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Presidential Anecdotes

ISBN: 9780195097313 | 0195097319
Edition: 2nd
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Pub. Date: 4/25/1996

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One evening Calvin Coolidge took a short walk around the White Housegrounds with Senator Selden P. Spencer of Missouri. As they were returning,Spencer pointed to the Executive Mansion and said facetiously: "I wonder wholives there." "Nobody," said 'Silent Cal' glumly. "They just come and go." Ofcourse, Coolidge exaggerated. There were never any real "nobodies" in the WhiteHouse. Many tenants possessed talents and skills worthy of respect in any timeand place. Some of its occupants, however, displayed modest abilities indeed.Take Warren Gamaliel Harding for instance. A former small-town Ohio newspapereditor, Harding thought he had a way with words. He did, but it was the wrongway. H.L. Mencken was fascinated by what he called "Gamalielese." It was, hethought, the worst English he had ever encountered. "It reminds me," he wrote,"of a string of wet sponges; it reminds me of tattered washing on the line; itreminds me of stale bean soup, of college yells, of dogs barking idioticallythrough endless nights. It is so bad that a sort of grandeur creeps into it."Dramatic, poignant, hilarious, and sentimental: anecdotes about ourpresidents are as varied as the presidents themselves, and people have enjoyedhearing them since the early days of the American republic. This new and revisededition of Presidential Anecdotes recounts some of the most striking storiesabout America's forty-one chief executives, from Washington to Clinton, from themost famous to the least-known. Shedding light on the presidents as human beingsand on the culture that produced them, this entertaining book shows what avaried lot of personalities they were--brilliant and dull, taciturn andtalkative, austere and easy-going, vain and modest, generous and miserly,pompous and folksy, charming and lackluster.From the story of George Washington chopping down the cherry tree to BillClinton winging a speech to Congress, from Abraham Lincoln's homely tales toRonald Reagan's one-liners, Presidential Anecdotes contains an abundance offascinating and revealing stories about America's presidents. Arrangedchronologically, the stories are based on passages appearing in autobiographies,letters, journals, and reminiscences of the presidents and their families,friends, and associates. Some of the stories are spurious, as the book makesclear, but most of them have a solid basis in fact. Boller provides a succinctsketch of each president, depicting his personality, character, central vision,and the highlights of his administration. He then goes on to retell the tales inhis own words, lending the collection extra readability and offering a betterview into the character of each president.Protected by priority and protocol, not to mention secret service men, thepresidents' individual personalities have nevertheless managed to leak to thepublic. Taken together, these anecdotes comprise a capsule history of thepresidency and a running commentary on American politics during the past twohundred years.


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