Simanaitis Says

On cars, old, new and future; science & technology; vintage airplanes, computer flight simulation of them; Sherlockiana; our English language; travel; and other stuff


INHERENT PRESSURES OF the job tend to preclude witticisms on the part of our national leaders. Over the years, though, there have been exceptions beyond an inadvertent toilet-paper heel, staring directly at the sun during a solar eclipse, offering medical hunches, and being a very stable genius. Here are tidbits on presidential wit gleaned from my usual Internet sleuthing and books around this place. Enjoy.

Abraham Lincoln. In debating (at which he excelled), Abe Lincoln once said, “If I were two-faced, would I be wearing this one?”

Abraham Lincoln, 1809–1865, sixteenth President of the United States, 1861–1865.

Barack Obama. “These days,” Obama once said, “I look in the mirror and I have to admit, I’m not the strapping young Muslim socialist that I used to be.”

Barack Hussein Obama, Hawaii-born 1961, forty-fourth President of the United States, 2009–2017.

At the White House Correspondents’ Dinner in 2013: “Did you know that Sheldon Adelson [international casino mogul and Republican donor] spent $100 million of his own money on negative ads? … You could buy an island and call it ‘Nobama’ for that kind of money. Sheldon would have been better off offering me $100 million to drop out of the race. I probably wouldn’t have taken it, but I would have thought about it. Michelle would have taken it. You think I’m joking?”

The current president nixed attending the annual Correspondents’ Dinner three times now.

John F. Kennedy. Shortly after appointing his brother Bobby to the post of attorney general, JFK joked to family friends, that he “just wanted to give him a little legal practice before he becomes a lawyer.”

When Bobby winced, JFK responded, “You’ve got to make fun of it; you’ve got to make fun of yourself in politics.”

John Fitzgerald Kennedy, 1917–1963, thirty-fifth President of the United States, 1961–1963.

In retrospect, Bobby Kennedy’s efforts as attorney general have been highly respected. On September 3, 1964, The New York Times wrote, “He did more than any of his predecessors for the poor man charged with crime…. He made the first real effort in years to bring the Federal Bureau of Investigation and its powerful director, J. Edgar Hoover, under effective direction and to turn the F.B.I.’s attention to such law enforcement problems as civil rights and organized crime. He helped to array the resources of the Federal Government on the side of the Negro quest for equal rights.”

Not a bad record for nepotism.

Calvin Coolidge. “Silent Cal” was known for his reticence. Once, someone or other said to him, “I made a bet today that I could get more than two words out of you.” Coolidge responded, “You lose.”

Calvin Coolidge, born John Calvin Coolidge, Jr., 1872–1933, thirtieth President of the United States, 1923–1929.

As described by, this Coolidge tale has many variations, a male or female making the bet, a different number of words in the bet, Coolidge vice president or president, each version with his two-word quip.

Apocryphal? Maybe. Either way, Se non è vero è ben trovata. “It may not be true, but it’s a good story.”

Harry S Truman. As cited here at SimanaitisSays, Harry said, “I had flat eyeballs as a boy, and couldn’t see well enough to play ball with the other kids. So they made me the umpire.”

Harry S Truman, 1884–1972. thirty-third President of the United States, 1945–1953.

“The best advice to your children,” he said, “is to find out what they want and then advise them to do it.”

And then there’s the story of Truman’s response to an adverse review of his daughter Margaret’s operatic recital. Music critic Paul Hume wrote of the soprano’s performance, “She cannot sing very well… is flat a good deal of the time… more last night than in any time we have heard her in the past.”

Harry responded, later the same day, on White House stationary, “Mr. Hume: I’ve just read your lousy review of Margaret’s concert… Some day I hope to meet you. When that happens you’ll need a new nose, a lot of beefsteak for black eyes, and perhaps a supporter below!”

Back in 1960, Harry said of another person destined to hold our nation’s highest office, “Richard Nixon is a no-good lying bastard. He can lie out of both sides of his mouth at the same time, and if he ever caught himself telling the truth, he’d lie just to keep his hand in.”

I delight in imaging what Harry would say about the current president. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2020


  1. kzhw
    April 12, 2020

    Lincoln summation to a jury: If I call the tail a leg how many legs does a horse have? If you’re thinking five, WRONG – calling a tale a leg doesn’t make it one.

    As in stable genius? He certainly has enough stable droppings in his non-reality show performances. I’ll say high to him in church today. He certainly hasn’t risen…

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