• In an effort to put an end to Britain and France’s policy of seizing American ships and sailors, Thomas Jefferson calls for an embargo.
The Result: 30,000 sailors put out of work; mercantile families bankrupted overnight; a nationwide economic depression; and the New England states, which depended heavily on international commerce, threaten to secede from the Union.
• To promote the doctrine of popular sovereignty, Franklin Pierce approves the repeal of the Missouri Compromise and permits residents of Kansas and Nebraska to decide whether their territories will admit slavery.
The Result: Dozens of settlers murdered; Lawrence, Kansas, burned and looted; John Brown elevated to the status of national hero among abolitionists; the country moves closer to civil war.
• Convinced the 20,000 men, women, and children of the Bonus Army were Communists and criminals, Herbert Hoover sends 600 crack troops, a detachment of cavalry, and five tanks to drive the protesters out of Washington.
The Result: 4 dead, including two infants; more than 1,000 injured; the Communist Party in America enjoys a public relations field day; Hoover is driven into political exile.
• In an effort to install a capitalist government in the Middle East, stabilize the region, and protect America from a possible Iraqi terrorist assault using weapons of mass destruction, George W. Bush orders the invasion of Iraq.
The Result: More than 4,000 American soldiers and personnel dead; estimated hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians dead; hundreds of billions of dollars spent; the torture of prisoners in the Abu Ghraib prison and the failure to find weapons of mass destruction leave American global credibility in tatters.
Thomas J. Craughwell has written about saints for the Wall Street Journal, Inside the Vatican, and Catholic Digest, among other national publications.
Thomas J. Craughwell is the author of several books, most recently How the Barbarian Invasions Shaped the Modern World, and Stealing Lincoln's Body. He has written articles on history, religion, politics, and popular culture for the Wall Street Journal, American Spectator, and U.S. News & World Report. He lives in Bethel, Connecticut.Journalist, lecturer, and historian M. William Phelps is the author of eleven books, including his most recent, Nathan Hale: The Life and Death of America's First Spy. He lives in Vernon, Connecticut.
“Thomas J. Craughwell has brought us presidents behaving execrably and what a great read it is. From George Washington's misadventure with taxing whiskey to another George W's decision to invade Iraq, this book captures chief executive miscalculation, malfeasance, and maladroitness in all its glory. We learn as much from our failures as our triumphs and we'll all learn a great deal from this enjoyable slice of living history.” —Joseph Cummins, author of The World’s Bloodiest History and The War Chronicles: From Flintlocks to Machine Guns
“…a fascinating, level-headed, and insightful look at the pratfalls that marked our leaders' march to destiny. Great stuff.” —Cormac O'Brien, author of The Forgotten History of America and Secret Lives of the U.S. Presidents