There are many insightful, serious articles about American presidents that ponder the nature of power and its effect on those who wield it.
This is not one of those articles. This one is about silly shit like this:
Well, slightly less staged-looking than this, but you get the point.
See, for all the amazing power and awesome perks the job entails, being a president can be a bit of a poop-fest. Sure, you have a neat crib and the strongest military on the planet at your disposal, but office hours tend to be long and difficult when your literal job description is "lead the free world while everyone screams about what a crap job you're doing." That's why many world leaders and their staff enjoy a laugh when they can -- their day-to-day jobs feature a lot less fun and a lot more uncomfortable talks with people who look like this:
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"I could kill you with my spleen."
Of course, this doesn't take away the fact that they're still presidents. As such, they prefer to laugh at things that are not presidents. Maybe this is why so many seemingly serious leaders have a penchant for the occasional practical joke. Cases in point:
4Franklin D. Roosevelt: Slapstick President
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The esteemed Franklin D. Roosevelt had a knack for mischievous humor and real difficulty keeping his mouth shut when he came up with something that amused him. An example: According to a relative, FDR once managed to cause a mild diplomatic emergency over the correct way to cook goddamn Brussels sprouts. The so-called Sprout Incident happened in the latter stages of World War II, when Roosevelt started giving shit to Winston Churchill's wife over the fact that English people boil sprouts (justified), and then proceeded to punk her with a number of completely ass-pulled "better" recipes (slightly less justified). Eventually, FDR pulled John Winant, U.S. ambassador to Britain, into the mess, embarrassing him thoroughly.
The Churchills presumably fed Winant a lot of FDR's messed-up recipes after that, because the next time he saw the president, Winant promptly told him he was a diplomat and not a fucking foodster, and that he'd resign in a second if Roosevelt ever pulled a stunt like that again. This is probably the closest to a "Now listen here, you little shit ..." talk anyone has ever given a president -- or, for that matter, a Roosevelt.
John "Balls of Adamantium" Winant, ladies and gentlemen.
Apart from randomly insulting English cuisine, FDR was also fond of puns and dad jokes. He'd call his secretary of the treasury just to make him guess who he was in bed with, only to eventually reveal that the answer was "A sore throat." However, he was also a massive fan of simple, slapstick-style practical jokes. As a child, he'd freak out nurses by putting Alka-Seltzer in their chamber pots. As president, he'd summon reporters for a "massively important" press conference and have them meet a random farmer who proceeded to give the media a lengthy lecture about the importance of stud bulls. In physical therapy, he discovered that if he relaxed his legs at the exact right moment, his therapist would lose her balance and fall in the swimming pool, a revelation that caused him endless joy. Once, FDR even deliberately stranded a member of the Secret Service on the roof of a farm building by ordering him to scale said building, then bribing a dude to remove the ladder. He was that kind of guy.
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"... and after he'd been there for three days, I gave him the atomic wedgie. Then I pelted him
with live ferrets until he cried and pooped."
As annoying as the whole slapstick shtick probably was, it may have been a blessing in disguise. When FDR dropped the pie-in-the-face act and started getting sneaky, things got pretty terrifying for his peers. He set up situations where he and his aides grimly informed the extremely human-rights-minded attorney general that, due to Pearl Harbor, he was to draft an act that forbade the freedom of discussion and information. They kept the ruse going for five full minutes, and as the panicked attorney general tried to argue against the idea, they all burst out laughing to his face. FDR also tried to trick the secretary of the treasury (yes, him again), who evidently took a Ron Burgundy approach to his speeches, to blurt out some very unstatesmanlike things during an address. (The man noticed the "unsavory things" in the script and abruptly ended it before he spoke them out loud.) In a particularly inspired move, Roosevelt even managed to prank call a number of well-known White House correspondents and recruit them as spokespeople for a famous laxative.
Consider that for a moment: The most famous voice in America prank called the very people whose job is to listen to him and convinced them to take up a new career as paid faces of a poop medicine. That is the kind of mind that gets to be president.
3George H.W. Bush And The Ridiculously Elaborate Porn Prank
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Bush the Elder's presidency is generally considered a stalwart, pragmatic, and reliable performance by a man who didn't bother with the unnecessary frills of the job, such as clear vision or public credibility. As such, he's not a guy you'd expect to indulge in practical jokes, unless you're the kind of person who counts the strange experiment he's been running on the world since 1946 as one.
Or so you'd think. There are those who say that Bush could be quite a joker when the situation called for it. Consider a recent story from his twilight years, when he -- at the ripe age of freaking 90 -- punked his family so hard that they disregarded their own internal "Don't tell anyone" policies because the story was just too damn good to be wasted. This story, which emerged in 41ON41, a "talking heads"-style documentary about Bush, provides interesting insight into what happens when the kind of mind that is able to govern a whole nation goes into full-on jest mode.
It all started when Bush's wife, Barbara, found a big fat stack of printed-out porn (the sources insist on the term "scantily-clad women," but come on) on her personal printer in Kennebunkport, the family's Maine compound. This in itself raises a number of interesting questions, but apparently someone else had printed them, because Mrs. Bush was extremely upset over the find. So upset that she couldn't stop talking about it to anyone who would listen, eventually badgering her husband to take action.
Action, that is, to prank his wife in a manner most ruthless.
Bush assumed a completely different identity -- that of one J. Smith, district attorney of Portland, Maine. Using "Office of the Attorney General" dummy stationery, he drafted a sternly-worded letter to Barbara Bush, former first lady and, according to J. Smith, current sexual deviant. It went a little something like this:
Via U.S. News
"Attached, you'll find copies of the offending prints and 1,000 pages of graphic reference material. Please study them carefully."
Yes -- for little more than shits and giggles, Bush impersonated a DA and summoned his own 89-year-old wife to court over pornography charges. He even had a lackey drive over to Portland so the letter would have the correct postmark. Once the letter arrived, he arranged it so that as much of the family as possible would be present as Barbara opened the letter and freaked out in a manner most royal.
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The story ends here, but I like to think this is where the doorbell rang and Bush ushered in the Sex Police.
The only thing that the sources adamantly refuse to reveal is the identity of the person who printed out those dirty pictures in the first place. They all say that they have a fairly good idea of who the culprit is, but refuse to name any names on camera. It's almost as if they were afraid of the person in question ...
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"Sorry, folks. Don't ask, don't tell."