The Bush League

Below the Beltway
"Elite" company: from left to right, James Buchanan, Franklin Pierce and Warren G. Harding.
By Gene Weingarten
Sunday, September 10, 2006

We in the media are sometimes accused of letting liberal bias subtly slip into our writing and reporting. That accusation is calumny. We are dispassionate observers and seekers of truth. All we do is ask questions.

Today's question: Is George W. Bush the worst president in American history?

An examination of this issue requires that we first consider possible alternatives. Historians pretty much agree on the three leading contenders, to date.

Franklin Pierce (1853-57)

Pro: Cinematically handsome.

Con: Bad hair.

Pro: High-spirited.

Con: Those spirits were mostly distilled alcohol, taken straight, in quantities that could incapacitate a hippo. When president, Pierce actually was arrested after running over an old woman with his carriage, most likely while soused. Died of cirrhosis.

Pro: Strong political convictions . . .

Con: . . . the strongest of which was about slavery. He thought it was swell. Pierce was elected because the Southern states thought he was the one Northerner they could trust, and he was. "Involuntary servitude is recognized by the Constitution," Pierce said, "and stands like any other admitted right."

Pro: Ambitiously, he wanted to annex Cuba . . .

Con: . . . because he wanted another slave state.

Greatest achievement: History books reveal that, during the Pierce presidency, "the first perforated postage stamp was used."

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