Presidential Party Politics

“Who would you rather have a beer with?”

Wasn’t that the deciding question of the 2000 and 2004 elections?

By the time the morning after of 2008 rolled around, we already hated ourselves for our choices over the previous eight years, and in 2012 the hangover is still too fresh to begin reliving that awful bender this soon.

But the question remains. Who would you rather have a beer with? To sweeten the deal, let’s say you could choose from any of the Presidents in American history.

I have a friend who is always up for investing an afternoon in armchair time travel, so I put that very question to him: “If you could drink with any U.S. President, which one would it be?”

“Interesting query, and so many contenders to choose from,” he responded. “If I had to pick just one, I’d probably go with Old Hickory himself, the man on the $20 with the rockabilly hair, Andrew Jackson.  This has nothing to do with politics. He just looks like a blackout drunk with a hair-trigger temper and few inhibitions, which is what I want most in a drinking partner.

For two terms, the male equivalent of Granny from the Beverly Hillbillies occupied the White House, carrying a hip flask and a sidearm with him at all times (one presumes). Old Hickory probably passed out on the White House lawn more times than all the other Presidents combined. Drinking with Ole Hic’ would be like walking around New York City with Billy Martin and an open whisky bottle; you’d never know what trouble you’d be getting into from moment to moment, only that it would never be a long wait.

POTUS drinking buddy #2 would be Abe Lincoln. They say manic-depressives make the best party guests. Lincoln had a way with words, a famously great sense of humor, and probably some eye-raising tales from his years of country lawyering. If you happened to catch him during a depressive phase, it’d be an unforgettable moment just to nurse a julep and gaze upon that beautiful, tragic, sulking face for a spell.

Jefferson…I’m conflicted about Jefferson.  He’s got a sweet pony tail alright, but with any of those plantation owning presidents, there’s just no avoiding the subject of slavery for long. Not even hippy hair and a hemp field can make up for that.

Plantation owners like to give you a grand tour of the place, show off all its attributes. They’ll uncork a bottle of good stuff from the still for you; you’ll go out to the smokehouse to sample a choice cut of cured ham still hanging from the hook; you’ll head off to the barn to admire the loins of his prize stud animal. But at some point it would all come back to the slaves.

I’ll tell you what though, it would be interesting to compare hemp farming notes with those guys.

The one Founding Father I’d like more than anything to share a beer with, or an absinthe, or even a jar of lukewarm mead, is no President at all; he’s a pear-shaped man by the name of Ben Franklin. Could you imagine drinking with him in San Francisco?

I can, and often do. I think he’d quite like the city. Of all the founding fathers, he’s best -suited to this rarefied place with its celebrated freedom of expression, its prosperous marketplace of ideas, and its bounty of life, libertines, and the pursuit of happiness. I think he’d also appreciate the prodigious work of the Invisible Hand behind the City’s many holes of glory.

After Lincoln’s tenure, the party potential really plummets.  The Gilded Age Presidents all seem like a bunch of wet noodles.

Other than banqueting with Taft, I don’t think there’s any Twentieth Century President that I’d particularly want to tie one on with besides Harry S. Truman. Eisenhower maybe, but I’d probably start getting paranoid under the cold scrutiny of his Five Star General glare. Nixon? Perhaps. But he’s already Hunter S. Thompson’s muse, and besides, Nixon’s private-most Oval Office rantings are already public domain. There’s no mystery there.

On the other hand, some of those Vice-Presidents must have been epic partiers who slipped below the radar. The Vice Presidency is a great place to park a troublesome heir apparent for four or eight years; giving him a “promotion” that takes up most of his day while keeping him at a safe distance from the real levers of power (as long as Mister President has a heart beat), but that shall remain a subject for another day.”

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