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I Lived Through Johnson, Nixon And Bush. Trump Showed Me It Can Always Get Worse

America will survive Trump, just as she has survived incompetents before from James Buchanan to Warren G. Harding to George W. Bush.

12/21/2017 10:10 EST | Updated 12/22/2017 09:17 EST

As we approach the end of Donald Trump's first year as U.S. president, I have to admit to an ongoing feeling of pessimism.

I'd like to think that Mr. Trump is an anomaly, a feckless one-off in the long and often-storied history of the American presidency. I want to believe that come Jan. 20, 2021, we will see the last of Trump and we can welcome a sensible, qualified adult to take up residence in the White House. Yet, my personal presidential relationships strongly suggest otherwise.

Handout . / Reuters
President Lyndon B. Johnson in an undated photo.

It all began back in the 1960s. As a teenager growing up in Northern New York State, I hated Lyndon Johnson. Although he managed to accomplish some worthwhile things, I will always remember him for the tragedy that was the Vietnam War.

Despite receiving sensible advice to get out, Johnson instead escalated the war and did so based on a lie: the so-called Gulf of Tonkin incident. He dismissed the anti-war critics, marchers and demonstrators and was primarily responsible for the deaths of more than 58,000 American troops and countless Vietnamese. I couldn't imagine that I would ever feel that strongly about an American president again.

Well it didn't take long to disabuse me of that notion. In short order, I managed to work up an even stronger dislike for Johnson's successor: Richard Nixon. A man who promised to end the Vietnam War deliberately dragged it out for years resulting in thousands more unnecessary deaths.

UIG via Getty Images
President Richard Nixon.

But that wasn't the key to my dislike of the man. It was Watergate that revealed the vindictive, paranoid, power-hungry man who qualified for my new level of post-Johnson contempt. I truly hated Richard Nixon even more than Lyndon Johnson but once again hoped that Tricky Dick marked the end of my presidential animosity.

For decades, my hope was realized. Although I wasn't always a fan of the five succeeding presidents, I can't say that I hated any of them. Even Ronald Reagan with his debt-defying economic nonsense was hard to dislike given his avuncular character.

The two-term reign of George W. Bush brought back all my memories of presidential dislike. Never did I think that I could hate a president more than I hated Richard Nixon, but Bush proved me wrong.

Carlo Allegri / Reuters
Former U.S. President George W. Bush.

Here was a man who was handed the White House by a right-leaning Supreme Court and then governed recklessly as if he had won a landslide. Worse than that, he was asleep at the switch prior to 9-11, implemented huge tax giveaways for the rich, entered into a senseless war in Iraq and brought the United States to the brink of financial ruin.

Bush's policies were, for the most part, ill-considered and disastrous. Not only did they put him in the running for worst president ever, they led me to hate him more than any of his predecessors. Surely he was the final candidate for most-hated president in my lifetime.

Sadly, I have been proven wrong yet again, and the proof is in the person of Donald J. Trump, the president who would be king. In one short year, he has become not only my most-hated president, but also the most feared.

NICHOLAS KAMM via Getty Images
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to the press at the White House in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 14, 2017.

The extent of Trump's incompetence, arrogance, immorality, narcissism, pettiness and any of a dozen other objectionable characteristics puts him number one on my list of despised U.S. presidents. Since we are already a year into his reign, I can't imagine my assessment will improve over time.

America will survive Trump, just as she has survived incompetents before from James Buchanan to Warren G. Harding to George W. Bush. But my concern is that the trend is not encouraging.

Who would have imagined even five years ago that America would be burdened with the likes of Donald Trump as president? I kept thinking it couldn't get any worse, but it did, again and again. Who's next: Roy Moore, Mike Pence, Howdy Doody? I no longer discount any crazy possibility in a country where truly anybody can become president. All I can do now is cross my fingers and hope for the best.

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