Today at the Rooktopia Top 10, we handle the Top 10 Most Badass U.S. Presidents. In developing this list, I ignored the most recent presidents, from Nixon onward. I don’t want to turn this list into a political snitfest.
Which American Presidents could whoop your ass and leave you crying home to mama?
- #10 – Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Think that a man in a wheelchair is a pushover? Tell that to FDR. He managed the two of the greatest crises in American history — the Great Depression and World War II — with temperment, charm, and luck. He could also be a manipulative, devious bastard, but that’s a trait of all great badasses, eh?
- #9 – James K. Polk. He doesn’t get much recognition nowadays because of his self-imposed one term presidency. Still, he made the most of it. He grabbed half of Mexico in the Mexican-American War. (Man, are you complaining the Iraq War is illegal? Check into the ridiculous claims Polk was throwing around some time.) He swindled the British into acquiring the Oregon Territory. Those nerves of steel got us Texas, California, and Washington, which may or may not be a good thing, depending on your point of view.
- #8 – John F. Kennedy. PT 109 sinks. Commander Kennedy clenches the strap of a wounded crewman’s lifejacket and tows him to safety with his teeth. He and the surviving crew end up on Cross Island, befriend natives, and send messages for help via coconut shell. Kickass.
- #7 – Dwight D. Eisenhower. As impressive as Kennedy’s WWII performance was, Eisenhower pit the allied forces against the forces of Hitler … and won.
- #6 – Ulysses S. Grant. Unconditional Surrender said it best himself: “It seems that man’s destiny in this world is quite as much a mystery as it is likely to be in the next. I never thought of acquiring rank in the profession I was educated for; yet it came with two grades higher prefixed to the rank of General officer for me. I certainly never had either ambition or taste for political life; yet I was twice President of the United States. If anyone … suggested the idea of my becoming an author … I was not sure whether they were making sport of me or not. I have now written a book which is in the hands of the manufacturers.” Well said, man. Well said.
- #5 – John Quincy Adams. He was the author of the Monroe Doctrine (and didn’t get credit for it). As a congressman, he tried his damnedest to abolish slavery, getting a gag rule repealed and defending the slaves on the Amistad. And as a President, he loved to skinny-dip in the Potomac. What’s not to like about this guy?
- #4 – George Washington. You know that famous painting where Washington crossed the Delaware and captured 1,000 Hessian mercenaries? Badass. That part where he and the combined American/French forces trapped Cornwallis in Yorktown? Badass. The part where he took the oath of office and showed America what a real president is supposed to look like? Badass to the extreme.
- #3 – Abraham Lincoln. You don’t have to punch a man in the gut just to be a badass. Sometimes you just got to start with nothing and claw your way to the top. Honest Abe was born to two uneducated farmers in a log cabin, back when log cabins weren’t luxury retreats. He pretty much taught himself everything, reading every book he could get his hands on. He overcame every failure in his political career to become one of the most respected presidents in American history.
And if that weren’t enough to secure his spot in the Top Three most badass presidents, he was also handy with an axe and a talented wrestler. So don’t let that rail-thin frame fool ya. The guy could probably put you in a headlock like you wouldn’t believe.
- #2 – Theodore Roosevelt. The mere mention of his name, and you think, “Bully!” Why was this his favorite catchphrase? I don’t know; maybe he liked giving swirlies to the nerds of his time. Anyhoo, any discussion of Badass Presidents is not complete without T.R. The man was a man who took life by both hands and gleefully chorfed it down. He was a boxer, he lived in the Badlands, and he headed up the Rough Riders. He was the first president to fly an airplane. He hunted big game in Africa. He braved the jungles of South America, eventually contracting malaria. When he died of coronary embolism, Vice President Thomas Marshall said, “Death had to take Roosevelt sleeping, for if he had been awake, there would have been a fight.”
Pardon me, Veep, but F*** that noise! T.R. should’ve died with machine guns in both hands, both ablazin’, while fighting a pack of deadly velociraptors. Dying in your sleep? That ain’t the T.R. way!
Trivia: Roosevelt hated being called “Teddy.” Thus, the name “teddy bears” are a dishonorable affront to this great man.
- #1 – Andrew Jackson.
This guy would also head the list of biggest jackasses in US history. Yet, after he left office, it seemed like every Presidential candidate — including Tyler and Polk — wanted to be like Ol’ Hickory. Why is that? There are two incidents that cement Andy as the most Badass President Of All Time.
- The first, from encarta.com:
Jackson’s hot temper involved him in a number of feuds and duels. Many of them were caused by remarks made about his marriage. The duel with Charles Dickinson in 1806 stands out as an example of Jackson’s characteristic refusal even to acknowledge the possibility of defeat. Jackson let his opponent fire first, because Dickinson was a faster and better shot. Allowing himself time to take deliberate aim, Jackson planned to kill his man with a single bullet, even “if he had shot me through the brain.” Thus, Jackson took a bullet in the chest and, without flinching, calmly killed his man.
You read that right: A-Jackz let a man shoot him first, right in the chest, then killed him afterwards. Hard-effin’-core.
- But now you’re saying to yourself: “Dammit all, El Santo, any military guy would be able to take a nice chest shot. Surely that rotten old apple couldn’t possibly keep it up when he was old and President of the United States” This brings up incident number two, brought to you by the Smithsonian’s Natural Museum of American History:
On January 30, 1835, President Andrew Jackson attended a congressional funeral in the Capitol building. As he exited, Richard Lawrence, an unemployed house painter, pointed a pistol at Jackson and fired. The percussion cap exploded, but the bullet did not discharge. The enraged Jackson raised his cane to throttle his attacker, who fired again. The second weapon also misfired and the sixty-seven-year-old president escaped unharmed.
So, let’s see: Andrew Jackson becomes target of the first ever assassination attempt. Nowadays, Secret Service agents would whisk the Prez away. But that’s not the Andrew Jackson way. A-Jackz, an old man in his late 60’s, went after his assailant with his cane.
(Richard Lawrence, the would-be assassin, got off on an insanity plea. But you gotta suspect the real reason he got off lightly was because everyone in Washington, at some point, must’ve contemplated putting a bullet through Andrew Jackson. But no one had the guts to face Andy’s Mighty Pimp Cane.)
So how was A-Jackz able to pull this off? Was he made of hickory, like his nickname implies? Was it plain old American toughness? Probably. But I like to think that Andrew Jackson may have been a cyborg from the far future, sent back in time to abolish the National Bank. Be afraid.
- The first, from encarta.com: