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IPFS News Link • American History

Who Is The WOAT President?

•, by Tom Rabbe via

Every category has a greatest of all time. And while it makes for pregnant discussion, it does get a little exhausting arguing whether Michael Jordan or LeBron James is the GOAT of pro basketball. Whether Tom Brady earns such a monicker, or if the designation should go to Joe Montana or, now, after his Super Bowl LVIII triumph, Patrick Mahomes. And then, a couple of weeks ago, two GOAT football coaches left their jobs on the same day, Nick Saban and Bill Belichick — one voluntarily, the other not — and everything in the media was GOAT, GOAT, GOAT — all GOAT all the time.

As I said … exhausting. 

I think it's time to give a different category a little exposure — the WOAT (worst of all time).

This is a more restrictive discussion, because we must choose a category in which participants are limited. You could not really acclaim any single major league baseball player as the worst of all time because the pool of qualified candidates numbers in the thousands. You might get away with designating the worst NFL quarterback of all time, but even then, the contenders are legion, some of whom are unknown even to the cognoscenti. For every Ryan Leaf, there might be a truly el-stinko backup QB for the 1947 Chicago Cardinals whose name everybody has forgotten.

No, the category has to be pretty narrow. The Supreme Court might be fertile ground, as the number of justices is limited, but apart from legal scholars, who can name any justices from, say, the 1870s? Vice presidents? Possibly, but it's difficult to tell which is good or bad, much less the worst, as they don't do anything to begin with. And besides, it's impossible to totally obliterate recency bias in that contest (Kamala would win in a landslide). Senators? You'd have a 500-way tie for first place.

On this Presidents Day weekend, as we honor our chief executives of past and present, the only category that makes sense is president of the United States. There are, after all, only 45 of them.

We can eliminate certain presidents who so briefly held office as to be more forgettable than awful. Zachary Taylor was in office for a mere year and a half, which was a lifetime compared to the tenures of William Henry Harrison (he delivered the longest inaugural address in history, only to serve the shortest period of time in office, 31 days) and James Garfield (199 days).