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December 28, 2005
The Ten Worst Americans: The Explanation

In response to Alexandra's challenge at All Things Beautiful to name the Ten Worst Americans of All Time, I asked CQ readers to make their own suggestions as I considered the choices. Speaking from a historical perspective, it really is quite difficult to come up with a list of "worst Americans". Most of our history is spent pursuing what we did well, and our failures tend to get shoved under the carpet. Some people simply rise to the occasion, however, and our history has its fair share of the scandalous and the downright evil.

For my consideration, I decided that the status of American had to be part of their "crimes". In other words, simply picking someone like Ted Bundy or Charles Manson would be too easy. Their evil, though real and in most cases worse than what you'll read on this list, doesn't have to do with their innate American heritage. I went looking for the people who sinned against America itself, or the ideal of America. Otherwise, we'd just be looking at body counts.

I also tried to avoid picking contemporary political figures, as we do not have sufficient historical perspective to make that kind of determination. (I do have one exception to this.) Don't expect to see Harry Reid or Nancy Pelosi on this list, nor Teddy Kennedy or Bill Clinton.

A couple of people barely missed the list. Earl Warren came under strong consideration for his efforts to set up the Japanese internment camps, as did Chief Justice Taney for his concurrence in the cowardly and cruel Dred Scott decision. Someone suggested William Randolph Hearst, a yellow journalist of the first order, and that was very tempting.

In the end, I came up with ten that I think will be intriguing and provocative, and I wrote explanations for each. Below you will find posts in groups of three, except for #1 which will have its own spot. The essays make it too long to put into a single post. I'm going to really enjoy the commentary for each of these, and I think we will have a great debate over this -- and I may just surprise a few people.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at December 28, 2005 9:00 PM

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