Monday, February 17, 2014

"Presidents Day"

In honor of Presidents Day, I shall list all the American presidents.  And in honor of the honor of Presidents Day, I shall do so via the “Honor System.”  No looking things up, no calling a historian as a “Lifeline.”  The list comes straight off the top of my head, no “cheat sheets” or external aids whatsoever.  And you’ll have to trust me on that.  Because you’re not here while I’m doing this.  

There may be a few misspellings and erroneous first names or middle initials included.  Consider that proof that I am not secretly Googling behind your backs.  This is me, listing the presidents, in order.  And remember, making this arguably more noteworthy, if that were possible, I was born in another country.

Okay, here we go.

George Washington (who some people wanted to be called “king” but decided instead to be called “president”, to get this cockamamie list off the ground.)

John Adams (the only American president to have had a beer named after him.)

Thomas Jefferson (Adams and Jefferson had such a mutual dislike for each other throughout most of their lives that they conspired to die on the same day, so that the other person would not get of all the attention.)

James Madison (possibly our nation’s shortest president, which means, if the prevailing rule-of-thumb on the matter in which the taller candidate invariably wins holds true, that Madison defeated either a child or a Little Person.)

James Monroe (who is not to be confused from Vaughn Monroe, who had a big hit with “Ghost Riders In The Sky.”)

John Quincy Adams (who for over a hundred and seventy years was the only president whose father had also been president, and must have been really pissed when George W. Bush decided, “I’m doing it too.”  I mean, if you hold a record for more than a hundred and seventy years, you gotta believe you‘re in the clear.  And then this other guy shows up!)

Andrew Jackson (our first “Backwoods President” who story has it allowed raccoons in the rotunda.)

Martin Van Buren (an accidental electee, mistakenly believing he was running for President of Holland.)

William Henry Harrison (See:  An earlier post I wrote about him whose title at the moment eludes me.  Hey, you can’t remember everything!  Synopsis:  “No topcoat for the Inaugural Address – dead from a cold a month later.”

John Tyler (as distinguished from Tom Tyler who starred in a series of undistinguished “B” westerns.)

James Polk (whom I originally left off the list and had to go back five presidents later to insert.)

Zachary Taylor (not to be confused with actor Zachary Scott.  The era was noteworthy for having presidents whose names were similar to those of minor actors who would not be born for some time.)

Millard Fillmore

Franklin Pierce (the only two presidents on this list of whom I have absolutely nothing to say.  Stretching it, Millard Fillmore has occasionally been used as a “joke name” for fictional High Schools.  Pierce?...  Nope, still nothing.)

James Buchanan (whom many historians believe was the worst president ever, until George W. Bush came along to give him a run for his money.  And boy, was Buchanan relieved!) 

Abraham Lincoln (arguably our greatest president, and the only to have delivered the “Gettysburg Address.”)

Andrew Johnson (one of only two presidents ever impeached, and the only one in which an intern wasn’t involved.)

Ulysses S. Grant (You might want to check the spelling of “Ulysses.”  I am myself “honor bound” not to.)

Rutherford B. Hayes (That could be “Hays.”  I may have gotten him confused with perennial sidekick George “Gabby” Hays.)

James Garfield (the fifth “James” on the list, assassinated by a fanatic who, when carried off to prison, was heard to shout crazily, “How many ‘Jameses’ do we need?”

Chester A. Arthur (as distinguished from Chester D. Arthur and Chester W. Arthur who, though not presidents themselves, would annoyingly often receive the president’s mail.)

Grover Cleveland (See:  Two presidents down.)

Benjamin Harrison (the grandson of William Henry Harrison who, insistently “fighting the last war” wore a heavy topcoat to his Inauguration Address even though it was the hottest Inauguration Day on record.)  (I may have made that up.  But wouldn’t it be wonderful if it were true?)

Grover Cleveland (Aaand...he’s back.  Elected twice to the presidency but not in succession, Cleveland is counted inexplicably, at least to me, as two presidents.  This, however, did not fool many on the White House staff, who were almost certain “they had seen this guy before.”)

William McKinley (assassinated, but who, I believe, opposed the annexation of Hawaii, which, as we know, occurred anyway.  Proving nobody listens to an assassinated president.) 

Theodore Roosevelt (after whom the “Teddy Bear” was named.  If it had happened one president earlier, they’d have called it the “Billy Bear.”  And the fad would have quickly fizzled, because who wants to cuddle an assassinated bear?)

Robert Taft (best known for, after leaving the presidency, becoming the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, the job he had wanted all along but could only obtain by having  “used to be president” on his resume.)

Woodrow Wilson (who ran for president, promising to keep the country out of war and then promptly took the country into the war, and who later championed our participation in the “League of Nations” and we voted not to participate.  And still, Wilson is he is considered to be one of our “Top Ten” presidents.  How low is that bar, I’m wondering.)  

Warren G. Harding (whose most prominent qualification for the office – and I am not making it up, I actually read this – was that he “looked like a president.”  He did.  And he went on to stink the place up, proving that looks aren’t exactly everything.)

Calvin Coolidge (whose extreme reticence earned him the moniker,  “Silent Cal.”   Once, at a dinner, his tablemate informed him that, “Somebody bet me that I could not get you to say three words this entire dinner”, to which Coolidge laconically replied, “You lose.”)

Herbert Hoover (who, on a “Bloopers” record I once heard was introduced before delivering a radio address as “Hoobert Heever.”)

F.D.R. (a four-term president so famous, he was universally recognized by his initials alone.  And the two canes he leaned heavily on, although nobody during that period appeared to know why.)  

Harry Truman (It gets easier from here, because I was alive for the rest of them.)

Dwight D. Eisenhower (who made the following presidential candidate appear vigorous and youthful by himself looking less vigorous and old.  Apparently, winning World War II takes a lot out of a guy.)

John F. Kennedy (the aforementioned “vigorous and youthful” candidate, who dazzled with his movie star pizzazz, while, unbeknownst to the public, dazzling some of the movie stars as well.)

Lyndon Johnson (who engineered the passing of the landmark “Civil Rights Act” and “The Voting Rights Act” is, to some, best remembered for picking his beagle dog up by his ears.)

Richard Nixon (who engaged in illegal activities in an election he would win by a landslide.  What pollster told him it was going to be close?)
Gerald Ford (a former college-star athlete who was lampooned on SNL for his inordinate clumsiness.  Who ever said, “Only the truth is funny?)
Jimmy Carter (won the presidency substantially because he was not a “Washington insider” and, once elected, had a devil of a time figuring out the way Washington worked.)
Ronald Reagan (who, during his eight years in office, believed he was still the president of the Screen Actors Guild.)
George H. W. Bush (who, unlike others with a similar last name, knew when to go into Iraq.  And how to quickly get out.)
Bill Clinton (a vegan who can still get women.)
George W. Bush (who may have finally let Buchanan off the hook.)
Barack Obama (or O’Bama, as it is spelled in the Irish areas of Kenya.)
Happy Presidents Day, everybody!  Not just to Lincoln and Washington, but to all the presidents.  It is easy to take potshots from the sidelines.  Especially since, as a person born in Canada, I will never have the opportunity to be one.  (Like I would want to anyway.  I abstained when I was nominated for “Grade Ten Class President” at Bathurst Heights Collegiate.)


Wendy M. Grossman said...

I'm very impressed. I certainly couldn't do it. Which I'd say proves that immigrants try harder except that I live in the UK now and I couldn't begin to list all the kings or prime ministers. (Granted, a much longer history...)


Anonymous said...

Impressive, when considering that it's very difficult to know all the 19th century Presidents, after Jackson.

You confused Robert Taft, senator from Ohio who wanted to be President in 1948, but didn't get the nomination, with William Howard Taft, who was President after Teddy Roosevelt (and began the tradition of throwing out the first pitch of the baseball season)

George W. Bush is not to be confused with several very lousy 19th Century Presidents, beginning with the brutality of Andrew Jackson against American Indians, Buchannon (unfortunately Pennsylvania's only President), Tyler, Harrison, and Andrew Johnson. And Jimmy Carter was a bad President on many levels.

Canda said...

The above comment was from Canda, not Annononymous.

Bobby Heiss said...

Stephen Harper is the PM of Canada. And I only know that cuz I watch Rick Mercer every week.

Mighty impressive that you can name the Presidents w/out looking, and give us some humorous insights/thoughts, too.

A local TV station today named the tallest Prez. (Lincoln, 6'4") and the shortest, as you said, was Madison at 5'4" - and he weighed about 100 lbs. I'm thinking that today, given that there's a bit more press exposure than there was in Jimmy's day, he may not have become President.

Jim Russell said...

You could go with the M*A*S*H angle and note that Hawkeye's real name was Benjamin Franklin Pierce.