We’ve had a bit of fun here and there with some of our past presidents. I mean, just because you got to be the leader of the free world for a bit doesn’t mean you get away with being an asshole for all eternity (I’m looking at you, Jackson. And Washington. And Jefferson. Should I keep going?). That said, this list is going to be a bit lighter on the moral transgressions like rape and genocide, and heavier on the strange quirks.
For funsies, as the kids say. (Do the kids still say that? idk).
10. Ronald Reagan
This guy really believed in astrology. Like, not in the passing way where you can read your horoscope every day searching for meaning in your humdrum existence. Or finding the answer to the question of whether the guy two cubicles over is ever going to ask you out. No, Ronnie had an astrologer on speed dial.
In her book, astrologer Joan Quigley claims that Reagan consulted her before scheduling any events, picking dates for press conferences, debates, and speeches, as well as takeoffs and landings for Air Force One.
9. Gerald Ford
8. Zachary Taylor
One of only a handful of Presidents to die in office, and, as far as I know, the only one to die of an indeterminate cause. The man returned to the White House after a day of 4th of July celebrations and wolfed down a giant snack that included a huge bowl of cherries and an entire pitcher of milk. He soon grew ill and, despite efforts by four different doctors, died five days later.
His body was exhumed in 1991 after a historian put forth the hypothesis that Taylor could have been poisoned by arsenic, but the results of the pathology reports didn’t support her claims. Taylor still might have been poisoned in some way, but it would have had to have been something other than arsenic. It could also have been simple food poisoning, or – less interestingly, I admit – his death could have had nothing to do with his odd choice of meal.
In the end, I hope that I’m able to say what Taylor did on his deathbed: “I regret nothing.”
7. James Madison
He was also, incidentally, the first President to wear trousers instead of breeches. Stick that in your Trivial Pursuit pipe and smoke it.
6. Franklin Pierce
Though there seems to be no evidence that Pierce indulged while in office, it seems from the personal accounts of at least one dear friend that he was quite the partier upon his retirement. The passage comes from the diary of one Clement March, who describes a night of debauchery (that totaled well over $900, adjusted) in Boston as “the greatest frolic of my life.” The two started drinking in the afternoon and plowed through brandy, champagne, oysters, beefsteak, more brandy wine, and oysters – taking a break for a little theater in the middle – before strolling the streets.
Specifically Fruit Street (a red light district in 1858). The man knew how to party, for sure, and I’m sure that after running the free world for a few years, he needed to blow off some steam.
5. Herbert Hoover
You know the old expression that children should be seen and not heard? Well, Hoover took it one step further with his White House staff – he thought they should be neither seen nor heard whenever he and the First Lady were in the room.
He expected them to literally make themselves invisible, to the point of the staff jumping into the nearest closet in order to avoid being seen.
Seems a little odd to me. I mean, how many conversations did that staff overhear because they were “invisible” and the President never knew they were there? Too many, I’d bet. I want those tell alls.
He also insisted the Marines who served he and his wife had to all be exactly the same height. What a weirdo.
4. William Howard Taft
At over 300 lbs, Taft really has no competition for the heaviest president of all time – but if you’re even a casual history buff, you already know that, so no, I’m not trying to feed it to you as a weird fact.
What you might not know is that he was too heavy to fit in the White House bathtub and had to have a custom one installed during his tenure in office.
3. John Tyler
He wasn’t elected, and he only rose to the presidency when William Henry Harrison died. Not only that, but Tyler seemed to be universally hated. Thurlow Weed, a member of his own party, called him a “poor, miserable, despised imbecile.”
Ouch. I mean, one of those descriptions would send me into a spiral of tears, but this guy thought he needed four to accurately describe his feelings on the man.
Also, I would like to comment on the name Thurlow Weed, but I’m not sure what to say. Other than the fact that, wow, you got started in life with that moniker and rose to a place where you had enough confidence to shit on a sitting President, so…well done, you.
2. Richard Nixon
Yeah, yeah, you know all about what a terrible person Richard Nixon turned out to be…but even this history buff wasn’t aware that his depravity went far deeper than what they teach you in high school history. I mean wiretapping, fine, but plotting a murder?
It turns out, yes.
Nixon had an adversarial relationship with journalist Jack Anderson. It bothered him to the point that he went out of his way to sabotage and discredit the columnist. When that wasn’t enough, Nixon and his cohorts planned to either poison Anderson or give him a lethal dose of LSD by smearing it on his steering wheel. Basically, I’m pretty sure that Nixon was at least part of the inspiration for Frank Underwood from House of Cards.
On a side note, it was recently discovered that Nixon committed treason by conspiring with the South Vietnamese to trash peace talks that LBJ was holding in 1968 that could have ended the Vietnam War – all so Nixon could win the presidency. This is all 100% true. In fact, it has been pretty big news recently, as the depths of Nixon’s personal involvement in scuttling the talks was discovered not long ago.
1. Bill Clinton
You probably think you know all about the scandals that plagued Clinton’s presidency, but did you know that he once lost the nuclear launch codes? Yeah. And not for like, an hour. They were missing for a month.
It probably wasn’t Clinton’s fault, since an aide is usually in charge of the codes in the first place (in fact, Clinton may never have known it happened until after it was over), but still. After the whole playing-with-balloons thing last year, it really makes you wonder how together the man ever had it.
Love history? You’re going to want to check these out!