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Would Donald Trump Really Be The Worst U.S. President In History?

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Brendan McDermid / Reuters

Donald Trump looks to be the Republican presidential nominee. What started out last year as a joke has turned into a nightmare for many Americans. The possibility of the Donald occupying the White House is terrifying millions.

But is there reason to worry? Would President Trump be a disaster as so many have predicted? How bad could it be?

Rather than filling out forms for Canadian residency, Trumpophobes should take a chill pill and calm down. Chances are that four years of President Trump would not be that bad. Contrary to the conventional wisdom, Trump would probably not be the worst U. S. president of all time.

Cast your mind back over the last 200 years and you'll see that things could be (and, in fact, have been) worse. Think of President James Buchanan, a bumbling politician whose ineptitude helped bring on the American Civil War. Or consider Millard Fillmore whose very name suggests incompetence.

America is a great nation and has managed to survive all manner of presidential shortcomings. Despite the limitations of Lincoln's successor Andrew Johnson, the country persevered. And even the feckless corruption of the Warren G. Harding administration didn't destroy the republic.

Is Donald Trump worse than these presidential failures? Maybe, although he'd have to try awfully hard in order to underperform them all.

On my assessment of the current situation, I think Donald Trump would likely be one of the worst presidents of all time but probably not the absolute worst. In making that determination, I have employed what I call the Bushometer, an informal metric which measures a candidate's worth against the past performance of former president George W. Bush.

Whatever you think of Donald Trump, he did oppose the Iraq War, a hubristic debacle on the scale of the Vietnam War. Score one for Trump.

As for military service in Vietnam, Trump received a series of draft deferments whereas George W. Bush was given a cushy placement in the Texas Air National Guard yet still managed to go AWOL. Call this one a wash.

Trump claims great success as a businessman but has a mixed record. Still, it's a better record than Bush's which was dotted with failures and favouritism.

Financial management? Whatever Trump's shortcomings, he has managed to achieve a significant degree of wealth. In contrast, due to his financial mismanagement and the ill-conceived Iraq War, Bush left the country on the brink of economic collapse with a ten trillion-dollar debt.

Independent decision-making? Like Bush, Trump eschews intellectual enquiry and decides with his gut. However, for better or worse, Trump makes his gut-centric decisions independently unlike Bush who foolishly yielded control to the cabal of Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz.

Attention to detail? Trump may not be one for fleshed-out domestic and foreign policies but he does run an effective and efficient campaign. In contrast to Bush's pre-9/11, asleep-at-the-switch approach to presidential briefings, Trump scores marginally better.

Many Americans liked Bush for his down-home, anti-intellectual style. He was the guy you'd like to have a beer with. Although Donald Trump has a definite anti-intellectual appeal, he comes up short on the "regular guy" scale. Deduct a point or two on this count.

Thus, based on my Bushometer assessment of President Donald Trump, it looks like he wouldn't be more of a failure than George W. Bush. That's not to say he won't be but he'd have to make an extraordinary effort to do so.

So relax, America; you've suffered through incompetent (and, in some cases, even disastrous) presidents before and you'll likely do so again. Just as Lincoln cleaned up after Buchanan, FDR fixed Hoover's mess and Obama saved the country from Bush's mismanagement, someone will be able to fix whatever damage a President Trump might do.

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