Let's face it: Presidents' Day is a totally unfair, skewed holiday--just one more day out of the year that we honor Washington and Lincoln, who are already all over our money, city and state names, and novelty boxer shorts. I think it's time we recognized some of the other presidents for a change! That's why I've constructed the LMNOP Presidents' Day Challenge, which gives four under appreciated presidents their proper due. By scanning the presidential profiles on whitehouse.gov, I was able to come up with what I think was, for 15 minutes, a pretty comprehensive understanding of these four men and their greatest contributions to American history. See if you can guess what they were, and then read the answers below:
OK, let's see how you did:
A.) James K. Polk: Sweetest Deal in Presidential History.
When he offered Mexico $20 million to buy California from them, he was greeted with laughter. Clearly, the Mexicans knew that Brad and Jen's old house alone was worth at least $20 mil. However, Polk ended up proving that while he was not really reading US Weekly, he was definitely tapping into something worth looking at, because he ended up getting the last laugh. He let the whole thing escalate into a little war, and ended up buying both New Mexico AND California from Mexico in the end, and at only $15 million, as if to say, "Ha! Not only are we taking California for $5 mil less than asking, we're also taking that other territory and using it to make a NEW Mexico that isn't a sucky wuss." Now, the New Mexico that we built hasn't really yielded much for the country in the years since, except maybe like those Southwestern-motif wall hangings? But, still: well played, Polk. Well played. Congratulations on the Sweetest Deal in Presidential History.
B.) Warren G. Harding: Best Vocabulary
All of us have heard some variant of the boring story about how Warren G. Harding sparked a controversy by using the word "normalcy." A lot of people thought he meant to say normality and thought he was a dumbass. Others defended him and said that normalcy was in the dictionary and was a real word. When we examine this word in the context that Harding originally used it in, I think we can safely put this debate to rest:
"America's present need is not heroics, but healing; not nostrums, but normalcy; not revolution, but restoration; not agitation, but adjustment; not surgery, but serenity; not the dramatic, but the dispassionate; not experiment, but equipoise; not submergence in internationality, but sustainment in triumphant nationality...."
Um, he just legitimately used the words "nostrum" and "equipoise" in the same sentence. Do you think this man doesn't have a handle on his vocabulary? Clearly people were just looking for something to complain about while they waited for Teapot Dome or whatever.
C.) James Buchanan: Best Quitter; Best Faux Hawk
James Buchanan, when faced with rising civil unrest and the near-certainty of a war between the North and the South, did what I definitely would have done: he stalled and let the clock run out on his presidency so that the next guy (Lincoln) could deal with the problems. As whitehouse.gov notes: "Buchanan reverted to a policy of inactivity that continued until he left office. In March 1861 he retired to his Pennsylvania home Wheatland, leaving his successor to resolve the frightful issue facing the Nation." I think that anyone who has ever made it to 4
p.m. on a weekday and realized that there is a huge error in the work they did that day, and then decided to just pretend not to notice and turn it in so they can still leave at 5, can definitely relate to Buchanan's strategy. As for the awesome faux-hawk, I think the picture above makes it pretty clear why this man is sometimes called the Ryan Seacrest of Presidents.
D.) Benjamin Harrison: Best Watered-Down Shit Talking
Consider this from the whitehouse.gov official bio of Republican Benjamin Harrison: " As he was only 5 feet, 6 inches tall, Democrats called him "Little Ben"; Republicans replied that he was big enough to wear the hat of his grandfather, "Old Tippecanoe.'"
Congratulations to Benjamin Harrison for inspiring the lamest bout of trashtalking in American history. I mean, really. Democrats: the best you can come up with is 'Little Ben??' Really?
And Republicans. Shame on you. This was your chance for a GREAT retort. Like, the Democrats were coming off of Grover Cleveland. They hadn't done shit in a while. And you come back with some lame reference to 'Old Tippecanoe,' which would go down in history as being something that is vaguely recognizable but not worth the 5-second Google it would take to figure out who or what the hell it is? Republicans: not well played. NOT well played. Benjamin, way to inspire the most pathetic exchange in the history of fussy white men bitching at each other. Them's some hard shoes to fill.