5 Political Acorns That Fell Farthest From the Tree

There’s actually a Clinton worse than Bill
5 Political Acorns That Fell Farthest From the Tree

Let’s say you’ve run afoul of a trickster god, and despite having no previous aspirations toward a career in politics, you have to run for president. Look around at your family: Who’s the most likely to become a problem over the course of an election campaign? Everybody’s got one. If you can’t tell who it is, it’s you.

Fortunately, as long as you keep an eye out for grudge-holding deities, you’ll never experience the thorn in your side that’s an embarrassing relative as a politician. But someone’s gotta be president, so these guys’ dads and brothers stepped up — and paid the price.

John Payne Todd

John Payne Todd was technically only the stepson of James Madison (the sickly one in Hamilton), but what he lacked in a biological connection to the fourth president he more than made up for in being a pain in his ass. He was only 17 when Madison was elected, so after proving himself useless at school, he was sent by his parents on diplomatic missions to Europe, where he mostly drank, whored and gambled, and not in the way that facilitates diplomacy. Upon his return, it was all they could do to keep him out of debtors’ prison and also actual prison, as he was frequently arrested for getting drunk and waving guns around in public. No wonder that guy was so sickly.

Billy Carter

There were times during the Carter administration when Jimmy’s brother, Billy, was getting more headlines than anything Carter himself did. In addition to supplying the media with a steady stream of wild anecdotes (like pissing on the airport runway at a press event and some, ahem, unfortunate comments about Jews), Billy kinda, sorta became a registered agent of Libya in a transaction that secured him a hefty business loan. The scandal even got its own “-gate” suffix, and right in the middle of the Iran hostage crisis.

He was best known, however, as a voracious consumer of beer, cracking open a cold one in the middle of meetings, pontificating from atop a beer box throne in the gas station he owned and promoting a brand of beer for no reason but that it was named Billy Beer. His drinking level eventually rose from “enthusiastic” to “problematic,” however, and he was sent to rehab just as Carter’s presidency was winding down. Touchingly, Jimmy always stood by his brother, even as Billygate reached out to shove his already precarious reelection bid off a cliff.

Roger Clinton

Believe it or not, Bill isn’t the most shameful member of the Clinton family tree. That honor would arguably go to the one who shares IMDb credits with Pauly Shore. Clinton’s half-brother, Roger, spent most of the ‘90s and early aughts chasing careers as a movie star, rock star or at least a frequent talk show guest. His acting career was probably most successful, resulting in a string of bit parts, often as himself or a parody of his brother, but we can’t dismiss the creative genius of forming a band named Politics.

It turned out his best talent, however, was creating scandal, most notoriously by cozying up to the Gambino crime family, who are believed to have showered Rog with gifts in exchange for extracting pardons from his brother, but also by scoring his own pardon for an ‘80s drug conviction and showing his appreciation with a string of DUIs. It was these shenanigans that saddled him with the Secret Service code name “Headache.”

Elliott Roosevelt

The Roosevelts, on the other hand, are about as seemingly upstanding as it gets, so FDR’s son Elliott’s propensity for controversy was lovingly cultivated. It started when he forwent college in favor of joining the Hearst media empire, then synonymous with yellow journalism, and explicitly used his column to antagonize his father. Then he joined the military, where he was first accused of plotting to secretly sell warplanes to the Soviets in the notorious Air Mail scandal and then of being paid off to recommend the purchase of experimental aircraft over better models. He obviously didn’t need the money, so what was it supposed to be for, the love of the game? (He was, of course, cleared on all charges.)

After the war, Elliott tried his hand extremely briefly at politics with a successful campaign for mayor of Miami Beach before immediately getting voted back out. He settled on publishing, most famously with a tell-all memoir detailing his parents’ sex lives. Again, he did not need the money. He was just sitting around, regaling the public with tales of his parents’ genitals for fun. He also wrote a series of mystery novels featuring his mother as an amateur detective, which honestly sound lit as hell.

Patti Davis

Meanwhile, what distinguishes the Reagans’ first child from her political dynasty is that she’s actually pretty cool. In fact, she adopted her mother’s maiden name to distance herself from the Reagan brand, embarking on a career as an actress, singer and writer. She’s posed for Playboydated rock stars and written books about hiding her weed plants from her famously anti-drug mother — who, by the way, also popped a ton of pills and beat her, she also wrote. She’s also loudly advocated for just about every liberal cause under the sun — except the release of John Hinckley, Jr. She’s a little touchy about that one.

Scroll down for the next article
Forgot Password?