Currently, I’m working with Dee Dee on a book about presidents for teenage readers. The idea is to get more young people engaged in studying and understanding history.
So when President Obama engaged last week in one of the most public presidential pouts in recent memory, I decided to research the subject.
Honestly, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Politicians can be prickly people so it was possible that the list could be long. Then again, these guys are after all politicians, and there is a certain level of coolness under pressure and playing the game just right that goes along with election to high office. Pouting is something reserved most exclusively for kindergarten kids sent to the corner for a time out after throwing their crayons.
In case you missed it, Obama’s public pouting came following the reelection of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and boy was it a doozy. It all began when Obama attempted through back channels to get Netanyahu defeated. No one can prove that directly, of course, but since some of the top aides from Obama’s own reelection bid journeyed to Israel to help out the opposition, we can only assume this to be the case. I’m guessing that Obama and his team were almost as nervous waiting for the Israeli election returns as they were the night of their own reelection bid since they had so much invested in it. Only this time, the results proved disappointing for them.
So Obama did the adult pout. First, he didn’t call Netanyahu for several days to congratulate him. Funny, because he appears to have Vladimir Putin on speed dial and called him immediately after his own reelection as well as a number of other world leaders who aren’t exactly friendly to the United States. While that seems odd, hissy fits and temper tantrums don’t always make much sense.
And when Obama did make the call, we can only wonder how that went. I’m guessing it sounded as heartfelt as the gracious hug from the second runner-up looks at the Miss America pageant.
Following the call, Obama used Netanyahu’s words in the waning days of the campaign against him and dramatically suggested that our entire relationship with Israel could change and not in Israel’s favor.
Things have gotten so bad that this weekend Senator John McCain said on CNN, “The president should get over it. Get over your temper tantrum.”
So clearly we know now of at least one president who’ll go down in history for being thin-skinned and somewhat of a pouter.
Who are the others?
Initially, I thought John Adams might be a candidate. While he and Thomas Jefferson were allies in the American Revolution, they later maintained a fairly long-standing feud. After a little research, I concluded that while Adams could be prickly and difficult, he was too big of a man to resort to outright pouting. In fact, he’d probably have found that shameful and embarrassing.
Next, I ran through the list. While some presidents might not be able to check off the top box in the morality and ethics departments, most evidently held it together long enough not to be accused of petty pouting.
That’s when it came to me. There was one president who wasn’t known for his easygoing manner. Until Obama came along, historians pegged him as thin-skinned and known for his occasional temper tantrum.
That president was . . . drumroll please . . . Andrew Jackson.
A piece about Jackson from the Miller Center at the University of Virginia’s website sums him up: “He personalized disputes and demonized opponents.”
So if someday a modern day sculptor attempts to recreate Mount Rushmore with faces of presidents known to pout quite a bit and throw the occasional unseemly tantrum, there are at least two candidates for the honor.