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Archive for the ‘Man I Don’t Know My Presidents’ Category

Warren G. Harding

(March 1921 – August 1923)

First Off: A Prize to Anyone who knows what the G stands for without looking it up!!!

  • Wobbly Warren
  • Prsident Hardly
  • Ran on the Slogan: A Return to Normalcy (A word Harding made up for his campaign – which obvs. peeved HL Mencken (see quote below)).
  • His mother called him ‘Winnie’ (Gotta Admit: Not too butch)

 harding_warren

THE TRIVIAL:

  • Generally and consistently ranked by scholars as one of the worst presidents of all time.
  • Harding played poker at least twice a week, once gambling away a set of presidential china dating back to Benjamin Harrison. His cabinet was often referred to as the Poker Cabinet because they all played poker together.
  • Many incorrectly claim that Harding coined the term ‘bloviating’ but it was recorded in print prior to Harding’s birth.
  • Both of Harding’s parents were doctors.
  • First President to have a golf course named after him.
  • First newspaper publisher to be elected president.
  • First President to travel to Canada (He stopped over on the way to Alaska. Also; He was the first president to visit Alaska).
  • Warren G  has the distinction of having the largest feet of any president with a size 14.
  • And PS – the G stands for Gamaliel.

And finally, we leave you with a quote from H. L. Mencken:

He writes the worst English that I have ever encountered. It reminds me of a string of wet sponges; it reminds me of tattered washing on the line; it reminds me of stale bean soup, of college yells, of dogs barking idiotically through endless nights. It is so bad that a sort of grandeur creeps into it. It drags itself out of the dark abysm of pish, and crawls insanely up the topmost pinnacle of posh. It is rumble and bumble. It is flap and doodle. It is balder and dash

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NickNames

  • The Schoolmaster in Politics
  • The Professor
  • The Phrasemaker
  • Coiner of Weasal Words

woodrow_wilson

 

Trivia

  • Wilson didn’t learn his letters until he was 9, didn’t learn to read until he was 13. So, Good News, Illiterate tweens! You too can grow up to be president of Princeton and the good ole US of A. But…you  probably won’t.
  • Though they never met, Sigmund Freud wrote a treatise on Wilson that claimed he likened himself to Jesus Christ.
  • Wilson was married when he was in office to Edith Bolling Galt Wilson. Is it just me or do her middle and maiden names sound like they should be hyphenated and used as a nickname like “Machine Gun” Kelly?
  • An avid golfer, Wilson used a black ball when he played in the snow.
  • Woody Guthrie is named after him (Woodrow Wilson Guthrie).
  • Election results were broadcast for the first time by WWJ in Detroit, MI. (What, did they not have hologram results with Wolf Blitzer back then?)
  • After suffering a massive stroke that left him partially paralyzed and nearly blind, his wife ran a “Petticoat Government” She was also referred to as the Iron Queen, the Presidentress and the Regent. Generally considered the most powerful First Lady there ever was.
  • Woodrow Wilson had a pet sheep named “Old Ike” that would chew tobacco and graze on the South Lawn.
  • Second president to address Congress (the first was Washington).
  • His vice president Marshall was the one to utter the famous bon mot, “What this country needs is a good five cent cigar.” Here-Here.

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William Howard Taft

1909-1913

Nicked Names

  • Old Bill
  • Big Lub
  • FattyFatty 2×4 Can’t Fit Thru The Bathroom Door
  • The 27th President, 10th Chief Justice of US Supreme Court, 1st Provisional Governor of Cuba, 42nd US Secretary of War, 1st Civil Governor of the Philippines, 5th US Solicitor General, 1st in line at a buffet

williamhowardtaft

Taft is really the president that ought to be known as the Trustbuster. He busted over 80, beating that so-called buster (Teddy ‘Not as Busted’ Roosevelt) by about 40. Taft just didn’t happen to rail against business in his rhetoric. That’s right Taft is twice the buster TR ever was, suckas!

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 Theodore Roosevelt

 

  • Theodore the Meddler
  • Trustbuster
  • TR or Teddy
  • The Cyclone Assemblyman
  • Rough Rider and Hero of San Juan Hill
  • Old Four Eyes
  • The Lion

(Walk softly and stand near a big globe).

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William McKinley

Served 1897-1901

  • The Napolean of Protection (For his love of tariffs)
  • The Major (referring to his rank in the Civil War; used by intimates and family, not publically)
  • The Idol of Ohio
  • The Stocking-footed Orator (Cute!)

 

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For More on Cleveland see the original post on #22 Grover Cleveland here.

NickNames for Cleveland:

  • Mistake by the Lake
  • Blunder from Down Under
  • The Query from Lake Erie
  • Faux Pas by His Ma and Pa
  • Impropriety from High Society
  • The Black Eye from the Buckeye
  • The Blooper of a trooper
  • Square nut in an oval hole
  • An Error of an Heir

 

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Benjamin Harrison

In Office: 1889-1893

  • KidGloves Harrison (attributed to the mudslinging or to the fact that he was prone to skin rashes and wore gloves frequently)
  • The White House Iceberg or Human Iceberg (Gave warm speeches to groups but was very cold one-on-one)
  • Young Tippecanoe (Grandson of Ol Tippecanoe)
  • The Front Porch Campaigner (gave more than 90 impromptu speeches from his front porch)
  • Grandfather’s Hat (from Campaign song “Grandfather’s Hat Fits Ben”)
Benjamin Harrison Picture
Benjamin Harrison

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Grover Cleveland

(1885-1889)

  •  Uncle Jumbo
  • The Perpetual Candidate
  • The Stuffed Prophet
  • Elephantine Economist
  • The Hangman of Buffalo
  • His Obstinancy or The Veto President
  • The Beast of Buffalo

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Chester A. Arthur

Sept 19, 1881 – March 4, 1885

 

 

  • Elegant Arthur
  • The Gentleman Boss
  • The Dude President (Inspiration for the “Big Lebowski”)
  • Our Chet

                                  CAA-c1859.jpg

 

Arthir was chosen by Garfield to be his running mate at the 1880 Republican National Convention because he was a stalwart (the support of which Garfield did not have) and Garfield knew the vote would be close. In some ways this was to be his undoing since Charles Guiteau shot Garfield saying “I am a Stalwart of the Stalwarts…Arthur is president now!!” Arthur was shocked by the assassination and mortified of Guiteau’s claim of political unity.

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James A. Garfield

March 4, 1881-September 19, 1881

 

  • The President Preacher (was a lay preacher for the Church of Christ)
  • Boatman Jim or The Canal Boy (referring to early occupation)
  • The Plow-Boy of Ohio

At the time of the Republican National Convention, Garfield was a current member of the House of Representatives. Right before he left for the convention, he had been named to replace a senate seat from Ohio that had just been vacated. By the 36th vote at the convention, Garfield had been named nominee for the presidential election and that senate seat Garfield now declined eventually went to John Sherman (who Garfield had gone to the convention to support as presidential nominee).

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 Rutherford B Hayes

1877-1881

NICKNAMES:

  • Rutherfraud
  • His Fraudulancy
  • The Usurper
  • Granny Hayes
  • Queen Victoria in Riding Britches
  • The Great Unknown
  • President de Facto
  • Dark Horse Prsident

[Is that a reconstructed nation in your beard or are you just a scary old dude?]

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Ulysses S. Grant

1869-1877

  • Unconditional Surrender Grant
  • The Hero of Appomattox
  • Useless Grant
  • The Galena Tanner (Due to his Artificially Orange pallor)

 

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Andrew Johnson

April 1865-March 1869

  • Father of the Homestead Act
  • Andrew the Sot (for giving an inaugural address as Veep in a less than sober state)
  • Old Andy
  • The Tennessee Tailor
  • Sir Veto

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Abraham Lincoln

(1861-1865)

  • Honest Abe
  • The Great Emancipator
  • The Floatboatman
  • The Rail Splitter
  • The Sage of Springfield
  • The Abolition Emperor or King Linkum the First
  • The Uncommon Friend of the Common Man
  • The Original Gorilla and The Orangutan in the White House
  • The Sectional President

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James Buchanan

(1857-1861)

  • The Bachelor President – Only President Never to Marry
  • Ten Cent A Day Jimmy – Thought that was a decent, living wage
  • The Sage of Wheatland – His home in Lancaster County , PA
  • Old Buck
  • Old Public Functionary
  • Old Fogey
  • The Cannon – Play on his last name

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Franklin Pierce

(1853-1857)

  • Handsome Frank– He found this embarrassing
  • The Hero of A Well-Fought Bottle – Refers to his lack of military command and his known drinking habits.
  • The Fainting General– Reference by his opponents to an incident when an artillery blast blew his saddle horn into his abdomen, causing him to loose consciousness for a few moments.
  • Young Hickory Of Granite Hills– Comparing his military deeds with Andrew Jackson, and Granite Hills refered to his New Hampshire background

Alright Folks, we’re at a tough time in our nation’s history. We’re leading up to #16 and the Civil War. What’re you gonna do, Handsome Frank?

 

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Millard Fillmore

July 1850- March 1853

  • The Accidental President
  • Wool-Carder-President
  • The American Louis Philippe

 

 

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Zachary Taylor

(March 4, 1849 – July 9, 1850)

  • Old Rough and Ready (disdained the luxurious afforded to senior officers, preferring to ‘rough it’ along with all the other ranks)
  • Old Zach
  • Hero of Buena Vista (referring to Mexican War)

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James K. Polk (1845-1849)

  • Young Hickory -Because he was backed by “Old Hickory,” Andrew Jackson
  • Napoleon of the Stump -Due to fiery speeches at the stump
  • Dark Horse Candidate – Le Duh.

(Wait. – Are you seeing what I’m seeing? James Polk rocked a mullet. Kudos).

When Polk took office he had four clear objectives:

  • Purchase of California from Mexico
  • Reduction of tariffs
  • Re-establish the Independent Treasury System
  • Acquire part or all of the Oregon territory

Resolved to only serve one term, Polk accomplished all four of his goals. (Are you loving Polk yet? Doesn’t he seem like a breath of fresh air?)

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John Tyler (1841-1845)

  • Honest John
  • His Accidency
  • The President without a Party
  • Traitor Tyler
  • The Veto President

 

 

John Tyler was the first Vice President to assume the office of President after William Henry Harrison’s untimely death one month into his term. The 25th Ammendment which codifies the assumption of power was not actually ratified until 1967. In Tyler’s time, some were calling for an acting president or “acting caretaker” to be named until a new election could be held. Harrison’s cabinet objected (fearing no legislation would get through) and Tyler took the oath of office on April 6, 1841.

 

Tyler was rarely taken serioulsy during his time in office. Tyler had been expected to adhere closely with the Whig party (of which he was a member). But, Tyler shocked party members by vetoing virtually their entire agenda. Tyler was officially expelled from the Whig party in 1841, months after taking office.

 

Tyler advocated the annexation of Texas which most of the Whig party opposed as it would upset the balance between North and South and risked war with Mexico. Tyler pushed Congress to annex Texas through an adopted joint resolution which they did. Tyler finally got word to his representative in Texas on March 3, 1845 (Tyler’s last day in office) to officially announce the annexation. After a period of instinctual scepticism, James K. Polk confirmed the annexation and Texas was formally admitted to the union in December 1845.

TYLER TRIVIA:

  • Tyler was playing marbles when he learned that he was to be president
  • Tyler was the first president to have his veto overridden.
  • Only president to have served as President pro tempore of the Senate
  • Tyler had the most children of any President (with 15)
  • Twenty years after leaving office, Tyler joined the Confederacy, becoming the only President to be a sworn enemy of the United States
  • Tyler was great-unle of Harry S. Truman
  • Tyler’s second wife initiated the practice of having “Hail to the Chief” played everytime the president entered the room.

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Ladies and Gentlemen…Let’s Welcome…

  • Old Tippacanoe (Commemorates his 2 victories over Tecumsah)
  • Granny Harrison (At 68 he was then the oldest president to be elected)
  • General Mum (Denotes his avoidance to speak on controversial issues)
  • Log Cabin Candidate (positioning him as a man of the people, even though he did come from a privileged background)
  • Cinncanatus of the West (Comparing him to both the original and Goerge Washington)

william-henry-harrison.jpg

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Martin Van Buren (1837-1841)

  • Old Kinderhook (from Kinderhook, NY)
  • Little Magician
  • Machiavellian Belshazzar
  • Martin Van Ruin (in office during the economic crisis 0f 1837)
  • Petticoat Pet (after his fancy dress)
  • The American Tallyrand (comparison to the devious Frenchman) 

martinvanburen.jpg

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Andrew Jackson (1829-1837)

  • Old Hickory (During Creek War nothing would keep him from battle, causing his troops to compare him to the hardest of woods)
  • King Andy (Far reaching programs seemed to some as excessive use of power)
  • Hero of New Orleans (Victory over the British in January 1815)
  • Caped Crusader (only President to wear a cape in his Presidential Photograph)
  • Action Jackson (this one is a lie but, we wish people called him that)

andrewjackson.jpg

 BADASS MOMENT #1– In 1806, Jackson met Charles Dickinson in a duel over some remarks Dickinson made about Jackson’s wife. Dickinson got in the first shot, a direct hit square in the chest, two inches from Jackson’s heart. Jackson didn’t even fall down. But returned fire, killing Dickinson and walked away. The bullet was too close to his heart to be removed so it remained lodged in his chest for the rest of his life.

BADASS MOMENT #2 – On January 30 1835, Richard Lawrence fired two pistols at Jackson at point blank range. Both of them failed to fire (Odds 1:125,000). Jackson chased after Lawrence and beat him with his cane. 

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John Quincy Adams (1825-1829)

  • Old Man Eloquent
  • Publicola
  • King John II

johnqadams.jpg

Judging by this picture I think he also found a lot of work as a character actor, always relegated to playing the crotchety miser. The archetypal Man-In-The-Spooky-House (“My ball went in old man Adams’ yard so there’s no way we’re getting that one back).

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James Monroe (1817-1825)

  • The Last of The Cocked Hats (Still wore the tricorne hat, long out of fashion)
  • James the Second (As he succeeded James Madison)
  • James the Lesser (As Madison was seen as the stronger leader of the 2)
  • Era of Good Feelings President (Era reflected the time after War of 1812, the country was less politically divided)

 monroe.jpg 

For those of you keeping score at home, Monroe makes 4 out of 5 of the first presidents from Virginia (Adams being from Massachusetts).

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James Madison (served 1809-1817)

  • His Little Majesty (At 5’4″ Madison was the shortest president)
  • Little Jemmy
  • The Father of the Constitution
  • Sage of Montpelier
  • Withered Little Apple John
  • The Fugitive President

 madison.jpg

 James’ wife Dolly Madison apparently had a sweet tooth and therefore has her own line of cookies and snack cakes which continue today.*

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Thomas Jefferson

Where to begin? I mean, you could write a book about this guy.

thomasjefferson.jpg

  • The Moonshine Philosopher of Monticello
  • The Man of the People
  • The Red Fox 
  • The Pen of the Revolution
  • Father of the University of Virginia

President: Thomas Jefferson (1801-1809)

Vice-President: Aaron Burr (1801-1805)

        George Clinton (1805-1809) – (Uh, Not the one in Parliament Funkadelic)

These weekly features aim to focus on the men and their time as president of the United States; Jefferson, however was so displeased with his time in office that he deliberately left it off his epitaph. So, um….What can you say?

Jefferson was the First US Secretary of State, Second Vice President, Third President and Principle author of the Declaration of Independence.

Jefferson came into office believing that his election was a semi-revolution, a call to get the government back on track from the wayward direction it was going under the Federalists. He was a Democratic Republican who believed in smaller federal government and a laissez faire attitude towards government’s involvement in the economy. Jefferson was of the school of thought as the old adage, “that government is best when governed least.”

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El Numero Dos. The second in our on-going series to get to know our Prezzies.

  • The Father of the American Navy. 
  • His Rotundity.
  • The Duke of Braintree.
  • His Superfluous Excellency.
  • The Atlas of Independence
  • Old Sink or Swim
  • Bonny Johnny Adams

adams.jpg

John Adams (1797-1801).

VP: Thomas Jefferson.

What do you know about Adams. Generally, not a lot, right? I mean compared to the phenomenal men that bookended him (or, the bread to his mostly-meatless sandwich), Washington and Jefferson; Adams seems a little neglected. Right?

(Yeah, I know his cousin, Sam makes decent beer).

Adams was a sponsor of the American Revolution in Massachusetts and a driving force for our nation’s independence. Jefferson called him “The Colossus of Independence” (which would have been on his campaign bumper stickers, if, you know…). Adams, of course was selected as one of the members of the committee to draft the Declaration of Independence (along with Jefferson and Franklin among others)

I remember the XYZ Affair from some history class in high school (Thanks, Phil Ratliff!). It boils down to something along the lines of: France had backed the US in the American Revolution, then they were angry when trading resumed between the US and Great Britain. The French seized nearly 300 ships bound for British ports. Hamilton and other Federalists called for war. Adams wanted to handle the situation diplomatically and sent 3 emissaries to France to negotiate. The French wanted a large cash bribe and an apology from Adams to begin talks. Adams said no-go. The three emissaries returned to America and Jefferson (a Democratic-Republican) blamed Adams for the breakdown and demanded to see the reports. Adams released the reports, referring to the 3 Frenchmen who had demanded the bribe only as X, Y and Z. Therefore, this was known as the XYZ Affair and consequently soured alot of Americans’ view of the French.  (Relations cooled).

But Adams broke with his own Federalist party to avert a major conflict with France. There was a two year undeclared war known as the Quasi War which was fought at sea (in the Caribbean and of the Eastern coast of the US) with France. (Also known as the Undeclared War with France (not creative enough, guys!), or The Half War, or the most evocative name for a conflict in our nation’s history, The Pirate War!). Adams began building up our nation’s navy.

The major blight on Adams’ record came when he created the Alien and Sedition Acts (set to expire after 2 years) which allowed the president to deport any resident alien dangerous to the “peace and safety of the United States” or to deport any resident aliens if their home countries were at war. It also disallowed any speech that could be seen as seditious or “false, scandalous or malicious writing” against the government or its officials. Needless to say, many objected to these since they were fairly unconstitutional.

In 1799, George Logan tried to make a treaty by himself (without the backing of the government or the president) which resulted in Adams passing the Logan Act, which stated that no unauthorized citizen could go into another country and make a treaty for the United States. (A no brainer, right?).

Adams did succeed at reaching a treaty with France, sacrificing his chance at reelection, at the Convention of 1800.

Adams died on Independence Day (July 4) 1826, famously uttering the last words, “Thomas Jefferson still survives,” which was untrue as Jefferson died the same day, only hours earlier. The two had a very public falling out but had regained a friendship through correspondence later in life. They were the only two presidents to sign the Declaration of Independence and both had struggled to survive to that 50th anniversary.

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We here at the Life Tussle aim to entertain and inform you.

Call it “Edu-Tainment.”

This begins a year long look into the history of the presidents of our United States Presidents. We promise that it will  consistently be 98% factual.

Unfortunately, we have decided to go in order. So we have to first start with the most famous of American Presidents, George Washington. (Unfortunate, only in the fact that I know a dazzling amount about Benjamin Harrison, but that’ll have to wait). And also…why be funny about Washington?

PS – If you happen to know a great deal about a president, leave a comment or drop us a  note at thelifetussle@gmail.com

Let’s go:

You know him.

You love him.

Ladies and Gentleman, Our Very First President,

  • George Washington (1789-1797)

Vice President: John Adams

If you’re like me, you love him mostly because he decided not to be king. I sort of can’t say enough about this fact. Others wanted him to be king. He refused. He also chose the reference “Mr. President” over more regal and more European titles. Washington also refused his salary of $25,000 (which must have been alot at the time) because he didn’t need it and he wanted to be more of a servant to the new, fledgling democracy. He later relented when Congress pointed out that it would dissuade others with less financial means from running for president (which is pretty laughable in this day and age).

MYTH: Washington had wooden false teeth.

FACT: Washington’s teeth were made of cow’s teeth, human teeth, and elephant ivory set in a lead base with springs that allowed him to open and close his mouth. They fit poorly and distorted the shape of his mouth. (This makes more sense when you see it in Disney’s animatronic Hall of Presidents).

MYTH: Washington could not tell a lie/Chopping down a cherry tree. – I think we all know this was made up (by an early biographer, Parson Weems) who just wanted to re-iterate the fact that Washington was truthful. We get it, the dude is To-Be-Respected. Gotcha.

About.com tells me that he is the only president not to live in Washington, DC.

QUESTION: Ummm….Was there a Washington, DC?

ANSWER: Kind of. Planning began in 1790. A southern site was agreed upon during a dinner between James Madison and Alexander Hamilton (at Thomas Jefferson’s place).  The site was part of a new national government’s assumption of debts from the Revolutionary War (the South had largely paid off their debts and this was a compromise for the largely industrial, more populous, bankrupt North (See: Civil War)).

Interestingly enough, George met Martha when she was living on the ‘White House Plantation’ in 1759, when they were both 29. He proposed to her 3 weeks after they met. She was a wealthy widow, thereby increasing his estate by a third. He helped raise her two children from a previous marriage. They never had any children together.

Washington is the only man to be unanimously elected by the electoral college. And he did it twice. (Take that, Benjaimin Harrison’s re-election team!).

George Washington wasn’t a member of a political party. And, I read somewhere that Washington was the only founding father to free his slaves.

  • Only founding father not to attend college.
  • Patron saint of the hippie/stoner types for his allegiance to hemp.
  • Gave the shortest inauguration address at 133 words.
  • Washington freed his slaves in his will, upon the death of his wife Martha. Although Martha did not free slaves in her will.

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