From Reader MadJack:
I saw this question on Quora and was intrigued.
“What is the biggest mistake a U.S. President has ever made?”
The number one answer was Watergate, but I’m not so sure I agree with that. I’d be interested to know what you and your readers think — most know more about history than I do, and that includes the parts I lived through.
In modern times, I’d have to say it was George H.W. Bush, who broke his “No New Taxes” promise to the electorate. That mistake cost him a second term and (coupled with Ross fucking Perot) put Bill Bastard Clinton into the White House in 1993.
The other huge mistake was Harry Truman’s acceptance of the United Nations onto U.S. soil, but I’m not sure whether he could have done much to stop it even had he wanted to. He could have refused to sign the Charter — as a Republican president of the time might surely have done — but he went along with it partly from his own conviction and partly because it was a cornerstone of the saintly FDR’s legacy.
One more presidential mistake to consider was JFK’s refusal to allow the U.S. Air Force (or any other branch) to support the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba. I know people will say that the USSR might have intervened, but any scrutiny of the history of the time will show that the Commies didn’t have the military capacity to project power that far into the Western Hemisphere, and there was no way they would have used a preemptive nuclear strike against the U.S.A. just to protect Cuba. But Kennedy’s reluctance, coupled with his disastrous meeting with Kruschev a few months later, did embolden the Soviets to start installing medium-range missiles in Cuba, which in turn led to the Cuban Missile Crisis. While Kennedy did redeem himself on that one by standing up to the Soviets, it was a problem largely of his own making. (One wonders how Urkel Obama would have responded to Kruschev’s ploy… no, I don’t wanna think about it.)
By the way, Watergate was a huge blunder for Nixon — the cover-up was, anyway — but I think Gerald Ford’s preemptive pardon of Nixon was an even bigger one, because it put Jimmy Shitforbrains Carter into the White House in 1977.
Readers are encouraged to add their suggestions in Comments. I’m not an expert on pre-20th century U.S. presidents by any standards, so I’d like to hear thoughts on that era especially.