Lately, political junkies have been in heaven. It seems like a new political scandal breaks out almost every hour. Over the last couple of weeks, we have been treated to the following disclosures: Vice-Presidential aide Scooter Libbys perjury conviction, the Walter Reed Hospital deficiencies in care for wounded soldiers, accusations of U.S. government funds being funneled to Sunni groups with terrorist ties, millions of Iraqis leaving war-torn Iraq for Syria and Jordan (our administration doesnt acknowledge a refugee problem), the callous treatment of Iraqis who have put their lives on the line by working with the U.S. Government, word from some soldiers that the U.S. military is sending injured troops back to Iraq, Halliburton moving its headquarters to Dubai, the mid-term firing of U.S. attorneys for political reasons, and... whew, thats enough for now.
Before getting too carried away, the scandals must be put in perspective. The following are the most corrupt presidencies to-date (in reverse order):
(10) John Adams. Just before leaving office, Adams created dozens of new judgeships by appointing judges loyal to his party. Sounds familiar, doesnt it?
(9) Bill Clinton. Travel-gate, Haircut-gate, Lincoln bedroom, Whitewater and even Monica Lewinsky hardly seem worthy of scandal status compared to the recent scandals. Yet, Slick Willie still deserves a place on this list due to the continual claims of improprieties raised during his two terms.
(8) Andrew Johnson. Beside Clinton, the only other president impeached was Johnson. Acquitted by a single vote in the Senate, the real scandal was the Republicans who tried to punish the president for his lack of vindictiveness against the South.
(7) Thomas Jefferson. In the election of 1804, Jeffersons opponents attempted to smear his name by accusing him of a love affair with a slave named Sally Hemmings. Jefferson dismissed his opponents tirades and won the election easily. Two hundred years later, DNA testing proved some of Hemmings descendents are, in fact, related to Jefferson.
(6) John F. Kennedy. Speaking of affairs, Kennedy earned a spot due to his incredible ability to rotate women in and out of the Lincoln bedroom without public suspicion until recent revelations.
(5) Warren G. Harding. Shortly after Harding moved into the White House, millions were stolen from the V.A. hospitals. His attorney general was soon implicated in fraud. In the famous Teapot Dome Scandal, Hardings Interior Secretary received kickbacks for drilling on Federal lands. Most impressive of all, Harding reached this notorious position on the list despite serving only about two-and-a-half years as president.
(4) George W. Bush. As with Clinton, sheer quantity of scandals gives him a prominent place on this list. If it is eventually proved that lies launched the invasion of Iraq or that top Bush officials are responsible for illegal torture practices that have scarred the U.S. image abroad for generations, then this administration will easily leap-frog to number one on the list.
(3) Ulysses S. Grant. Maybe the greatest of U.S. military generals, Grant was one of our worst presidents. Financial kickbacks to Federal officials were commonplace. The Whiskey Ring Scandal siphoned off millions in taxes for Grants personal secretary. The Robber-Barons earned huge fortunes with openly corrupt business practices. Grant himself wasnt greedy. His problem was gross incompetence.
(2) Ronald Reagan. Reagans administration allowed mid-level officials to launch major foreign policy initiatives and set up a secret army without any Congressional over-site. By allowing arms for hostages deals, the Teflon President placed the lives of Americans abroad in greater danger. The Iran-Contra Scandal rightfully resulted in convictions for several Reagan officials, but most were overturned by legal technicalities or presidential pardons.
(1) Richard Nixon. Only one self-evident word needs be uttered to describe the king of political scandals: Watergate. The break-in of the Democratic headquarters itself was a relatively minor case. The administration cover-up and other crimes found during the Watergate investigation led to jail terms for many administration officials. Nixon, of course, resigned in disgrace.