Monday, February 16, 2009

Going Insane

A fellow passenger videotaped a woman "going insane" after missing her San Francisco bound Cathay Pacific flight last week and posted it on Youtube (click here to see video.) More than 400,000 people have since viewed the woman's public temper tantrum. Surprisingly, Cathay Pacific allowed the woman who went insane over missing her flight to fly on the next scheduled flight with her companion.

The video of the "woman going insane after missing flight" (almost sounds like a
painting title, doesn't it?) is the latest example of public humiliation extending far beyond the locale in which it occurred.

Before the woman going insane after missing flight, there was the skier who lost his pants in a chairlift mishap in Vail, Colorado. An enterprising photographer nearby snapped a photo of the man's exposed buttocks as he hung suspended from the chairlift. From its publication in the local media, the naked skier photo quickly went viral on the internet, humiliating the skier not merely at the resort but throughout the world.

Of course, no story comparing the woman who goes insane after missing her flight to other public temper tantrums and mishaps going global would be complete without mention of Britney Spears. Spears has been the subject of number viral videos from her public mental breakdowns to her various publicly photographed panty omissions.

Is there a lesson to be learned from the woman who goes insane after missing her flight? Public behavior is no longer the fleeting blip on the radar screen it once was. When someone like the woman who went insane after missing her flight loses control in public, readily available technology- from cell
phone cameras, to video cams, to security tapes- may capture a lasting and permanent record of the embarrassing, out of control behavior. And with the internet as the new town square, the "gossip" spreads virally throughout the entire world with video and audio evidence that will never go away.
For now, the woman in the video has not been identified by name. Should the name of the woman who goes insane after losing her flight become public, the consequences could prove more than merely emba rrassing. Imagine what a prospective employer would do if upon entering her name in a search engine he uncovered the video. Imagine her children's friends finding the video online. Of course if the story of the woman who went insane after losing her flight and being seen having a temper tantrum across the world becomes a cautionary tale that reduces the incidence of errant public behavior, we can all be thankful that it happened- and not just because of the few moments of entertainment value the YouTube video provided.

G. Bush Legacy

Who were the best presidents? Who would top your list as worst presidents? The best and worst presidents' rankings may surprise you. Moreover, the similarities between James Buchanan and George W. Bush may leave you wondering.

Overall Ranking under the Microscope of 64 Historians

C-SPAN undertook a second ranking of the first 42 United States presidents. Its first attempt at ranking the best and worst presidents took place in 2000. The name at the top is Abraham Lincoln, making him one of the best presidents ever. His top dog position is unchanged. The spot of worst president once again goes to James Buchanan, another ranking that remains unchanged.

A somewhat surprising change is Bill Clinton, who in 2009 ranks 15th on the 1-42 list, while in 2000 he ranked 21st. As Mr. Clinton's star is rising, Rutherford Hayes is on the decline. In 2000 he was ranked 26th; in 2009 he only commandeers the 33rd spot. What has he done differently in the last nine years? Not a thing. He is a victim of time and perspective.

Grading criteria for the best and worst presidents were the abilities of public persuasion, leadership in times of crisis, management of the country's fiscal health, moral authority (which earned Bill Clinton a rather unfavorable rating), foreign policy, administrative prowess, bipartisan government, a definable vision, and an eye on equality. Allowances were made for what the historians termed "performance within context of times."

The Five Best Presidents

C-SPAN identifies the five best presidents as being Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, Franklin Roosevelt, Theodore Roosevelt, and Harry Truman.

The Five Worst Presidents

It names the five worst presidents as being Warren Harding, William Harrison, Franklin Pierce, Andrew Johnson, and James Buchanan.

Partisanship and the Best and Worst Presidents Rankings
It is apparent that the rating system - although well defined - fails to take into consideration the very ability of the rankers to see the American presidents not only for their results, but also for their time constrained efforts. Though termed historians, it is questionable how many are intimately familiar with the struggles of the various presidents on a personal, political, and societal basis.

It is clear that James Buchanan's failure to act during Southern secession talks and his unwillingness to stop the Civil War discredited him and caused him to be named as the single worst president of our times.

A democrat in favor of slavery, he regarded the growing discontent of his country as one that could be solved with the power of the Supreme Court, a tool still employed today by more recent presidents. Yet even just a cursory trip back into recent history shows how entering a war, just like averting it, can draw the ire of splinter groups everywhere. Financial mismanagement and the calls for impeachment rounded out his presidency.

Is George W. Bush the Modern Day James Buchanan?

Unlike so many other presidents who get whitewashed over time - or whose accomplishments are not fully recognized for their scope until one or more generations have passed - James Buchanan and George W. Bush may in the future vie for the bottom rung of the ladder.

Brought on in part by ignorance - Lancaster Online reported that not even Buchanan's fellow Lancaster residents really know anything about him - and in part by failing to appreciate the difficulties faced by one man in the seat of highest office, I cannot help but wonder if Find Law's John Dean was not correct when he suggested that ranking the best and worst presidents is truly just a "parlor game" that relieves intellectual boredom.

On the other hand, could a more thorough examination of James Buchanan by American voters have led to a defeat of George W. Bush in 2004? Should future presidential contenders take a hint from these rankings and incorporate them into their campaigns?