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February 15, 2008 1:53 PM   Subscribe

The 5 Most Badass U.S. Presidents of All-Time. Just in time for Presidents' Day weekend. In ascending order of badassitude: Andrew Jackson, John F. Kennedy, John Quincy Adams, George Washington and your number 1, Theodore Roosevelt.

Honorable mention: FDR , Harry S Truman and James K. Polk.
posted by psmealey (65 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
Oh yeah, did any of them challenge someone to duel with BROADSWORDS IN A PIT?
posted by marxchivist at 1:57 PM on February 15, 2008 [4 favorites]


Damn straight, my man Teddy's number one. And his mouldering corpse could still out-politick any of the candidates in the current race.
posted by infinitywaltz at 1:59 PM on February 15, 2008



Pfft.

They forgot Thomas J Whitmore.

On July 4th, 20xx he personally engaged in an aerial assault on an extraterrestrial battleship that had already decimated a good portion of the US population. This aerial assault led to the destruction of the aggressive alien force, and saved mankind as we know it.

I expected more from Cracked magazine.
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 2:03 PM on February 15, 2008 [4 favorites]


Did I mention his four nuts? Well he also had four dicks.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 2:04 PM on February 15, 2008


I think this story reflects badly on Jackson in terms of badassitude:
On this day in 1835, Richard Lawrence tried to gun down Andrew Jackson in the Capitol building [...] after both of Lawrence’s pistols misfired, a crowd of congressman, including Davy Crockett, pinned him to the ground. Jackson then beat Lawrence with a cane. After Davy Crockett had already whupped him. Nice.
From Edge of the American West.

A true badass would have gone a few rounds man to man with his witless assassin and only resorted to beating the other guy senseless with a cane after being bloodied a few times. Having Davy Crockett hold the dude down while the on-wailing takes place is most un-badass. I say disqualification.

then there's all the horrible stuff Jackson did... but I suppose being a mean, crazy, racist shithead actually counts towards badassitude
posted by Kattullus at 2:10 PM on February 15, 2008


Should read, from 1 to 5: Jackson, Roosevelt, Lincoln, Grant, Washington.
posted by Iridic at 2:10 PM on February 15, 2008


This is pretty good, but I'm still waiting for the top ten Cracked.com top ten lists that haven't made it into a Metafilter post.
posted by googly at 2:12 PM on February 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


No Lincoln wielding a broadsword?

Gotta love that TR, tho'.
posted by namespan at 2:14 PM on February 15, 2008


I had no idea Teddy Roosevelt had a black belt in jujitsu. I didn't think the guy could get any cooler, but I was wrong. Bully!
posted by EarBucket at 2:16 PM on February 15, 2008


In case it wasn't obvious, my comment above was meant as another take on the assassination story as presented in Cracked. Also, I want to add that Richard Lawrence was a complete fruitcake. He thought he was Richard III of England. Which is totally weird as one would think that 1835 would be the prime period for crazy people to think they're Napoleon.
posted by Kattullus at 2:16 PM on February 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


Kennedy had his dad pull a few strings so he could sneak his way into the navy...
posted by R. Mutt at 2:17 PM on February 15, 2008


Golly, and all Eisenhower did was liberate Europe.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 2:22 PM on February 15, 2008


Overlooking the fact that maybe badassery is not really what we're looking for in a president, there's no doubt Teddy is #1 — he shot lions and elephants, not a lawyer while bird hunting; he even got shot himself, and shrugged it off to finish a speech. Still, I would have hated to go up against Andrew Jackson, who was like a pitbull president.

George Washington too was a badass, for actually holding together the pitiful new nation created out of all the crazyass Americans. And JFK certainly held it together in the PT-boat disaster, but he was pretty much used up after that. A medical wreck, in fact. (As for FDR, is it possible to be a badass in a wheelchair?)

As for JQA, he's overrated; swimming and exercise do not a badass make. Plus, Quincy really doesn't sound like a badass name to me.

[on preview: yeah, put Ike on the list as well.]
posted by LeLiLo at 2:24 PM on February 15, 2008


maybe badassery is not really what we're looking for in a president

Judging from Jackson's presidency (who was a truly violent man) and George W. Bush's (who is namby-pamby preppie cheerleader pretending to be John Wayne) I submit that it's the last thing we want.
posted by psmealey at 2:30 PM on February 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


EarBucket: "I had no idea Teddy Roosevelt had a black belt in jujitsu. I didn't think the guy could get any cooler, but I was wrong. Bully!"

That's really only the beginning. He 'invented' his own version of fencing, sort of similar to kendo, but rougher. Basically it amounted to beating the crap out of each other with stout sticks and minimal protective gear. Apparently he liked to invite visiting Senators and other guests to go a few rounds with him.

Most of the real insanity happened during his first term, when he was filling in for the assassinated McKinley. As he got older and into his second term, he settled down a little bit. Not much, though, but he switched to tennis rather than beating-each-other-with sticks for the most part.

Good book on TR is "Theodore Rex" by Edmund Morris.
posted by Kadin2048 at 2:33 PM on February 15, 2008


I read this earlier today, and didn't want to throw down my thoughts on Jackson in their comment thread (I have standards, you know) so here they go.

Jackson might deserve the top spot on the list simply for being both so relentlessly bad-ass and so morally god-awful, oftentimes simultaneously. Aside from having his face on the twenty (WTF is that about, by the way?) he's probably best known for his outright genocidal policies against the Native Americans. Stuff like what Australian Parliament unanimously voted to apologize for earlier this week? That's the guy we put on one of our most ubiquitous bills. But this is MeFi, so y'all know that already.

A favorite story for 1L law professors to tell, however, might not be as well known. When the Cherokee cases were decided, and the court ruled that Jackson couldn't go on removing the Cherokee from their land and towns (within ten years at this point, they had declared their own nation, created a written language, drafted a constitution, established schools, and fostered a free press) in order to sell it to the white men in Georgia who wanted to buy it, Jackson replied, "Well, the Supreme Court has made its decision. Let's see them come down here and enforce it."

In other words, Jackson was horrible enough to be willing to shake the very foundation of the constitution in order to continue his unlawful crusade against the Indians, but bad-ass enough to tell the SCOTUS, "Well, why don't you come down here and we can duel about it."
posted by Navelgazer at 2:37 PM on February 15, 2008 [7 favorites]


Normally I hate the Cracked lists, but - maybe it's just cos history is my thing - when they make historical lists like this I actually laugh out loud. At least one or two guys on that staff know their stuff.
posted by absalom at 2:38 PM on February 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


I had no idea Teddy Roosevelt had a black belt in jujitsu.

It was mostly really judo and I think the black belt part was partially honorary. While Roosevelt had been shown JJJ by noted bad-ass wrestler and policeman James J. O’Brien becuase O'Brien had been cop at Nagasaki's Umegasaki Station from 1895 to 1899, I don't think it was until TR met Professor Yoshiaki (Yoshitsugu) Yamashita who was the nineteenth member of Jigoro Kano’s Kodokan Dojo that TR got some serious direct Judo (and through it's ancestor art JJJ) training. Which evidently TR did regularly three days a week in ADDITION to his boxing, catch wrestling and weapons training for many years. They often called Judo Ju Jitsu back then becuase it was simply easier than explaining the new sport derivative of the art.

The Japanese sent out cultural ambassadors all over the world in the late 1800 and early 1900's that taught and demonstrated their arts. I direct descendant is of course Brazilian Jiu Jitsu by way of judo taught to Carlos and Helio by Otávio Mitsuyo Maeda.

People have to remember that even though travel was arduous back in the day people were very traveled (maybe more than NOW) and not as isolated and provincial as one is tempted to think.
posted by tkchrist at 2:40 PM on February 15, 2008 [3 favorites]


I just wanted to mention that there's a longstanding Wikipedia war about the Andrew Jackson entry. Someone keeps trying to claim that Jackson invented Hitler's slogan, "final solution," during his campaign.
posted by johngoren at 2:45 PM on February 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


Someone keeps trying to claim that Jackson invented Hitler's slogan, "final solution," during his campaign.

Final Solution? I think that was in reference to Jackson's nightly enema solution of gunpowder, whiskey, jalapeños, and ground puppies.
posted by tkchrist at 2:48 PM on February 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


Navelgazer: You only first heard that story in law school? Despair!

He was actually sort of a sadistically cruel genius of a badass. Unless I'm getting my AJ Duels mixed up, which is a very real threat, during the duel referenced in the Cracked article (whereby AJ lets his opponent get the first shot), Jackson was going against someone who was demonstrably a better dueler and better shot, and so took the thoughtful precaution of wearing a jacket several sizes too large. Of course, in the version I read (if memory serves), Jackson's gun actually misfired (twice, even?), so the other duelist, having just shot this crazy redneck, had to nervously stand there while Jackson calmly reloaded and waited to murder him in cold blood. He also spent several weeks insensible and on the verge of death afterwards.

Of course, the lunacy doesn't end there. Shit, you could have a top five list of JUST the craziest things Andrew Jackson did in his career. Between stalking political opponents for years just to have the satisfaction of seeing them totally crushed, murdering anyone who spoke crosswise about his really sketchy deal, taking it upon himself to invade the soverign territory of a neutral nation (as commander in the Tennesssee militia, not as president), or trying to throw down with a Redcoat at the age of 13, he was a dude you did not want to fuck with.

It is sort of ironic that he's on the 20, not because he as a vicious and vile man (of which we've had many, many in public office), but because of his single minded and burning hatred of banks, not to mention that he thought one of the high points of his presidency was destroying the central bank of the US.
posted by absalom at 2:58 PM on February 15, 2008


Surely we have DNA samples of the five men in the national archives? I say we clone them and find out which one is really the most badass. We could save the economy by selling the five-way brawl on Pay-Per-View.
posted by JeremyT at 3:01 PM on February 15, 2008


he's probably best known for his outright genocidal policies against the Native Americans.

That does not make Jackson a badass. It makes him a pussy.

George Washington fought the Redcoats - trained, professional, and well-armed soldiers. Crossing the Delaware in the middle of winter looking for a fight with German mercenaries strikes me as a bit more badass than taking on the already downtrodden American Indian.
posted by three blind mice at 3:04 PM on February 15, 2008


I think I liked Cracked better when it was a second-rate ripoff of MAD that people only laughed at because they felt sorry for it, like a 5-year-old trying and failing to repeat a joke. Remember "Sylvester P. Smythe"?

Is this all they do, publish lame, sub-Onion, trying-to-hard-to-be-edgy "top lists" on the Internet? Why did someone have to buy the Cracked name and logo to do that? I mean, they probably got it for two earwax-covered paper clips and a soft taco wrapper from Taco Bell, but still. What's the point?
posted by DecemberBoy at 3:07 PM on February 15, 2008


three blind mice - my point wasn't that his viciousness against the Native Americans made him more of a badass, but that it proves what an evil despot he was.
posted by Navelgazer at 3:09 PM on February 15, 2008


Looks like the US Presidency has gone from men who will gladly publicly murderize you on the lawn of the whitehouse to men who will gladly pay a covert organization to murderize you in a third world country.

Progress!
posted by blue_beetle at 3:09 PM on February 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


For the record, I don't give a fuck about Cracked either way (hell, I even nested the summaries in the link titles so you wouldn't have to click there). Just thought the piece had some amusing moments, it was timely, and thought some of my fellow presidential history geeks might enjoy it. In brief: have a nice long weekend and suck it.
posted by psmealey at 3:21 PM on February 15, 2008


For the record, incidentally, it should be "Harry S. Truman." Yes, I know that "S" was his whole middle name. I also know that he wrote his name with a period after the "S." Unless you think you know better than the man himself, you should write it that way.
posted by cerebus19 at 3:27 PM on February 15, 2008


Uh.... no Ulysses S. Grant?
posted by ph00dz at 3:51 PM on February 15, 2008


Lincoln, most bad-assed. Faced with biggest crisis this nation will ever face. Came through. He's no. 1 for me on all-time best political leader.
posted by Ironmouth at 4:20 PM on February 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


Oh, man, yeah, why isn't Ulysses S. Grant on there?

[Related: During the last election cycle, I remember someone on Metafilter making a Sherman 2004 poster with a quote about him burning the South to the ground and showing no mercy or something. Anyone got that handy]?
posted by dismas at 4:30 PM on February 15, 2008


Their assessment of Jackson is spot on. A thing I wrote some time ago:
Andrew Jackson was provoked into a duel by a man who insulted his wife's honor. Charles Dickinson, the man who levied the insult, was known as a crack pistol shot, and many of Jackson's associates thought Dickinson had been paid to goad Jackson into a duel by political rivals. As the challenged, Dickinson shot first. Jackson reportedly did not stagger; did not waver; did not move an inch. Dickinson cried out in disbelief that he must have missed altogether. Not quite: He intended to kill Jackson and shot with sufficient accuracy to shatter Jackson's ribs and punctured a lung. With fiery resolve, Jackson cocked his pistol and shot Dickinson in the chest. Jackson's opponent collapsed, and would die of the wound later that night. Jackson said that if he'd been able to, he would have moved to Dickinson's bleeding form and struck it. Jackson's collapsed lung never healed correctly, leaving him with a life of persistent tremors and bloody, hacking coughs. The bullet was lodged close enough to his heart that doctors could not safely remove it, and it remained in his chest for the rest of his life. He suffered these symptoms in silence, never speaking about them or regretting them, but believed that they were just part of preserving his wife's honor.

Later, Jackson would, while in pursuit of a band of fleeing Indians, conquer the whole of Spanish Florida. This was bad news for then-President Monroe, who was in negotiations with the Spanish to buy Florida. Although Spain called for severe punishment, Jackson was never reprimanded, and Spain signed a treaty with America cedeing the Territory without any payment at all. President Monroe gave tacit reward to Jackson by naming him the governor of the territory.

While president, Jackson was the target of a gun-wielding assassin. The guns both misfired, prompting the sixty-seven year old Jackson to beat his erstwhile assassin with a cane.

Seriously, people. look at that shit.
posted by boo_radley at 4:34 PM on February 15, 2008


Over here in my universe Davy Crockett was president, not Andy Jackson.
posted by jfuller at 4:38 PM on February 15, 2008


Jackson was the hero of The Battle of New Orleans. If that doesn't make him a total badass and number one on this list, then consider this: His inauguration party lasted for hours as throngs of people from packed streets pushed into the White House. This painting captures the rowdy scene with its broken furniture and stifling crowd. It took a whole week to scrub and clean the White House after the party.
posted by ColdChef at 4:39 PM on February 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


Thanks for the correction, cerebus19. Here's the missing period. -> .

I think you know where you can put it.
posted by psmealey at 4:45 PM on February 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


Is this all they do, publish lame, sub-Onion, trying-to-hard-to-be-edgy "top lists" on the Internet?

They're also more-or-less plagiarists. I've caught them a few times with paraphrased Something Awful features.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 5:04 PM on February 15, 2008


I assumed they meant bad-ass in the more literal, physical way.
posted by absalom at 5:18 PM on February 15, 2008


Perhaps not number 1, but David Rice Atchison belongs on the list, if only for the: “No, I’m not President. Screw the country, I’m going to bed” admonition.

He has some badassedness as well: southern general in the Civil war, caught union troops in a pincer move at the battle of Blue Mills.

And as a senator, he invaded Kansas with an armed mob, seized control of the polls, faked the election (pro-slavery), and, astonishingly, made it stick.

“Andrew Jackson was provoked into a duel by a man who insulted his wife's honor. Charles Dickinson, the man who levied the insult,”

Any relationship to Bruce Dickinson? (Yes, THE Bruce Dickinson) the man who levied more cowbell?
posted by HVAC Guerilla at 5:35 PM on February 15, 2008


Jackson's gun actually misfired (twice, even?), so the other duelist, having just shot this crazy redneck, had to nervously stand there while Jackson calmly reloaded and waited to murder him in cold blood
Doubtful. See Rule 20.
posted by forrest at 5:40 PM on February 15, 2008


my favorite Teddy Roosevelt badass story is the way he happily went swimming in shark-infested waters and had some his staffers follow him because it bored him to go swimming alone. not to mention, his son Teddy Jr was the only general to land in the first wave on D-Day (Utah Beach I seem to remember). At 57. Limping and aiding himself with a cane because of old WWI injuries. He got a medal of honor for that.

He died a month later of a heart attack because he probably had to die of something at that point, and the Germans were way too lame to ever be able to fuck with him, so he just had himself a heart attack because otherwise he'd have lived forever and that's a pain in the ass.

in my fantasy, I like to think that, had he lived, he would have run for President in '52 instead of that golf-playing bore, Eisenhower; and I seriously doubt that Teddy Jr would have ever accepted that glum Quaker wimp, Richard Milhous Nixon, as his VP.

Teddy Roosevelt is not only the most badass US President ever, but very possibly the most badass head of state since Attila the Hun in 5th Century CE
posted by matteo at 5:43 PM on February 15, 2008 [5 favorites]


George Washington fought the Redcoats - trained, professional, and well-armed soldiers. Crossing the Delaware in the middle of winter looking for a fight with German mercenaries strikes me as a bit more badass than taking on the already downtrodden American Indian.

Jackson fought the Redcoats too--at age 13. Disparage him for willfully flouting the Constitution and for being psychotic, but he was never a pussy.

About the dueling thing: His wife was a divorcee, which was pretty scandalous back then. Hence his strong incentive to preserve her honor. Also, she died soon after he became president, and as I understand it his grief was such that he never had another SO. I'm not trying to make excuses, just saying that it's probably in the nation's best interests to have a president who's getting laid on a regular basis.
posted by A dead Quaker at 5:45 PM on February 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


(As for FDR, is it possible to be a badass in a wheelchair?)

Fella walked arm in arm down the street hoisting his body weight. Gave three hour speeches in sweltering heat with 10 pounds of steel leg braces. Orchestrated massive shifts in government that meant life or death to millions and made it look easy. Don't fuck with FDR, man.
posted by StrikeTheViol at 5:56 PM on February 15, 2008 [3 favorites]


Two words: Pu tin.
posted by Sailormom at 6:14 PM on February 15, 2008


There was a section in Gore Vidal's Burr that could be fictional or something that Vidal found in his research. At Valley Forge, Washington was challenged by a rebellious soldier. Washington lost his temper. While on horseback, he reached over, grabbed the man by the neck and hoisted the soldier off the ground. Burr reported that while Washington was not the most intelligent man in the country he sure as hell was one of the strongest.

While living in the badlands of North Dakota, Teddy Roosevelt was challenged to a duel by the Marquis de Mores, a French nobleman who was trying to build a cattle empire in the area. The Marquis was known for killing several men in duels. TR wrote him a letter saying that he wasn't sure what he had done to offend the Marquis but he offered an apology. And if the apology wasn't acceptable, Roosevelt claimed choice of weapons. Hunting rifles at 30 paces. The Marquis immediately claimed it was all a misunderstanding.
posted by Ber at 6:24 PM on February 15, 2008


Any of y'all ever see that statue of Teddy R. on horseback, the one at the entrance to the Museum of Natural History in NYC? Check it out. Guiding the reins with one firm hand! That manly posture! Those bulging biceps! That trusty Indian chief at his side!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:24 PM on February 15, 2008


In a fight, I'd back George Washington, depending on the weapon. Bare hands, no question.
posted by mrgrimm at 6:36 PM on February 15, 2008


Yeah, Jackson was badass, if you consider Hitler bad-ass.
posted by Poagao at 6:37 PM on February 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


You know who else considered Hitler badass, right?

Uh, no, wait... I'm doing it wrong...
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:41 PM on February 15, 2008 [3 favorites]


Bring it on.
posted by box at 6:53 PM on February 15, 2008


Here's the most detailed account of the Dickinson duel I could find, "gleaned from several apparently reliable sources:"
...It had been agreed that the two men should use pistols and stand eight paces apart facing the same direction and that at the word they should turn towards each other and fire as they chose. Later, however Jackson and his second Dr. Overton decided it best and agreed that Dickinson shoot first...Dickinson fired and Jackson was seen to press his hand lightly over his chest while the dust flew from his clothes. Dickinson at first thought he had missed his man and was seized with terror. Jackson now had his adversary at his mercy and slowly pulled the trigger. There was no explosion; the pistol stopped at half cock which by the rules was not considered a shot. Again Jackson took deliberate aim and fired; the ball severed an artery and Dickinson fell.
The account patently favors Jackson (he of the "bosom that never knew fear"), but at least it gives us the official rationalization for his defiance of the Code Duello rule that Forrest cited. Not that it excuses much - an honest combatant would have honored the spirit of the rules instead of exploiting such a dubious loophole, but it should be clear by now that Jackson liked to err on the side of violence.
posted by Iridic at 7:09 PM on February 15, 2008


Truman only gets an honourary mention? The guy nukes people!
posted by Artw at 8:18 PM on February 15, 2008


From my husband, who knows 19th century history better than I ever will:
On May 7, 1866, a man named Charles Cohen came up behind Otto von Bismarck and shot him six times in the back with a revolver. The Iron Chancellor turned around and wrestled his assailant to the ground.

Now -that- badassness makes Teddy look like a teddy.
posted by jb at 8:24 PM on February 15, 2008


Wikipedia says that Andrew Jackson was a lean figure standing at 6 feet, 1 inch (1.85 m) tall, and weighing between 130 and 140 pounds (64 kg) on average.

That can't be right?
posted by porpoise at 8:59 PM on February 15, 2008


What happened between my childhood (Cracked = bunkest possible Mad ripoff) and now (Cracked = site with good writers who are funny)? The typography has not updated. When things become the opposite of what they were, I want the typography to update.
posted by damehex at 10:36 PM on February 15, 2008


Hang on, what, you think Cracked is good?
posted by Artw at 11:10 PM on February 15, 2008


Any of y'all ever see that statue of Teddy R. on horseback, the one at the entrance to the Museum of Natural History in NYC?

flapjax, the coolest TR statue ever is (or at least used to be) in Medora at the South Unit Visitor Center of TR National Park, in the North Dakota Badlands. He's wearing (as I remember) his real clothes, but both he and his horse are made out of little strips of wood nailed into place.

I can't find any photos of it on line, so I stuck one there for you to see. Taken some 25 years ago, maybe the statue doesn't exist any longer.
posted by LeLiLo at 11:45 PM on February 15, 2008


Kennedy ... handled himself like a gravel eating shit-miner, instead of the rich Boston pretty boy he actually was.

Cute writing, but mighty vague. If "PT-109" doesn't ring any bells, well, happy reading.
posted by pax digita at 5:47 AM on February 16, 2008


Teddy Roosevelt is such a bad mother fucker that if he appeared in that magic box on Lost island he'd end up being Sayid and Locke's future slashfic love baby.
posted by bunnytricks at 5:53 AM on February 16, 2008 [2 favorites]


This was a flash from the past...I remember reading an article in the Beastie Boys' Grand Royal magazine circa '99 about Jackson named "American Badass".
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:10 AM on February 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


Sounds to me like there were a lot more cane-beatings in the old days. Alas.
posted by fraxil at 9:02 AM on February 16, 2008


No one has mentioned TR's famous fistfight with international super-villain The Terror?
posted by absalom at 10:06 AM on February 16, 2008


How about this? Teddy Roosevelt is the only person to win both the Medal of Honor (1898) and the Nobel Peace Prize (1906), and he did it in only eight years. That's bad-ass, in my book.
posted by Daddio at 3:13 PM on February 16, 2008


While I consider Teddy Roosevelt to be badass number one, this picture of Lincoln "emancipating" his opponents in a cage match may make me reconsider.
posted by Frank Grimes at 6:24 PM on February 16, 2008


Chuck Norris was all of these presidents in past, current, and future lives.
posted by not_on_display at 11:59 PM on February 16, 2008


The Card Cheat -- I think that article was about Burr, wasn't it?

'Course, if you're counting VP's, Aaron Burr would be pretty hard to beat. That guy tried to take over Mexico!
posted by ph00dz at 5:55 AM on February 17, 2008


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