With the presidential election right around the proverbial corner, I thought it would be fun to delve into the can of worms which we call “politics.”
First, let me tell you what I see when I look at Washington. I see an inordinate amount of interchangeable children, sitting in a sandbox, trying to cover each other up. I don’t mean to be catty, but if the turd fits.
But let’s leave the turds to themselves and separate the wheat from the chaff. There are some colorful presidents down through the years I would like to touch on. Let’s start with the sixteenth president, Abraham Lincoln.
Contrary to popular belief, there was more to Mr. Lincoln than the Civil War and its associated problems. For instance, Lincoln was the first and only president to hold a patent (for you history buffs, it was for a device that allowed for safer travel in shallow water.) Throughout his life, Mr. Lincoln also refused to carry a knife due to his severe depression. In fact, many of his friends and acquaintances, from his days of practicing law to his time in the White House, remarked that Lincoln suffered from near constant melancholy. But that is not to say he didn’t enjoy a good witticism.
There’s the well-known anecdote of the man who called Lincoln “two-faced.” “If I had two faces,” the president responded, “do you think I would be wearing this one?”
The eighteenth president of the United States, Ulysses S. Grant, who actually served as a general under Lincoln during the Civil War, is popularly known as a raging alcoholic. When told of this, president Lincoln, inquired as to what he drank, and to have some shipped to the rest of his Generals. In fact, Grant was unable to hold his liquor and was done-in by one or two drinks. This was probably due, in part, to his size. Despite his fierce appearance, he was only 5’8 and 140 lbs. (Although he was not our shortest president. That honor goes to James Madison, clocking in at a whopping 5’4).
During his term in the White House, his wife would not allow him to smoke cigars. He would instead retire to the lobby of the Willard Hotel, where he was hounded by businessmen for favors and people looking for political jobs. Although some believe this to be the origin of the term “lobbyist,” it was actually first used 30 years prior in the British parliament.
Now onto our twenty-sixth president, Theodore Roosevelt. An avid outdoorsman, Roosevelt was actually born to into prominent, well-to-do family in New York City. In fact, Roosevelt was often chided by real westerners for his expensive apparel and his necessity to wear glasses.
Besides the presidency, Teddy is probably best known as the leader of the Rough Riders. Their ride up San Juan Hill is legendary. What most don’t know, however, is that it wasn’t so much a ride as it was a run. Due to limited space, the men were unable to bring the horses on which they were trained.
Riding into gunfire is bad enough. But running into it? ’Nuff said.
Last but not least, the only president to serve two non-consecutive terms (He’s counted as the twenty-second and the twenty-fourth), is Grover Cleveland. During his second term, after experiencing pain on the roof of his mouth, a tumor was discovered by the White House physician. Under the pretext of a vacation, the surgery was performed on a yacht in Long Island Sound. A substantial part of his hard palate and upper-left jaw were removed.
Two weeks later, on the same yacht, a second surgery fitted the president with a vulcanized rubber prosthesis that restored his appearance and ability to speak.
The thing I find most refreshing about Grover Cleveland was his unwavering character and his never-ending fight against political corruption.
How sad in this day and age that many times, these attributes are in such short supply that we are forced to vote for the lesser of two evils.