Presidents tend to be charismatic figures. It’s hard to reach the pinnacle of American politics without being able to relate to others.
However, some presidents managed to get elected despite their awkwardness, idiosyncrasies, and off-putting character traits. To celebrate the 4th of July, here are 10 presidents who would ruin your holiday cookout.
Donald Trump: Oh, Donald. Trump promises to bring the best appetizer plate anyone has ever seen. He shows up empty-handed. Trump is the person who wants his steak well-done when asked rhetorically if “medium rare” is okay for everybody. You need to make a special trip out to buy regular Coke for him and then have it lingering around your house. Trump won’t stop blathering on about his popular vote win. No one bring up Mika, please.
Richard Nixon: One of the most talented and arguably the most ruthless of modern American politicians. There’s little danger Tricky Dick will actively try to subvert your cookout. He may strike up a conversation about football. The trouble is when you get two or three drinks in him, he starts slurring his words and ranting about the Jews. More often than not, Nixon has those two or three drinks.
Thomas Jefferson: We’ll set the rank hypocrisy about slavery aside. Jefferson is among the most interesting presidents. He is a curious, well-cultivated intellectual. He has interesting conversations if you don’t bring up his prodigious wine collection. The trouble is that the man is obsessed with vegetables, to the point he views meat as a side dish. Do you want a man at the table who would look at a rack of ribs and ask for more peas?
Andrew Jackson: Jackson was more adept in polite society than his reputation let on. Still, a cookout is about making everyone feel comfortable. The sensitive, prideful ex-soldier with a short temper known for challenging people to duels, carrying through with them, and killing people during them is not making everyone feel comfortable.
Ulysses S. Grant: Great general. Not so great at rooting out corruption. Grant’s not a bad guy, but he has some weird food hangups. He’s disgusted by rare meat. He won’t eat birds. Transport him forward to 2017, and he’s probably a gluten-free vegan. You need to plan for his dietary restrictions. He’s also not big on dirty jokes or off-color language, so keep it clean.
James Madison: Madison is one of America’s great political minds. His wife, Dolly, is great. She’s lovely, charming, and sociable. Madison will trap you in a corner having an invested discussion about political philosophy. You can’t make a gracious exit. Your friends notice your plight, but no one will bail you out.
John Quincy Adams: Adams’ idea of fun is a bracing, nude, 5 a.m. swim in the Potomac. He has the bonhomie of a quite accomplished man constantly being asked questions about his quite accomplished father. He’s more personable than he thinks. He is a skilled diplomat. Intellectuals visiting the United States seek him out. But he will spend a lot of time talking about how much of a misanthrope he is, which is worse.
Benjamin Harrison: How genial is the latter President Harrison? Others nicknamed him the “Human Iceberg.” Harrison is also well-known for wearing gloves when shaking hands with people in public. Skin affliction? Afraid of other people infecting him? Either way, it’s a bit off-putting for other guests.
Franklin Pierce: It’s hard not to empathize with Pierce. He had two children die early. A third dies in a gruesome train accident in front of him. His wife goes mad, more or less. Pierce hits the bottle hard. You feel bad for him. But he can sure suck the fire right out of a room.
Calvin Coolidge: “Silent Cal” is best remembered for being notably laconic, in public and in private, and joking laconically about just how laconic he was. He is also cheap. Coolidge’s birthday is the 4th of July, so you have to make a fuss over him.
The Five Best Presidents for Your 4th of July Cookout
Bill Clinton: Unnervingly charming. Loves to eat. Can get a bit handsy.
Harry Truman: Enjoyed his bourbon. Had a touch for the common man. Got along well with Churchill.
Teddy Roosevelt: He’s there to eat heartily and be relentlessly American. Not a huge drinker.
Ronald Reagan: A font of jokes and old Hollywood stories, even if the details are getting a bit fuzzy.
Barack Obama: There’s “politician funny” just as there’s “athlete funny,” but Obama may have crossed the threshold to just “funny.”