This week my party will offer America some R and R from the roiling economy.
During the grand old party, speakers will extol the proud history of the GOP: Lincoln, Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Reagan. As the son of a Republican, the grandson of a Republican, and great-grandson of Republican all the way back to the Civil War, I hope Mr. Romney will be worthy of those men.
Forgotten will be the fact that the Republican nominee has not always been . . . worthy of monuments. In the interest of fairness, I have forced myself to recall my least favorite five nominees of the Republican Party. Some nominees were a mixed bag in office, like U.S. Grant, but Grant helped defeat the Confederacy and save the Union. We can be proud he was a Republican and understand how he was our standard-bearer twice.
It is hard to know what the Party was thinking with the next five men.
In fifth place is William Howard Taft, the second time. Taft was a man with a judicious and not an executive temper.
The Party clearly wanted to nominate Theodore Roosevelt again, but Taft took rejection personally and used the Party machine to stop the Bull Moose. Roosevelt predictably split the party and beat Taft in the general election, but lost to Woodrow Wilson. Wilson, my pick for the worst president of the twentieth-century, managed to blow victory in World War I. Wilson gave the Democrats and his overt racism power for eight years, a result for which my great-grandfather never forgave Mr. Roosevelt . . .but by coming in second Roosevelt made his point.
The nation did not want Taft.
In fourth place, is James G. Blaine. Mr. Blaine managed to be the first Republican nominee after Lincoln to never be President. He had been Speaker of the House, but so corrupt that he was called “the tattooed man” . . . covered with his own scandals. His loss revived the hopes of the Democrats that they could be a national party.
In third place, is Chester Arthur, a man who proves you must care about the who gets the vice-presidential nomination. Paired with the godly hero Garfield, he was manifestly unfit for the presidency by experience and character and was being hidden in the nearly useless vice-presidental nomination. Any mayor of a city over one-hundred thousand with a criminal record has better qualifications for the nomination.
He does not rank higher, however, because the GOP lucked out and Arthur passed Civil Service Reform and was only a waste and not a crook in the White House.
Second place must be Richard M. Nixon. Mr. Nixon lost to John F. Kennedy and then harmed the Party more deeply by winning. He was bright and in many areas did a good job, but his personal demons made him unfit to be President. We discovered the Constitution worked and he had the dignity to resign before forcing removal on Congress, so the damage was limited. His flaws were not hard to see and we never should have nominated him in the first place.
The worst nominee for the GOP was Warren G. Harding, because he won. Manifestly unfit to run his own life, let alone a country, he was a hapless President whose best act was dying in office. The Party had plenty of talent, but put winning over governing and ended up winning and governing badly.
This is predictable.
So this week I will remember to put no trust in princes and realize that for every Lincoln, we nominate a Harding.