This is inauguration month. You probably didn’t realize this, unless you’re one of the few people who followed the 2016 Presidential election. I mean, who paid attention to that?
It was the single nastiest election since I ran for high school student council in 1979, and came in fourteenth out of thirteen. (I was beaten by “none of the above”.) But I’m a humor writer, and humor writers are fearless, so I’m absolutely going to not write about that election because I’m not stupid. And not one of those other twelve student council candidates can deny that, not even the one who ran on the platform of banning shop class, which I voted for him.
Here in Indiana we’d much rather talk about basketball and the weather than politics. That includes me, and I hate basketball. Hoosiers only follow politics because of our belief that politicians are like dogs: They might do some things for you, but if you stop paying attention to them they’ll chew up everything and spread crap all over the place.
Mostly people here in the Middle would just like to be left alone to lead our lives, but if someone riles us up … well, that’s a different story. After all, this is a state where the governor once sent the American army to attack a political convention, in the state capital.
It was called the Battle of Pogue’s Run. Although there were no serious injuries, Pogue’s Run had all the makings of an epic story: rebellion against authority, a cavalry charge, cannons pitted against trains, pistols hidden in petticoats … you can’t make up stuff like that.
This is what people did for fun in Indianapolis, before the Colts arrived.
|Pogue’s Run. Some sports team plays in that building in the background.|
As all fifteen of my regular readers know, I write these things early, so for me it’s three weeks before the 2017 presidential inauguration. Maybe we’ll have a repeat of 2009, when Chief Justice John Roberts mixed up his words while giving Barrack Obama the oath of office. People were so worried about it turning into a legal issue that Obama was sworn in again the next day—and that was over just 35 words.
Apparently no one took issue to Lyndon B. Johnson’s vice-presidential oath, in which he was supposed to say “without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion”, and instead said “without any mental reservation whatever”. Hey, we’ve all been there.
Anyway, in part of my ongoing effort to have something to write about—I mean, to educate the public—let’s see how things have gone wrong in past presidential inaugurations.
I’ve already written about William Henry Harrison, who gave the longest presidential inauguration speech ever, then promptly died. He should have taken note of George Washington’s speech, the shortest ever. Still, maybe it wasn’t the time so much as Harrison’s refusal to wear a coat: In 1937 Franklin D. Roosevelt watched the inauguration parade for an hour and a half during the rainiest inauguration day in history, and survived. Not only that, but he watched the whole thing while standing—and FDR couldn’t stand, without assistance.
|President Harrison is feeling a little under the weather …|
In 1909 ten inches of snow fell on William H. Taft. Luckily he was a big, big guy, who just plowed through his speech.
In the inauguration of 1865 Abe Lincoln had a brand new vice-president, Andrew Johnson—who showed up drunk for his own speech. The story is that Johnson was feeling under the weather, and alcohol was the preferred treatment for a lot of ailments back then. I suppose alcohol’s also the preferred treatment for stage fright.
The most expensive inauguration was Obama’s, which cost more than $150 million—but about two thirds of that was paid for by private donors, an idea I can get behind. Crowd source the government!
John Quincy Adams did something truly shocking at his inauguration: He wore pants. Up until then, all the new presidents wore knee breeches. Perhaps ironically, Adams was also known to go skinny-dipping in the Potomac River.
Adams was also the first president to be photographed, so you can see why he was no peeping prize. But one day a female reporter named Ann Royall, who’d been refused an interview, simply sat on his clothes and refused to let him out of the water … and became the first female reporter to interview a U.S. President.
|Who wouldn’t want to see this handsome guy skinny dipping in the Potomac?|
On a less happy note, in 1857 thirty-six people celebrating James Buchanan’s inauguration caught the “National Hotel disease” and died. Buchanan got it too but recovered, and I assume didn’t dine at that hotel again.
JFK had a hot time at his inauguration parade, as in the podium caught fire. A Cardinal was delivering the invocation at the time—think what you will of that.
Then there was the inauguration of Andrew Jackson. Twenty thousand people gathered outside the Capitol, a huge crowd for 1829, and Jackson was so happy that he said: “Ya’ll come on over and visit us at the White House!”
So they did.
Jackson had to escape out the back while the drunken mob smashed stuff and generally turned the White House into a wreck, which also happened when Hillary started throwing bric-a-brac at Bill during the Affair Affair. The party organizers were only able to clear the building by putting free booze out on the White House lawn.
But here’s my favorite of all: In 1953 Dwight D. Eisenhower was in the reviewing stand for the inauguration parade when a cowboy rode up to him on a horse … and lassoed him.
Of course, that had to have been planned in advance. The cowboy, Montie Montana (I assume that’s his real name) … survived.
|“Not sure why them fellas in the suits seem all upset.”|