed slaves.  However, he utterly failed in his attempt to provide justice to the conquered Native Americans.  Grant handed the Bureau of Indian Affairs over to the Quaker Church, and their attempt to convert the Native Americans led to bloody revolts and fueled the Ghost Dance.

Grant died penniless from throat cancer.  His own son conned him out of his life savings.  In those days before Presidential pensions, Gen. and Mrs. Grant would have died in the streets had it not been for Mark Twain.   He took them in, fed them, and paid Grant’s doctor’s bill in return for publishing rights to Grant’s memoirs.  Grant died days after he finished the project. Twain gave the widow Grant 75% of the profits and only took 25%.  Fortunately for Twain, the book became immensely popular. Twain retired to Europe on the proceeds.

Not While My Wife Is Home

Not While My Wife Is Home

Warren G. Harding

“He writes the worst English that I have ever encountered. It reminds me of a string of wet sponges; it reminds me of tattered washing on the line; it reminds me of stale bean soup, of college yells, of dogs barking idiotically through endless nights. It is so bad that a sort of grandeur creeps into it. It drags itself out of the dark abysm of pish, and crawls insanely up the topmost pinnacle of posh. It is rumble and bumble. It is flap and doodle. It is balder and dash.”

So said journalist H.L. Mencken about President Warren G. Harding.   He was President after the first World War.  His slogan “Return to Normalcy” must have made poor Mencken cringe every time he heard it.   Normalcy was not a word until Harding made it up.   He claimed that he liked the sound of it better than Normality.   Harding has gone down in history as the first President to alter words for a campaign slogan.

Harding was the son of a newspaper publisher, and attempted to follow in his father’s footsteps.   I am sure that Harding’s father did his best.   Young Warren was simply born to fail.  He kept one of his newspapers going by having a spirited war of words against a rival publisher, Amos Hall Kling.   The stress of managing a newspaper was too much for young Harding.   By the time he was 24, he had checked himself into sanitariums three or four times for nervous disorders.

Success came unexpectedly to young Harding when Kling’s daughter, Florence Kling Dewolf decided to marry him and chased him until he relented.  Warren G. Harding could be compared to the fool in the Irish faerie tale who married his brains.  Mrs. Harding was also the child of a newspaper publisher, but unlike her husband, she had the ability to understand the business.  Within a year, Harding was a successful newspaper publisher.  This was not enough for Mrs. Harding. She wanted to be the power behind the throne in Washington DC.

In earlier posts I credited John F. Kennedy with running the first modern campaign.   I was wrong. The real credit goes to Florence Kling Dewolf Harding.  Florence Harding was the first to employ the full media in a political campaign.  She had movie cameras accompany her husband during campaigns. Harding may have so dumb he had to take off his pants to count to eleven, but he looked like a President. Florence made full use of that. Before Harding, a president could walk into any barber shop for a shave without being known.   Harding was the first President who was easily recognized by the public.   He was fabulously popular.

If Harding was content to simply let his wife handle things while he looked pretty for the cameras, he may have had one of the most successful presidencies in history.   His wife’s philosophy was to back away from foreign political entanglements that were coming out of the end of the first World War.  She was in favor of the League of Nations, but was more intent on rebuilding the war economy into a national prosperity economy.

Harding let his ego get in the way of his good sense and actually tried to become the President.   He insisted on writing his own speeches which encouraged H.L Mencken to say that love was blind, but in Mrs. Harding’s case it was deaf as well. Harding also made the same mistake that Grant made by inviting the guys he partied with into his cabinet and staff.  His administration became just as crooked Grant’s.  However, Harding’s biggest mistake was that he was a womanizer.   He had at least one child out of wedlock and at least one mistress blackmailing him since the time he was a senator.  Warren G. Harding died before the end of his first term.   There are many who suspect that a jealous Florence poisoned him.

I Choose Not To Run

I Choose Not To Run

Calvin Coolidge

There are many who would object to my placing Coolidge on a list of dumb presidents, and they do have a point.  Coolidge was a bright fellow with a great sense of humor.   When Dorothy Parker told Coolidge that she bet she could get him to say more than three words, Coolidge replied, “you lose” and refused to say another word for the rest of the dinner.

Then again, there are those who claim that old Cal was just barely smart enough to keep his mouth shut. That kept him from looking like the idiot he was. Those people also have a point.   As president, Coolidge refused to take action to prevent the Depression of 1929.  Coolidge refused to support labor, even though he was a champion of labor as the Governor of Massachusetts.  Coolidge claimed that labor was a state by state problem.  Coolidge refused to help the American farmer, claiming that it was a fact that farmers don’t make much money.   He also refused to take action against corporate crime. So when the disaster of 1929 hit, the government was totally unable to handle the crash.   By then, Coolidge was retired and it was Herbert Hoover’s problem.

Calvin Coolidge’s stupidity stemmed from a lack of vision.  Coolidge was unable to realize that the world had changed from the 19th Century.  The American frontier was officially closed, and the national economy had changed.  There was a new interdependency amongst the states that the federal government had to make some changes to meet.   In stubbornly holding on to the values of the nineteenth century, Coolidge created the Great Depression of 1929.   By adopting the values of the Coolidge era, Ronald Reagan created the conditions that led to the great depression of 2008.   How long is this going to go on before we learn our lessons?

I Was Not A Crook

I Was Not A Crook

Richard M. Nixon

There are many who felt that Nixon won the debates with Kennedy.   Nixon argued with facts and Kennedy replied with slogans.  Alas, Nixon in 1968 was not the man he was in 1960.   By 1968 a fine mind had been destroyed by alcohol.   By the time Nixon was elected, he was far into alcoholic paranoia.  The secret service had to watch him or he’d escape and go on a bender.   Nixon was once missing for three days and the nation never noticed.   The President of the United States was found in a greasy spoon in the worst neighborhood in DC.  He looked and smelled just as bad as the rest of the derelicts.

That was the birth of the modern presidency.  Bob Haldeman and John Erlichman had the easiest three days of their lives.  The government actually worked better without Nixon getting in the way.  So when the Republicans regrouped after the Carter victory, they decided to select a president who would sit quietly in front of the TV until they needed him to make a speech.  Ronald Reagan was the obvious choice.

You Mean This Is Not The Screen Actor's Guild?

You Mean This Is Not The Screen Actor's Guild?

Ronald Reagan

There is something intrinsically dirty about the Reagan presidency.   The poor man was steadily losing his faculties.   He was not competent to do the job.   He once said on camera that he just read his scripts. That a sick person was so blatantly exploited represents the worst of modern politics.   A cabal that could do that is capable of doing anything.

How We Wish

How We Wish

George W. Bush

If I were George Herbert Walker Bush, I would blame little Georgie W on the milkman.   The abysmal stupidity of the man is makes him the watermark for stupid presidents.   His administration was as religiously warped as John Adams, as corrupt as Grant or Harding’s, and as destructive as Nixon’s.  It was also as disastrous as Coolidge’s.  I think they ran him for President because he would be another Reagan.   They just hoped he would spend his time in the Oval Office farting in front of the interns. Unfortunately for the nation, Dubya let his ego get in the way, and he actually tried to do the job for which he was elected.   There is some amusement in thinking over the consternation he caused amongst his handlers when he refused to sign the Financial Ethics Bill or insisted that infernal and forgettable woman be appointed to the Supreme Court.  Then again, who says that his handlers were any smarter?

Despite my distrust of Barrack Obama and his connection to Chicago machine politics, it will be a distinct pleasure to have a President who speaks English.  The economy may fall deeper into a depression, American jobs may continue to find their way to the Mysterious East, American troops may rock and roll through Iran, but at least our new President can pronounce nuclear.   That in itself is a blessing.  During times when homelessness is a bigger national disgrace than it was during the Depression of 1929, we have to take what blessings we can find.

20 Comments on “America’s Stupidest Presidents”

  1. Michael says:

    Well done! Great post.

  2. That was a pleasure to read. This is a blog I will have to read over and over again because there is so much the check out. Thanks Bill, and I do hope you feel better.

    The real question is whether or not you trust Obama more than Paris…. she runs with a pretty rough crowd herself.

  3. […] In short: I sincerely recommend each and everyone interested in  US  wit and policies to visit and enjoy “America’s stupidest presidents“. […]

  4. I cant stop laughing, great post

  5. Why then is Ulysses S. Grant on the $50.

  6. Harvey says:

    Just dropping by.Btw, you website have great content!

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  7. billdunlap says:

    Why is Grant on the Fifty? Because it was easier to do that than to ignore him.

  8. Some 13 year old kid somewhere.... says:

    Something’s really messed up here but I can’t pinpoint it!

    JOHN ADAMS, REAGAN, COOLIDGE, and GRANT should DEFINITELY not be on the list of worst presidents!
    I think Obama has however already made it!

    Was Clinton really enlightened?
    Or was he just enlightening Monica!

    So I guess you think Carter was an intellectual genius!

    Oh I hope your a happy, grumpy old man!!!

  9. billdunlap says:

    13 Year Old Kid,

    Sooner or later you are going to learn that public school history lies. Most of the time. I notice that you don’t disagree with me about Harding. Most high school history writers want to forget that he exists.

    To give you the credit you deserve, you have an argument when it comes to Grant and Coolidge. As I stated, General Grant was a genius, but President Grant was a moron. It is very hard to do posthumous diagnosis, but there are many indications that Grant was Autistic. He was a savant when it came to tactics and strategy, but he had no people smarts. His own son took him for everything he had.

    Coolidge may not deserve to be on my list except for his total lack of vision. The world was changing and his failure to change with it resulted in the depression of 1929. At the same token, Reagan had Alzheimer’s. Doctors in Europe use his later movies and his early speeches to point out the symptoms of early onset Alzheimer’s. Poor Reagan was a tool of the very people who are now receiving bail-out money.

    Adams was such a pain-in-the-butt that his contemporaries drove him out of politics. He laid out the foundations of president as religious leader and emperor. He did America no favors.

    Clinton was an outright crook. I have stated so all through this blog. I am proud to have voted for Carter. He was the last of the great American statesmen. When Reagan defeated him it marked the end of human rights in America.

  10. ProfessorZed says:

    “When Dorothy Parker told Coolidge that she bet she could get him to say more than three words, Coolidge replied, “you lose” and refused to say another word for the rest of the dinner.”

    Now that joke I saw on SCTV makes more sense.

    It was the episode where the SCTV satellite had been knocked out of orbit, and the broadcast taken over by ‘3CP-1’, a Soviet satellite/ channel. John Candy, Martin Short, Eugene Levy, etc. became soviet characters in a Soviet parody / imitation of North American television.

    In one of the skits, a character comes up to John Candy and says “Hey Yuri, I bet you twenty rubles I can make you say three words!”

    Yuri smiles triumphantly and says “You lose!”

    Then moments later Yuri reluctantly fishes through his pockets and hands over a twenty ruble note, mumbling “Comrade”.

  11. Eric H. says:

    John Adams did no favors for his country? Wow. I’ll admit that the Alien and Sedition Acts were a huge misstep, but to say that one of the Founding Fathers did not help the country is a bit ridiculous. Was he a pain in the butt? Certainly, but where is it stated that being a nuisance is the same as being wrong.

    Also, as a public school teacher I agree that somethings are left out of the text books, but I, like most teachers I know, look beyond the book for our lessons. The textbooks contain only the most vital information to get a picture of this country as whole, they are not meant to showcase trivial issues like Adams’ argument about the President’s title. I use information like that to spice up a lecture, not as the main point. Adams shouldn’t be remembered for things like that. Remember his role in the Declaration of Independence and the creation of this country.

  12. billdunlap says:

    With all due respect, Eric, you have put your finger on a major flaw in our public education system. American history is taught a propaganda. I find this to be as utterly wrong as evolution in biology class. The truth of the matter is that Adams was a royalist. He reluctantly agreed to support the Declaration of Independence after George III supported Parliament’s right to tax the colonies.

    As president, Adams gave the royalist faction the entire shop. The royalists were the largest faction at the time. Aaron Burr killed the progressive democrats when he killed Hamilton. John Adams set the stage for the imperial presidencies of Grant, Nixon, and Bush the younger. Under Adams, the president became a religious leader in imitation of the British monarch. Many members of the cabinet were Congregationalist ministers, and they were as hard core crazy as today’s Assembly of God. Adams worked with John Jay to establish British Common Law as a means to circumvent the Constitution. Thanks to the Sedition Act we have the precedents that allowed the McCarthy hearings and the Homeland Security Act.

    We need to teach history as it was so that we stop making the same mistakes over and over again.

  13. altonio says:

    Your take on Grant, not a great president, but still one of the greatest men in US history — and a significant literary figure — is so idiotic that, should you one day ascend or descend to the presidency, you would blow away the competition for biggest idjit in the big, white Whorehouse.

    • billdunlap says:

      Altonio, as Elvis Presley once said, “The truth is like the sun, you can hide from it but it keeps on shining.” You can write any number of slanted history books praising Grant to the stars, but when push comes to shove, even his best friends called him a strange duck. His wife was more like a mother to him than partner. Even his greatest admirer, Mark Twain, was honest enough to say that Grant owed more to luck than to brilliance.

      I strongly suspect that if Grant were alive today he would be diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder and working for Bill Gates. This does not change any of the actual good he did, nor does it mean that he was ill intentioned. He was the right man in the right place, and Twain was also honest enough to admit that lucky or not, Grant was the man who put a stop to the Civil War.

  14. Hector says:


  15. Dan Nichols says:

    And Barack Obama…. only the worst domestic and foreign policy president to date! Who was calling the shots? Either he is responsible for every stupid decision he has made, or stupid for listening to his mentally deficient advisors. He is definitely a main reason for the disgrace this country has become during the past 5 years, and also for the betrayal of this country’s founding principles and accomplishments before that. He and his supporters don’t believe in God, so I can’t even wish that – God help them.

  16. Tom L. says:

    I think the only half-way decent president might have been George Washington, the rest were complete idiots. As stupid as the USA has been, other countries were worse and their leaders are beyond pathetic. So why hasn’t someone do the world a favor and nuke the planet into oblivion.

    • Bill Dunlap says:

      Except that George Washington got himself out of bankruptcy through abuse of his office. He and Hamilton forced a tax through Congress which made it impossible for the farmers of PA to compete with Washington’s whiskey stills. Washington stole the army whiskey from the little guy and then sent in the army when his competitors objected.

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