I’m not sure it’s possible to answer this one. Unfortunately, we don’t know the extent of Lincoln’s sense of humor because we have no video or audio of him and there wasn’t a White House Correspondents Dinner or anything in the 1860s. We can guess about it since we know he enjoyed jokes and to tell his funny stories to folks (sometimes over-and-over-and-over again!), but it’s not like there is some sort of instrument to measure and compare the senses of humor of two people.
Plus — and we don’t know this for sure, either, so it’s just a wild guess — I think Lincoln and Obama are probably funny in different ways. Lincoln seemed to have a story for everything, loved to hear a good joke and was always ready to tell one of his own, was self-deprecating about his height and his looks, and enjoyed reading many of the comedic writers of his day. Obama’s humor is probably not as goofy or silly as Lincoln supposedly could be, but President Obama has great comedic timing. Those White House Correspondents Dinners can be awkward with Presidents who might have funny speeches written for them but lose a little on the presentation because they aren’t used to the rhythm of comedy (I’m looking at you, President Clinton!). Obama has a great delivery when he’s trying to be funny.
Let’s not forget that Reagan was a pretty funny guy, too. He and JFK had really quick wits and funny little quips. They also had good comedic timing and delivery, especially Reagan, although I guess being a professional actor helped with that. George W. Bush could be funny at times, too, but didn’t have too many opportunities to let loose during his Administration since the world happened to go to hell for eight years.
I think it really comes down to the fact that, like his father, John Quincy Adams wasn’t temperamentally suited to the Presidency. JQA had all of the tools, he was the most qualified and experienced American who had ever lived up to that point, he likely remains one of the most intelligent men to ever hold the office, and yet he quickly found that the when he tried the Presidency on for size, it simply didn’t fit.
For the most part, being an effective President requires certain, unique qualities that go beyond intellect, understanding the issues, and decisive thinking. The Presidency requires a political touch that the Adamses didn’t have. What John Adams and John Quincy Adams lacked was the ability to hold back, observe, maybe even deflect or deceive, and let situations unfold. They were both candid, outspoken, impulsive, and pushy. Those attributes can be advantageous in legislative politics, debate, and international diplomacy, but the Presidency requires a type of political maneuvering that neither of the Adams Presidents were skilled in.
In John Quincy Adams’s case, it’s also important to recognize that he was elected in 1824 with the weakest mandate (and that’s not even the word I should use) of any President up to that point. Four candidates — Adams, Andrew Jackson, William H. Crawford, and Henry Clay — split the Electoral College votes, no candidate gained enough Electoral votes to clinch the Presidency, and the election was thrown into the House of Representatives for a decision. When former supporters of Clay broke towards Adams and gave JQA the victory despite Jackson’s popular vote victory, the already-vociferous Jackson supporters cried foul and then screamed “Corrupt Bargain” when President Adams appointed Clay Secretary of State. At that point in our history, the State Department was practically a guaranteed stepping stone to the Presidency — four of the first six Presidents had been Secretary of State and the last three Presidents (Madison, Monroe, and JQA) stepped directly into the Presidency from the State Department.
That handicapped John Quincy Adams’s Presidency almost immediately; not so much because of the alleged “Corrupt Bargain”, but because it was apparent from the moment the House of Representatives awarded the 1824 election to JQA, Andrew Jackson and his supporters instantly began to work to defeat Adams for reelection. As soon as Adams was sworn in as President in March 1825, the 1828 campaign kicked into gear and Andrew Jackson ran against John Quincy Adams all four years of the Adams Administration. It would have been impossible for any President to ignore, but was especially difficult for JQA because he had notoriously thin-skin and, like his father, was hypersensitive and deeply embittered by criticism. Although he ran for another term in 1828, Adams was pretty much relieved when he was defeated and could leave the White House. When Adams returned to Washington in 1831 and spent the rest of his life in Congress, he proved that his four years in the White House were an aberration and that he was still one of the country’s most effective and influential public servants.
Some Presidents simply aren’t good matches for the job, no matter what. There are bad Presidents — the guys who are constantly ranked near the bottom by historians — who still fit into the job and were able to be effective. I’ve said it many times: effective doesn’t necessarily mean “good”; it means that person was able to accomplish things, for better or worse.
The flip side of that is that some of our most qualified leaders end up being ineffective Presidents because, like John Quincy Adams, they possess tremendous political skills that are ill-suited for being the Chief Executive of the Executive Branch. Similar to John Quincy Adams in this way, I would include John Adams, Martin Van Buren, James Buchanan (who also happened to just be a downright bad President), William Howard Taft, and Herbert Hoover (incredibly qualified for the job, never quite knew how to use the Presidency, and finally stained by the Great Depression).
To sum up the subject and for a more detailed history on the very different results of John Quincy Adams as President and then as a Congressman in the twilight of his life, I highly recommend Joseph Wheelan’s recent book, Mr. Adams’s Last Crusade: John Quincy Adams’s Extraordinary Post-Presidential Life In Congress (BOOK•KINDLE).
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The dedication of the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum on Thursday brought together all five living men who have served as President of the United States — perhaps, forever, as I noted. When the members of the Presidents Club get together, Jimmy Carter tends to be the odd man out. He’s usually there because protocol demands it, but he’s often overlooked. In January 2009, when outgoing President George W. Bush invited President-elect Barack Obama to have lunch with him and former Presidents Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, and Carter, many newspapers ran a photograph of the Presidents together in the Oval Office while leaving out Carter, who was standing a little too far to the side to fit in the frame.
The issue with the photo opportunity was probably a simple mistake, but it is well-known that Carter has rubbed most of his successors the wrong way. For years, there has been an unwritten rule in which former Presidents do not criticize the people who follow them in the Oval Office, no matter what partisan differences might separate them. Since Presidents are the only people on the planet who truly understand the difficulties of their position those who have been Commander-in-Chief generally offer their support to their successors. And if there are disagreements, former Presidents largely decline to comment on those issues. Jimmy Carter has never followed that tradition and, at one point or another, he has openly criticized the five Presidents who succeeded him. Some of Carter’s criticism of George W. Bush was so strong that Bush’s father, the 41st President, has been candid in interviews about how angry Carter made him. Thursday’s dedication of the 43rd President’s Library and Museum was a celebration, however, and Carter had kind words to say about George W. Bush, particularly when it came to Bush’s positive work on issues in sub-Saharan Africa.
There are more ways in which Jimmy Carter is often overlooked, though, and that was apparent from the coverage and discussion of the Bush Library’s dedication. Many people took notice of the ailing 41st President, George H.W. Bush, and, here on Dead Presidents, we even discussed the fact that Bush 41 appeared frail and sounded rather weak during his brief remarks at his the dedication of his son’s Presidential Library. Bush, who will turn 89 years old in June, was hospitalized for nearly two months at the end of 2012 and is now confined to a wheelchair due to a progressive illness that has weakened his legs. Because Bush was still jumping out of airplanes and skydiving with the U.S. Army’s Golden Knights to celebrate his 75th, 80th, and 85th birthday it’s been jarring to see an old man begin to look his age.
Somewhat overlooked as we watch a familiar figure like George H.W. Bush in the winter of his long life is the equally long life of the 39th President. Jimmy Carter’s Presidency was considered a failure, but almost every historian, most Americans, and Carter himself believe that he’s not only the most productive former President in history, but that Carter has actually been able to achieve more during his post-Presidency than he was able to do during the four years that he possessed all of the great powers and influence that come with living in the White House. He’s certainly had plenty of time. In September 2012, Carter passed Herbert Hoover to have the longest “retirement” of any President in history. Of course, “retirement” for Carter (and Hoover, as well) has been anything but relaxing in Sun City with other seniors. Along with his wife, Rosalynn, and their foundation, the Carter Center, the former President has been active around the world since leaving the White House 32 years ago. He’s won the Nobel Peace Prize and built a model for post-Presidential activism that has been followed by Bill Clinton.
Because of his activism and his frenetic pace, it’s either easy to overlook or simply not realized by many Americans that Jimmy Carter is also 88 years old. Less than four months younger than George H.W. Bush, Carter will turn 89 on October 1st. Carter remains lean and healthy-looking and, to the best of my knowledge, has had no major health problems since leaving the White House over three decades ago. The only health-related news that I’ve heard about Carter (other than his work with eradicating deadly diseases in Africa through his Carter Center) is a bum knee that bothers him from time-to-time and has curtailed his lifelong jogging habit. Mentally, Carter is razor-sharp, and seems to be a physical marvel for a man who is nearly 90 years old. If you’re watching him on television his age certainly stands out in HD, but to be fair, most of us would look 89 years old in HD, as well.
Carter shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon. It’s impossible, of course, to predict the longevity of someone who seemingly has no significant health concerns. With that said, it’s probably a good bet that Jimmy Carter will challenge his 1976 opponent-turned-good friend Gerald Ford for the record of longest-living President. Ford died at the age of 93 in 2006, just a few weeks after breaking Ronald Reagan’s record as longest-living President. Ford and Carter — who bonded on the way home from an official trip to Egypt to represent the United States at the funeral of assassinated Egyptian leader Anwar al-Sadat — became close friends despite their campaign battle in 1976. They made a deal with one another that whichever former President died first would be eulogized by the other one — a promise Carter kept at Ford’s funeral. In order to surpass Ford to become the longest-living President, Carter must survive until March 2018. As of now, Carter (and Bush) are already among the longest-living Presidents in history:
1. Gerald Ford | Died Dec. 26, 2006 | 93 years, 165 days
2. Ronald Reagan | Died June 5, 2004 | 93 years, 120 days
3. John Adams | Died July 4, 1826 | 90 years, 247 days
4. Herbert Hoover | Died Oct. 20, 1964 | 90 years, 71 days
5. George H.W. Bush | Still living | 88 years, 319 days (as of Apr. 27, 2013)
6. Harry S. Truman | Died Dec. 26, 1972 | 88 years, 232 days
7. Jimmy Carter | Still living | 88 years, 208 days (as of Apr. 27, 2013)
While active living, regular exercise, proper dietary habits, and nearly 40 years of excellent health care benefits and attention from many of the top doctors in the United States have undoubtedly contributed to Jimmy Carter’s longevity and continued good health, it seems that he’s also been the beneficiary of some tremendous luck and dodged a hereditary bullet — the only member of his immediate family to do so.
Carter was the oldest of four children born to James Earl Carter, Sr. and Lillian Gordy Carter, also known as Bessie. Carter’s mother was a colorful woman who joined the Peace Corps shortly before she turned 70. A candid, straight-shooter, when Carter told her that he was planning on running for President, Bessie asked him, “President of what?”, but supported him whole-heartedly. Like her son, Bessie Carter lived a long life. She died at the age of 85 two years after Ronald Reagan defeated Carter in the President’s bid for reelection. Carter may have inherited his longevity from his mother, but it’s what he didn’t inherit that is most important.
Pancreatic cancer is one of the deadliest forms of the disease, difficult to overcome, and can be hereditary. Not only did Carter’s mother die of the disease, but pancreatic cancer claimed Carter’s 58-year-old father in 1953, also. Like a smaller, less glamorous, peanut-farming version of the Kennedys, Jimmy Carter’s siblings became relatively well-known while he was President. Carter’s oldest sister, Gloria, was two years younger than the President and, unlike her other siblings, kept a low profile. In 1990, at the age of 63, Gloria Carter Spann also died of pancreatic cancer.
Ruth Carter Stapleton was the youngest sister of President Carter and a very well-known, if somewhat controversial, Christian evangelist. Carter considered himself a born-again Christian and credited his sister with helping him commit to his faith and become more involved with his Baptist beliefs. Ruth’s work in helping to intensify her brother’s religiosity resulted in Carter mentioning and/or invoking faith far more than any President in history besides perhaps George W. Bush. Ruth Carter Stapleton died at the age of 54 several months after her mother passed away in 1983. Like her father, mother, and older sister, she also died of pancreatic cancer.
Finally, there’s Billy. I don’t know if Billy Carter is the most well-known Presidential sibling. He’s certainly not the most accomplished considering the fact that Jeb Bush was Governor of Florida and becoming a perennial “Will he run?” fixture in Presidential politics. He might not even be the most troublesome — John Quincy Adams had two brothers who drank themselves to death and taxed their father’s finances, patience, hope, and devotion before ultimately breaking his heart, and Bill Clinton’s half-brother, Roger, had problems with drugs and alcohol dating back to his big brother’s time as Governor of Arkansas. Roger Clinton’s issues were so well-known that the media reported that his Secret Service codename was “Headache” — it wasn’t but Roger was such a loose cannon that everyone automatically believed the story.
What Billy might have been was the most fun of the Presidential siblings. The media loved him. Billy Carter, 12 years younger than his Presidential brother, had no pretensions. A former gas station owner and “peanut broker” for the Carter family’s peanut business in Plains, Georgia, Billy loved playing the part of a country boy, loved having fun, and loved to drink. Always looking for a quick buck, he tried to capitalize on his newfound fame as the President’s brother by promoting “Billy Beer”. Billy’s endorsement of the beer appeared on every can: “I had this beer brewed up just for me. I think it’s the best I ever tasted. And I’ve tasted a lot. I think you’ll like it too.”
To the surprise of nobody, Billy Beer was a spectacular failure. Billy Carter’s next get-rich-quick scheme nearly landed him and his brother in hot water. With a group of business leaders from Georgia, Billy visited Libya where the Libyan government loaned Billy a significant amount of money. Both the investors from Georgia and the Libyans saw Billy as a possible conduit to the President for whatever intentions they had. A Congressional hearing looked into the issue for wrong-doing, but rather than masterminding a deal in which he could lobby on behalf of the Libyans in Washington or American companies in Tripoli it quickly became clear that Billy was simply a hapless individual who saw a quick chance to make some money. The fact that he was related to the President was as incidental to Billy as it was important to the other parties. President Carter quickly and publicly distanced himself from Billy’s confusing, messy situation.
Billy Carter was 51 years old in 1988 when pancreatic cancer claimed him. For Jimmy Carter, the deaths of everyone in his family — father, mother, and all three siblings — from pancreatic cancer could have been not only a sobering reminder of his own mortality, but a worrisome indication that he, too, might be facing the same genetic danger which claimed every single member of his family. That may also explain President Carter’s blistering pace and refusal to slow down due to his age. Gifted with the years denied to his father and his three siblings, Carter continues to use his “retirement” to champion the poor, build houses for Habitat for Humanity, observe elections internationally to combat voting fraud, eradicate diseases and promote healthy habits, and use his influence to fight for freedom and plant the seeds of peace around the world.
When the world’s most exclusive fraternity, the Presidents Club, converges for events like the dedication of George W. Bush’s Presidential Library, Jimmy Carter might often be overlooked and may sometimes seem like an outsider. But I think that’s okay with him because Jimmy Carter isn’t a President who suddenly has to be a citizen for the rest of his life; Jimmy Carter is a lifelong citizen and public servant who briefly happened to be President.
(I figured I might as well answer this in an actual post just in case others want to share this information.)
FDR started formulating plans for the first, official Presidential Library as we know and recognize those operated by the National Archives today, while he was still President. Since then, every one of FDR’s successors (as well as Herbert Hoover, who was the only former President still alive during FDR’s term, survived until 1964, and also built a Presidential Library under the National Archives model) has built their own Presidential Library and Museum. Richard Nixon’s was built and operated privately for many years because of a long-running dispute between Nixon and the federal government over his papers, but it is now under the auspices of the National Archives, as well. In most cases, Presidents since Hoover are also buried on the grounds of their Presidential Library.
There are other Presidential Libraries throughout the country honoring Presidents, some of which are quite similar to the official Libraries and Museums operated by the National Archives, but which are operated by state governments, private foundations, corporations, or other organizations. Since they are not operated or funded by the National Archives, they are not considered “official” federal Presidential Libraries, but it can be confusing to tell them apart. I’ll list the various Presidential Libraries and Museums — those operated by the National Archives and those “unofficial” versions.
OFFICIAL PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARIES AND MUSEUMS/OPERATED BY THE NATIONAL ARCHIVES
•Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum, West Branch, Iowa (President Hoover’s birthplace and burial site are also on the grounds of his Library)
•Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum, Hyde Park, New York (First Presidential Library; President Roosevelt is buried on the grounds of the Library and his birthplace is nearby)
•Harry S. Truman Presidential Museum and Library, Independence, Missouri (President Truman is buried on the grounds of the Library)
•Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum, Abilene, Kansas (General Eisenhower is buried on the grounds of the Library)
•John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston, Massachusetts
•Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library and Museum, Austin, Texas
•Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum, Yorba Linda, California (President Nixon is buried on the grounds of his Library, just a few yards away from his birthplace)
•Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library, Ann Arbor, Michigan (Located on the campus of the University of Michigan)
•Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum, Grand Rapids, Michigan (President Ford is buried on the grounds of his Museum)
•Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum, Atlanta, Georgia
•Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum, Simi Valley, California (President Reagan is buried on the grounds of his Library)
•George Bush Presidential Library and Museum, College Station, Texas (Located on the campus of Texas A&M University; President George H.W. Bush will be buried on the grounds of his Library)
•William J. Clinton Presidential Library and Museum, Little Rock, Arkansas
•George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum, Dallas, Texas (Located on the campus of Southern Methodist University)
At 9:08 PM on April 22, 1994, Richard Milhous Nixon died at New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center in New York City. Four days earlier, the 81-year-old former President had suffered a massive stroke at his home in Park Ridge, New Jersey, and swelling in his brain left him in a deep coma. Nixon, whose wife Pat had died less than a year earlier, had a living will instructing doctors not to use a ventilator or life-sustaining procedures in order to prolong his death, and he died with his daughters, Tricia and Julie, nearby.
Nixon’s death came just a few months before the 20th anniversary of his historic resignation due to the Watergate scandal and while he was forever tainted by the actions which led him to resign the Presidency, he had continued to lead an active life, writing books, traveling, and remaining one of the nation’s top experts on Russia and China. While most Presidents who succeeded Nixon in the White House kept their distance from the Republican who had been the 37th President, the Democrat who became the 42nd President a year before Nixon died had surprisingly sought Nixon’s advice on foreign relations, particularly when it came to dealing with Russia’s Boris Yeltsin. Nixon was flattered by Clinton’s outreach, happy to dispense advice, and impressed by Clinton’s intelligence and work ethic.
It was President Clinton who announced the death of President Nixon to the nation in a short speech from the White House Rose Garden nineteen years ago tonight. In his remarks that night, two hours after Nixon had died, Clinton said:
“It’s impossible to be in this job without feeling a special bond with the people who have gone before, and I was deeply grateful to President Nixon for his wise counsel on so many occasions on many issues over the last year. His service to me and to our country during this period was like the rest of his service to the Nation for nearly a half century: He gave of himself with intelligence and devotion to duty. And his country owes him a debt of gratitude for that service…
To be sure, he experienced his fair share of adversity and controversy. But his resilience and his diligent desire to give something back to his country and to the world provide a lesson for all of us about maintaining our faith in the future. In spite of everything, that faith led President Nixon to leave his mark on his times as few national figures have done in our history and led him to continue to serve right up to the end of his life. Indeed, no less than a month before his passing, he was still in touch with me about the great issues of this day.”
Richard Nixon was the first death of a former President of the United States in 22 years — the last President to die before Nixon was Lyndon Johnson in 1973, so it had been a generation since Americans had experienced the pageantry and traditions of a Presidential funeral. Nixon, however, declined the offer of a State funeral, meaning it would be another decade — until the State funeral of Ronald Reagan in 2004 — until the American public experienced a ceremony with all the trappings of most modern Presidential funerals. Nixon preferred a simple ceremony in which his body would lie in repose at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Birthplace in Yorba Linda, California before a relatively short outdoor service prior to his burial next to his wife, just steps away from the house that the former President was born in.
Despite Richard Nixon’s resignation and the stain of Watergate, between 60,000 and 75,000 people waited for hours in an uncharacteristically heavy rainfall in Southern California to pass by the former President’s closed casket and pay their respects inside the lobby of his Presidential Library. On April 27th, dignitaries from around the world, including all five living Presidents — Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and Bill Clinton — as well as Nixon’s former Vice President Spiro Agnew and opponent in the bitter 1972 Presidential campaign, George McGovern, gathered for Nixon’s funeral in Yorba Linda. Officiated by the Reverend Billy Graham, Nixon was eulogized by California Governor Pete Wilson, an emotional Senator Bob Dole, and former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who noted that Nixon “achieved greatly; suffered deeply.”
President Clinton gave the main eulogy and attempted to recognize Nixon’s achievements while healing some of the wounds of Watergate and the worst of Richard Nixon by casting aside partisan differences:
“As a public man, he always seemed to believe the greatest sin was remaining passive in the face of challenges, and he never stopped living by that creed…
Oh, yes, he knew great controversy amid defeat as well as victory. He made mistakes, and they, like his accomplishments, are a part of his life and record. But the enduring lesson of Richard Nixon is that he never gave up being part of the action and passion of his times. He said many times that unless a person has a goal, a new mountain to climb, his spirit will die. Well, based on our last phone conversation and the letter he wrote me just a month ago, I can say that his spirit was very much alive to the very end.
That is a great tribute to him, to his wonderful wife, Pat, to his children and to his grandchildren, whose love he so depended on and whose love he returned in full measure. Today is a day for his family, his friends, and his nation to remember President Nixon’s life in totality. To them, let us say: may the day of judging President Nixon on anything less than his entire life and career come to a close.
May we heed his call to maintain the will and the wisdom to build on America’s greatest gift, its freedom, and to lead a world full of difficulty to the just and lasting peace he dreamed of.
As it is written in the words of a hymn I heard in my church last Sunday, ‘Grant that I may realize that the trifling of life creates differences, but that in the higher things we are all one.’ In the twilight of his life, President Nixon knew that lesson well. It is, I feel, certainly a fate he would want us all to keep.
And so, on behalf of all four former Presidents who are here — President Ford, President Carter, President Reagan, President Bush — and on behalf of a grateful nation, we bid farewell to Richard Milhous Nixon.”
Later that night, President Nixon was buried — underneath a small headstone reading “The greatest honor history can bestow is the title of peacemaker” — next to his wife Pat in a simple plot just steps away from the backdoor of the house that his father built and that the 37th President of the United States had been born in on a January day in 1913.
“History is not what happened 200 or 2,000 years ago; it’s a story about what happened 200 or 2,000 years ago.” — Lewis Lapham
When Gerald Ford died at the age of 93 in December 2006, nearly every tribute to him or story about his life included a reference to the fact that it was pretty much impossible to find someone who had something bad to say about the 38th President. People who worked for, with, or even against Ford during his long political career genuinely liked him and considered him a friend. Remaining universally popular with his political supporters as well as his opponents while serving in the U.S. House of Representatives for a quarter-century might have been a bigger accomplishment for Ford than finding himself as Vice President and then President following the scandals and resignations of the Nixon/Agnew Administration.
Despite his popularity and his pleasant personality, however, Ford holds a rather dubious distinction amongst recent Presidents. Since 1946, the polling organization Gallup has asked Americans to name the “Most Admired Man” in the country. Gerald Ford is the only President from Harry Truman to Barack Obama who wasn’t chosen as America’s “Most Admired Man” at least once. Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon — two polarizing Presidents to say the least — each earned the distinction four years in a row respectively. And, in 1998, although Bill Clinton was facing impeachment, possible removal from office, and embarrassed by his affair with Monica Lewinsky, the American people chose him as the “Most Admired Man”.
Fortunately, President Ford could console himself with the fact that he served as President and Vice President without being elected to either office and that he lived longer than any President in American history.
Man, you are relentless about this, aren’t you? I have to admire your determination in getting an answer to your question, but more importantly, you got a laugh out of me with “It’s hard to remember sometimes that historians are actually people.” You’re right, I do understand.
Honestly, two or three years ago, I actually answered a question very similar to what you’re asking of me, so I will finally give you your response. However, I’m going to recycle my original answer, if you don’t mind. Okay? And, really, you should be happy because my original answer to this type of question was done in style.
Style? Yes, style…because I answered it in the form of a rhyme. Here is that answer from a couple of years ago:
Anonymous asked: Could you summarize each president and their presidency in a few sentences? probably the hardest thing anyone has ever asked me to do, so I’d like to see how you’d do it! thanks for making this tumblr by the way, american history nerds (and history nerds in general) are pretty damn awesome.
Not to be smug or anything, but from the subject of the website, I think it’s pretty obvious that I could summarize each President and their Presidency in a few sentences. BUT…I like your question nonetheless, so I’m going to do something similar but with a little twist: I’m going to give you a snapshot of each President…in RHYME.
(Please note that I am not anything that anybody would ever confused for a poet)
George Washington set the precedents and established the position
John Adams was unpopular and passed acts against Aliens and Sedition
Jefferson was a paradox, but he grew the nation with the Purchase
The British burned Madison’s White House but won the 1812 War on the surface
Monroe was the Era of Good Feelings and he had himself a Doctrine
But some think it was JQA who wrote it before his Corrupt Bargain
Jackson was the people’s Prez and he took the nation by storm
Van Buren was the magician behind the scenes who critics saw with scorn
Sneeze and you’ll miss Harrison, whose health wasn’t quite so hardy
Tyler was his successor and became the President without a party
Polk had a mullet and worked himself so hard that he met every goal he said
Taylor became the second President whose term ended because he was dead
Fillmore liked to Compromise but his memory is easy to lose
Frank Pierce was handsome and enjoyed a lot of booze
Then we had Buchanan who presided over states that seceded
He handed a broken country to Honest Abe who greatness will never be exceeded
Andy Johnson took over after Lincoln was sadly shot
He was Abraham’s successor, but a replacement he was not
Nor was General Grant whose administration was corrupt
Hayes made a deal to steal an election where the real winner just gave up
Gunshots killed Garfield and the people of the nation mourned
Arthur shocked Americans by being the President who reformed
Cleveland served two terms but they were interrupted by the iceberg called Little Ben
Harrison lived in the White House for four years before Cleveland moved back in
McKinley was a nice man and though he kept the nation steady
Someone shot him and a legend took over who hated being called Teddy
Taft was fat but TR’s shadow left him with no chance of hope
Woodrow won the first World War but was done in by a tragic stroke
Harding died in office and surrounded by a bad flock
Coolidge replaced him and never liked to talk
The Great Depression sidetracked Hoover and his whole term went wrong
FDR led the nation through lots of crises and his Presidency was really long
The Buck Stops Here was Truman’s motto and he said whatever he liked
Eisenhower was a popular leader and had a whole nation loving Ike
JFK’s tragic shooting left the inspiring Camelot with no sequel
LBJ mastered Congress and made certain all people were treated equal
Nixon said he was not a crook but his crimes forced him to quit
Jerry Ford rebuilt the people’s trust in a time the Presidency most needed it
Carter had a famous smile but his time was filled with struggles
Reagan inspired confidence after years of American troubles
41 was honest, underrated and a solid successor to the Gipper
42 was Bill Clinton and impeached for problems with his zipper
The second Bush was much worst than the first and left the world feeling surly
Obama gives high hopes to many but ranking him now is far too early