6 Weirdly Specific Things That Screw All 2nd Term Presidents
Here's the truth about a two-term president: He or she is destined for disappointment the moment they're reelected. The first term is a weekend spa getaway compared to the pain in the ass that is the second four years. That's when all the shit that could possibly hit the fan does, and it doesn't happen by coincidence.
Here are a few reasons why no U.S. president should ever want a second term ...
They Just Screwed Over Their Party by Winning
You'd think that winning a second term in the White House ensures a smooth ride into a secure legacy as the single greatest person in American history. You get to keep your parking privileges (and launch codes) and your first act of office is four more years of epic parties at your sick mansion.
It's like your senior year in high school: You've put in plenty of time proving how awesome you are; the rest is just a formality, albeit one that should rightfully involve lots of keg stands and hand jobs ...
Future leaders of the free world.
Unfortunately for most second-term presidents, they aren't really going to like a lot of the people showing up to their party. That's because incumbent parties almost always lose seats in Congress during midterm years, which tend to hit two-term presidents especially hard. Like, historically hard. It's a phenomenon political scientists call the six-year itch, which, coincidentally, is also an apt description for herpes.
Thomas Jefferson is the only U.S. president in history whose party gained House and Senate seats during his sixth year in office, and all but one president since Woodrow Wilson lost seats in both the House and Senate their second term. The lone wolf? Of course: Bill Clinton, whose Democratic Party benefited immensely from his brewing impeachment, which actually boosted his approval numbers by 10 points among voters who understood that, in all truth, blow jobs are pretty great.
Still, nearly getting bounced from a sweet gig isn't exactly good news for any president, especially if you consider ...
Most Presidential Scandals Take Two Terms to Get Juicy
While being president for just one term is a surefire sign something went wrong, the truth is, most presidential scandals focus on fiascoes from the first term that just took a few years to gain traction.
"But they didn't get us, did they? High-five!"
Nearly every president in modern history suffered a second term remarkably worse than his first. FDR's New Deal hit major roadblocks and the Great Depression came roaring back like parents had stopped vaccinating their kids against it.
Harry S. Truman's second stint was embroiled in an IRS scandal and unpopularity after the firing of General Douglas MacArthur, who wanted to drop enough nukes on China that the radioactive glow would turn it into a giant black-light poster.
Eisenhower got wrapped up in a scandal caused by a wool jacket.
Nixon had Watergate, Reagan had Iran-Contra, Clinton had Monica, and George W. Bush had enough to earn him a free scandal with the purchase of a large fountain drink.
With a complimentary order of birdshot to the face.
Obama hasn't fared much better, either. There have been scandals involving the IRS, CIA, Pentagon, Guantanamo Bay, Department of Veterans Affairs, and even with those silly bastards at the Secret Service, who've been treating their jobs like they're in a wacky workplace sitcom.
*Fart sound. Pratfall. American flag cries. Uproarious audience laughter*
If the second term is that bad, why even bother? In fact, losing is actually for the best, because ...
Losing Reelection Is So Much Better for Your Health
By now, it should be pretty clear that being president takes a hell of a toll on the body. By the time their suit jackets are hanged from the rafters, all two-term presidents have aged enough to look like they just returned from a trip through the other side of a black hole.
George W. Bush, circa 2007.
On the flip side, losing reelection is the best thing for any president more interested in living a ripe, full life than appearing on U.S. currency. Jimmy Carter is living proof. He currently enjoys the longest retirement of any U.S. president, despite being most famous for having his clock cleaned by Ronald Reagan. And for winning the Nobel Peace Prize.
Doesn't look a day over dead.
In terms of lengthy retirees, Carter is followed by fellow one-termer Herbert Hoover. Despite presiding over the Wall Street crash of 1929, Hoover died in 1964, 31 years after his administration. The guy most famous for doing nothing during the tumultuous end of the Roaring '20s outlived the Kennedy administration and lived long enough to be one of the first people to shake an angry fist at hippies.
So, how did all the other presidents fare? Five of the six longest-living presidents in history were one-termers, as were all seven presidents to enjoy the longest retirements. Even William Howard Taft (one term; born in 1857) got to outlive Teddy Roosevelt (two terms; born in 1858) by more than a decade, and Teddy was basically your great grandparents' version of the T-1000.
Your Heir Apparent Is More Than Likely to Lose
Assuming a president has won enough elections to officially be barred from ever winning again, they are then faced with another harsh truth of the second term: The next viable candidate from their party will lose.
Right now the narrative of the 24-hour cable news prognosticators is that Hillary Clinton is as close to a shoo-in for the presidency in 2016 as there is. But history says otherwise.
She heard us say that! EVERYBODY RUN!
Almost every president since World War II saw his party lose control of the White House after two terms in power. It's so common you'd think American voters were doing it for symmetry.
Truman -- Incumbent party lost
Eisenhower -- Incumbent party lost
JFK/LBJ -- Incumbent party lost
Richard M. Nixon/Gerald Ford -- Incumbent party lost
Ronald Reagan -- Incumbent party won! (George H. W. Bush served one term)
Bill Clinton -- Incumbent party lost
Thomas J. Whitmore -- Incumbent party lost
George W. Bush -- Incumbent party lost
A possible exception.
Ronald Reagan being followed by George H.W. Bush is the only exception, and Bush's only lasting achievement was using his penis to create a second, lesser President Bush. The public can only put up with a particular party's antics for a maximum of eight years. After that, we give another pack of old rich dudes a chance to destroy everything.
You Have a Library to Build Anyway
Every president gets a library. That's just how the world works. Unfortunately, a president can't simply assemble a team of workers to erect a building in their honor. That's too Egyptian. They're involved in nearly every step of the process, just short of ripping off their shirts, putting on a hardhat, and laying the bricks themselves.
President Greasy Hunkslab.
One of the advantages of losing reelection is that you can focus full-time on building your library, which is like attending only half your classes yet still getting a diploma. Still, building a presidential library is an enormous, arduous, expensive, thankless task that's prone to scandals -- and they're all made worse if the president is still in office, struggling to perform day-to-day presidential duties.
"OK, put the blow-job display over by the soft-serve machine."
So, how bad is it? During the Watergate scandal, Nixon got into a nasty fight over whether he could destroy White House tapes requested for his library. This led to the passage of the Presidential Recordings and Materials Preservation Act, something Nixon is still swearing over.
Reagan had to cancel plans with Stanford University for his library during his second term.
Clinton's library was subject to scandals and lawsuits up to his last days in office.
As for the George W. Bush library, that project received complaints from 12,500 signatories that deemed Southern Methodist University in Dallas an "utterly unacceptable" location, because not even southern Methodists in Texas wanted Dubya's legacy lingering on their campus, especially not when the world was bracing for the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.
It was eventually built on the SMU campus, and it is home to Bush's extensive collection of coloring books.
In the middle of building their legacy, they have to build a building that will house their legacy. Why so little help in the second term? Why do second terms have to finish so much worse than the first? To put it bluntly ...
Everyone Is Waiting for You to Leave
Do you have any idea how depressing presidential transitions are? To go from having the most powerful job in the world to being a regular, everyday Joe who just happens to drag around a Secret Service detail everywhere you go is a tough fall back down to reality.
"Eagle is deciding between Trix and Cocoa Puffs. Over."
When you lose reelection, it's over quickly. Winning reelection is a Band-Aid that takes four years to peel off. The Constitution requires that you shed your powers on a specific date in the future. Once opponents get a sense that day is approaching, they realize their combined apathy is more powerful than the presidency. And thus, a president has officially become a lame duck. They're Superman getting further away from a yellow sun. And with an election for their replacement dominating headlines their final two years, even the press will become increasingly indifferent toward what they do and say. Clinton understood that pretty well.
That's the final, sad nail in the coffin of a presidency's second term: You're still the most powerful person in the world, but no one cares.
Check out Jacopo's book, The Great Abraham Lincoln Pocket Watch Conspiracy, and follow him on Twitter @Jacopo_della_Q.
For more on presidents, check out 3 Reasons We Need to Reexamine How We Elect Presidents and 6 Presidential Secrets Your History Teacher Didn't Mention.
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