You know how sometimes you read a weird anecdote about a former president in one of the many books about presidents that you own and you just think to yourself, "Man, I wonder what was going on in the president's head when THAT happened"?
Believe it or not, you're not alone! I do the exact same thing. For the few of you out there who DON'T, this is what it's like. Here is, what I imagine, three former presidents were thinking about during particularly embarrassing moments of their presidency.
You Can't Spell "William Howard Taft" Without "Fat"
[At 330lbs, William Howard Taft was by far the largest president America has ever had. Handpicked by Theodore Roosevelt himself, Taft was the 27th President of the United States, historians look back on him quite favorably, and at one point during his presidency, he got stuck in the White House bathtub. Because he was so fat.]
OK. OK. This isn't that bad. This is not that bad. It's not.
This is really bad.
Let me just make sure I'm definitely ...
OK, yes, I'm definitely stuck. Shit. Shit. This is fine. Let's just- I just need to get out of here quickly, before too many people notice. I'll just ...
"Hey can someone, uh ..."
Wait, shit, who do I even call about this? Do I have ... Is there like a guy who does this? Someone whose thing this is? It is the White House, they have a guy for everything. But of course they don't have a guy for this, Bill. Why would the White House think they needed to hire a guy to get presidents unstuck from the bathtub?
Maybe my wife? Would it be less embarrassing if Helen- Oh, what am I thinking, Helen can't lift me, she doesn't have a solid core OR a strong center of gravity.
"Baby, you know I love you, but sturdy and load-bearing you are not."
So frail and ghostly. I knew I shoulda married her sister. Eleanor. Eleanor could do it. That is the kind of woman who could lift a president out of tub if I ever saw one, I'll tell you that. Eleanor had the haunches of an Olympic bear-wrestler.
I need to get out of this fucking tub.
This is really bad. And, shit, well, this is it. You know this is the thing everyone's going to remember, right, Bill? The only thing. This is absolutely, without question, the only thing about President Taft that people will remember. All of my policies? Forgotten. Out the window. Down the drai- aw, shit. I was worried the only thing people would remember about me would be that I was the fattest president. But, no, now I'll be the president who was so fat that he was made prisoner by a god damned piece of furniture. That's what they'll all remember.
Unless ... I gotta- I just gotta do something even more impressive. Build lots of orphanages or kill ... someone. Someone everybody hates. Or- I got it! When I leave the presidency, I will become Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. No other president has done that, it'll be my thing. Hell yes, I'm going to do the crap out of that. And then a hundred years from now, all the history students will say, "Oh, right, Big Bill Taft, he was the only man in history to be both the President and a Supreme Court judge, right? So impressive!" Yes. That's what they'll all remember.
Who the hell are you kidding, Bill? You're the president who's so fat you made a diaper out of a bathtub. William Howard Taft. More like William Howard Bath. Or ... Or William How-Fat-Do-You-Need-To-Be-To-Get-Stuck-In-A Bath? I bet they're going to use me as a measuring test for bathtubs from now on. "Excuse me, do you have any larger tubs? I have three young kids, and we'd like to have them bathe together to conserve water." "Why sure, Ma'am, take a look at this tub. It's roughly one-and-a-half Tafts wide, and about a Taft-ass deep." Shit this is bad. OK, just ... just suck it up, let's just get this over with.
"Hello? Excuse me, will- Is anyone around? I'm- It's your president. Hello. I'm caught in my bathtub and I'm ... I'm the fucking president of the United States of America. Would anyone- Oh, hey, Tim, good, you're here, be a pal and- What? You're going to get more guys to help you? That's so- Yeah, fine, I guess, I'm pretty big, sure ... Fucking four!? Four guys, is that really necessary!?"
[It really was. Later, a special bathtub was installed just for Taft. It fit four men.]
We Had a President Named Garfield? And Someone Shot Him??
[On July 2, 1881, President James Garfield was assassinated in a train station by a delusional former librarian named Charles Guiteau. For reasons that will never be made clear, Guiteau believed that he was responsible for Garfield's presidential victory. Guiteau felt that, since he got Garfield his job, it would only be fair of Garfield to return the favor and give Guiteau a job. Specifically, Guiteau thought he was entitled to an ambassadorship to France. He cornered Garfield and told him as much, and when Garfield refused to entertain the delusion, Guiteau shot him, twice.]
"My God, what is this?"
Holy fucking tits, what the shit!? Who the fuck was that guy? Oh, man, I hate him so much. Fuck!
"Why the shit?!"
Who would- Why would anyone do that to me, I'm not even- I'm barely a president, I haven't even been president for a year; how could I have offended him, or fucking anyone? Christ, I'm gonna die. And then Chester Arthur's gonna be president, and I'm pretty sure he's Canadian. Shit. Oh, man, fuck bullets hurt. Oooohhh, everyone who said "bullets hurt" was right, they were totally fucking right, this hurts. Ooohh, the most. Nothing will be worse than this.
[Amazingly, Garfield didn't die. He was taken to a hospital, with one bullet still lodged in his body that the doctors couldn't seem to find. In an effort to find the bullet, Alexander Graham Bell invented a metal detector pretty much right on the spot. The doctors would use the metal detector and start cutting and digging whenever the device sensed metal. They did this several times, but still, they couldn't find any trace of the bullet, even though they got the distinct impression that metal was present every single time. This was because the bed frame beneath Garfield was made of metal. None of the doctors decided to check that, though. There was no time; they had a president to recklessly carve up.]
"Bullshit, I'll prove I'm a better doctor than you: I am going to cut the ever-loving SHIT out of this president, just to give death a head start, and I'll STILL win. You'll see."
Don't say anything. Don't say a word. They're doctors, they know what they're doing. I know it LOOKS like they're just hacking away at my body with no real direction, but I'm sure there's more to it than that. Just let them wor- Oh, is he cutting into me again? Has he seriously not found the bullet yet? What was that first hole for? This new hole is way on the other side of my torso, how was he that far off the first time around? I can't- I am the President of the-
No, you know what, it's fine. He's the doctor, and we're just going to respect his decisions. We may want to question the logic of using the metal detector a second time after it's clearly demonstrated its uselessness the first time, but, hey, what do we know? He's the doctor, right?
I'm ... I'm just gonna ask him.
"Hey, I can't help but notice you're not cutting a third hole into me. You, uh ... find the bullet? Any luck on the ... on the bullet front? Doc?"
No. Huh. OK, that's fine. Well, we tried, now all we can- Wait, is he going for the metal detector again? You have got to be shitting me. It's beeping, now, great, yes, of course it's beeping, of-fucking-course it's fucking beeping, that's all it does. Don't just dig every time you hear a- OOWWWWW, FUCK, oh man, fuck this doctor. He is so lucky I already used my one, free presidential kill on Guiteau. Man.
Look at the- He's not even- He's just using his hands at this point, he's just digging. Ow. Ow. Ow ow ow, come on! Jesus. Well, that didn't work. Again. What is he ...
"Doctor, you had better be picking that metal detector up just so you can dramatically break it over your knee, and stick whichever end winds up being pointier up your ass. I swear to God, if you use that on me one more- OOOOOWWWWWWWW EAT SHIT YOU BASTARD! Stop just cutting and pawing every part of me that you think beeps, come on now. This isn't a game of Operation, asshole."
I don't even think that's been invented yet, actually.
[Garfield died months later. One of the doctors accidentally punctured his liver, and another introduced Streptococcus into his system. It is believed that this probably killed him, and not the bullet.]
Zachary Taylor: Death By Cherries
[On July 4, 1850, at a groundbreaking ceremony for the Washington Monument, 12th President of the United States Zachary Taylor, in an effort to battle the oppressive, summer heat, consumed an entire pitcher of milk and a giant bowl of cherries. No one knows why he did this, and for some reason it killed him.]
Man. All these doctors and not one of them knows what's wrong. This is pretty rough, my stomach is killing me. Should I ... I should probably tell them about ... about all those cherries I ate. Right? Nah, it's probably not relevant.
On the other hand, it was a fuckload of cherries. What if knowing that I ate all those cherries unlocks the key to saving my life?
"Hey, doctor, I just- It's probably nothing, but I just wanted to throw this out there: Right -- watch, you'll think this is silly -- right before I started feeling sick I ate some cherries. Like a bunch ... No, no, a whole lot ... How many? I don't know. If I had to put a number to it, I guess ... Like 250 cherries. That's a conservative estimation. I ate a shitload of cherries, Doc, definitely more than I was supposed to have, and I chugged probably a gallon of milk or so. Like I said, probably nothing, just wanted to bring it up."
Wow, he is really mad. He's gonna ask me why I did it and I do not know what I'm going to tell him. I keep throwing up and shitting myself, though. That seems to be doing a pretty good job of distracting him. I guess I'll keep that up.
"Excuse me? Why did I do it? Oh, you know how sometimes it gets ... hot, and you're like 'Oh, cherries, that's a nice refreshing thing, there's juice involved I'll just eat ... like an even 250 of them. To stay ... Because of the heat.' What's that? No, doctor, I've never read anywhere that cherries are good at cooling someone down, come to think of it, no. But it seems like they would be, right? Doesn't it seem like ... No? OK."
I should just admit it. 'I'm sorry doctor, I ate all those cherries because I have the self control of an eight-year-old child, please don't be mad at me.' Stupid. So many cherries, so many fucking cherries. And the milk! Why did I drink all that milk?
"These men aren't even doctors, they just came to laugh at you, you fucking infant."
There's no way this is the thing that kills me. No freaking way. I can't go out like this, I'm a president! I fought in a war! The press compared me to George Washington and Andrew Jackson! All the other presidents got to die in a cool way, this isn't fair. No way. No way. I refuse to believe that I accidentally desserted myself to death. No way does ole' Zachary Taylor get taken out by some milk and ... like, a metric ton of cherries. No way. No.
[Way. That is absolutely how he died. In 1980, his body was exhumed because modern scholars refused to believe that someone died in such an idiotic fashion, (especially a president, who presumably is surrounded by staffers and guards to make sure he doesn't kill himself by behaving like a freaking goldfish). An autopsy was performed because people were convinced he was poisoned. He wasn't. It was the cherries and milk.]
Daniel O'Brien is Cracked.com's Senior Writer (ladies), and he loves talking about presidents (first ladies).
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