Marquel, TPVs NYTimes Amusements Section, was making crying and laughing faces in the mirror, when he read A Terrorist Horror, Then Golf: Incongruity Fuels Obama Critics. As the president returned to his vacation, a firestorm of criticism from Republicans and Democrats erupted over what many saw as a callous indifference to the slaughter of James Foley. Marquel read the story then heard from a contact what Obama’s reaction was.
“I didn’t kill the guy! What do they want from me? I’ve never even beheaded a housefly.”
His aides all agreed. That’s their job. But it is sort of like skipping your Grandma’s funeral because you didn’t kill her. Unless you did, then it might be on your lawyers’ advice.
But Marquel knew, from his PhD thesis on American Presidents Amusements, that Obama was not the only leader to fiddle while Rome burnt. In fact Nero figured prominently in my thesis introduction (ultimately rejected by my committee as “overly informative, amusing, and insufficiently jargonistic”). And he wasn’t the first leader to need an outlet for excessive responsibility. Alexander the Great was known for mowing neighbors’ lawns during massive battles. Otherwise he was Alexander the Mess.
George Washington habitually had pissing contests with his fellow generals at the height of battle. Whoever lost led the next charge. They say Washington never lost a pissing contest. What if after learning of Foley’s death, Obama and his aides had gone around helicopter 1 and had a pissing contest if it helped relax the president?
Andrew Jackson used to sleep in stranger’s houses to relieve the pressures of office. He would frequently open the White House to a party, then go to a guest’s house for the night and just sleep. “I just like new beds,” he told his vice president.
Abraham Lincoln had the most secretive relaxation techniques. He had Matthew Brady take photos of the president and his wife Mary in compromising positions. In fact one famous shot, in the fields of Gettysburg moments after he spoke, fed the rumor mills for fifty years. Apparently Mary found this as relaxing as her hubby, returning to the White House with, as the staff agreed, “extremely rosy cheeks.”
William Taft, our most obese president, during times of crisis, winter or summer, took his cabinet to the Potomac where he would float on his back, and the cabinet would all pile on and try to sink him. According to the secret service records, he never sunk and once had to be rescued in mid Atlantic when a sudden storm drove them all out to sea.
otherwise known as “Silent Cal,” never used the Oval Office except in times of stress when he would invite the entire congress in to hear him deliver four and five hour soliloquies on topics as varied as how to hem a zipper, the proper way to sip hot soup, to how to properly brush a part into your hair. The unanimous reaction of the entire congress was, “my God, he can talk!” But it was always kept out of the papers.
Teddy Roosevelt, when the pressure built, would put on his Rough Rider suit he wore in the attack on San Juan hill, go into the White House back yard, and play alone in the children’s sand box. He would carve little figures of congressional leaders, then pound them to bits.
FDR, during times of crisis including during the entire attack on Pearl Harbor, would put the entire white House staff on crutches, and have races from one end of the building to the other. He won easily.
In fact almost all presidential amusements seem designed to build up the presidential ego. Except for Truman, who insisted on being dressed in diapers and fed from a bottle when he dropped the two atom bombs, and also when he fired MacArthur, who found it especially demeaning, saying, “he could have put some pants on.” To which Truman reportedly responded, “ga ga goo goo goo goo.”
Everyone knows about JFK
was quoted as saying she
“liked the foursomes and sixsomes, but not the odd numbered groups.”
Apparently, after a fivesome conducted during the entire attack on the Bay of Pigs, Jackie was dyspeptic for a week.
So, basically Obama’s infractions might be mild compared to his predecessors’, but his staff just doesn’t know how to bend it to their profit. Golf has been a presidential diversion since before Eisenhower, who spent all of D day teeing off with Churchill, and reportedly never once even stepped into the White House. His entire two terms, seven days a week, were spent on the links and he slept in the clubhouse to ensure an early start. Nobody talks about that. Maybe a black golfer is just too unnerving. Perhaps he should try caddying and see public opinion change.
BY MARQUEL: US Presidential Trivia. And then Syria