Right Wing News took it upon themselves last week to poll 100 bloggers from over 40 conservative websites about U.S. history. ‘Who were the worst Americans of all time?’ they asked.
Considering all the warmongers, murderers and rapists we’ve spawned, it could have been a difficult list to compose. But it rarely pays to overestimate the intelligence of right-wingers, they made it look easy. The top three slots were all American presidents. Democrats, of course. Above your Benedict Arnolds, Lee Harvey Oswalds and Alger Hisses, the wingnuts put FDR, Barack Obama and — number one — Jimmy Carter as the worst Americans who ever blighted our planet Earth.
This did not go well with a lot of folks. Towering stupidity rarely does. I mocked the sad little list here. Then I made a mental note to write a few words on the monsters and criminals the patriots omitted, and then spent all weekend on a lengthy (now annoying) piece I’m putting together on an especially curious right-wing hero (maybe later, if I don’t just chuck it and get on with my life).
So I went back to the original list for this post, but — oops — theirs had been deleted. I can’t imagine how pissed off all the college-educated Republicans who jumped onto the lengthy thread must feel. From the definitive pronouncements of geniuses on history’s national disgraces to a vacant webpage, all in a matter of a couple days. How sad.
Well, thanks to Google’s cache-ing, this Gem of Historical Analysis is not lost. It’s there above, right. You will notice how the conserva-storians, between Richard Nixon and John Wilkes Booth, crammed Jane Fonda, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi. Will anybody remember Pelosi’s name even 10 years from now? Why of course, because she is so very evil. I can’t find Harry Reid’s name in my “Lions of State” rolodex, right now, as I keep looking back at the list to remind myself, but Senator Kittyclaws has really done a number on America. Jane Fonda chokes our nation’s neck with a sturdy and stylish scarf as we speak.
Which brings us to this: How could 100 Americans of any stripe not consider these people?
—Lee Harvey Oswald
—James Earl Ray
–Spies like Jonathan Pollard and Robert Hanssen.
–Criminals and gangsters like Jesse James, Al Capone, and Lucky Luciano.
–Serial killers like Ted Bundy and John Wayne Gacy.
–Serial child molesters like Father John Geoghan and Dean Schwartzmiller.
–Sociopaths like Ted Kaczynski, John Muhammad and Lee Malvo.
–Spree shooters like James Huberty, Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris.
Now there’s a list of evil people. How did the wingnuts miss all of them? There are two more people that I would nominate. Why these men didn’t end up on the original, I think, is a little more obvious: These are their kinda guys. These two are still heroes to much of America’s right wing:
—Joseph McCarthy. A demagogue and political hack first, last and always. Lied about his World War II record to look good to voters. Said he’d flown dozens of missions though he’d flown 12, said he got wounded in battle when it was just a hazing incident, personally forged a ‘letter of commendation’ from Admiral Nimitz. Exploited Cold War hysteria by claiming he had a list of 200 (or 50 or 80) commies in the State Department. Never managed to prove a single one was, in fact, a Soviet plant. Created an atmosphere corrosive and paranoid, and it broke out of the Capitol and ran across the nation. Encouraged Americans to suspect their neighbors and co-workers, changing American life for the worse. Forced innocent people to testify in public hearings seen by millions, upended or ruined scores of careers. Accused anyone who opposed him or his methods, including Edward R. Murrow, of also being Communist. After 4 years of madness, the nation returned to its senses and came to despise the Wisconsin senator. He drank himself to death in less than another 4 years. Right-wingers like to claim he was right about the commies — several reports out of the former USSR showed there may have been 10 or more of his ‘names’ that were colluding with the Soviets. What they fail to realize is that McCarthy almost single-handedly destroyed America’s ability to figure that out. Unchecked rage and paranoia destroy perception and rational thought. ‘McCarthyism’ is still a poisonous pejorative to this day.
—Nathan Bedford Forrest. An unqualified military genius of the Civil War, revolutionizing cavalry tactics and strategy. Brave to the point of crazy. May have been built for war: when only twenty, killed two men and knifed two more in an act of blood revenge. Became a millionaire before the age of forty relying on two things: cotton farming, which the slaves did, and the buying and selling of commodities — his slaves. Joined the Confederacy, killed 30 men during the War. Refused to accept the surrender of dozens of mostly black Union soldiers at Fort Pillow, resulting in a massacre. While even letters from his soldiers bore the massacre’s fact out, he refused to acknowledge it, to his death. After the War, became the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, legitimizing America’s greatest and longest-lived terrorist organization. Stripped of his slaves, unable to continue his previous businesses, he ran a railroad and bankrupted it. Ran a prison. Became a great hero to the South after his death, spawning Forrest City, Arkansas, Forrest County, Mississippi, Nathan Bedford Forrest State Park in Tennessee, and the state’s naming July 13 “Nathan Bedford Forrest Day.” A bust of Nathan sits in the Tennessee State Capitol to this day. He’s an emblem of the sweet and sour nature of the memories of the Civil War and the South’s still wounded pride: a great warrior, but a horribly flawed American. Tennessee chooses to embrace Nathan as a “Defender of the South.” He defended a helluva lot more than that.