What’s the worst a lame-duck presidency can do?

James Buchanan set us up for a Civil War.

And as Heather Cox Richardson reminds us in this Slate interview conducted by Rebecca Onion, Benjamin Harrison saddled Grover Cleveland with an economic disaster often described as the “Panic of 1893.”

Here is a taste of their interview:

The Republicans pulled out all the stops again for Harrison in 1892, but this time it didn’t work because everyone hated Harrison, thought he’d gone too far, and was packing the mechanics of the system to stay in power. So there was a huge backlash and in 1892, Cleveland was elected—winning the popular vote and the Electoral College. And the Democrats won the presidency, House, and Senate for the first time since the Civil War.

Of course, at the time we had a longer interregnum between election and inauguration—from November to March—and during that time, the Harrison administration deliberately ran the country into the ground. They deliberately did it! It’s in the newspapers. They say to readers, OK, you elected a Democrat. They don’t know how to run the country. They don’t know anything about money; all the money is going to drain out of this country. There’s not going to be anything left. Take your money out of the stock market; we’re headed for a terrible crash. They basically created this crash.

Foreign capital was going home at the same time as Republicans had really deliberately spent a ton of money on things like statues and courthouses and veterans benefits, because they’d been trying to get rid of what was at the time a surplus coming into the Treasury, trying to prove that they needed a tariff to bring in more money. They’d been running a surplus for years, and the Democrats kept going, We don’t need all this money! Lower the damn tariffs!

So during the interregnum, as the panic developed, the financiers rushed to Washington and said, DO something! And the secretary of the treasury, Charles Foster, and Harrison said, No, we’re good. Foster actually said publicly that, as he saw it, the administration was only responsible for the economy up until March 4, the day Cleveland took office. He didn’t even manage it—the economy actually collapsed 10 days before Harrison left office.

But if you Google anything, it’s going to say to you, It happened on Cleveland’s watch. But no! It happened on Harrison’s watch! But again—the Republicans wrote the history books.

Read the rest here.