As I was leaving work Friday, someone said "Have a Happy Presidents Day!" And I replied, "Well, if I can think of a happy president, I'll do just that." Do you think there's any such thing as a Happy President? Really?
I mean once the inauguration champagne wears off and the guy (it's always a guy, alas) struts (because anyone elected president will surely strut) into the Oval Office and finally gets his hands on all the secret documents and red phone codes, he must certainly cease to be completely happy from that day forward. Too much at stake. Anyone can see that, unless you're one of the complete bonehead presidents - and we've had our share - who doesn't understand the magnitude of the job.
George Washington understood the potential power-run-amok-ness of the position - saw it right away, in fact - and refused to be crowned emperor or serve more than eight years. But George never seemed to be a very happy guy, anyway, did he? Rumor has it, his teeth hurt. A great man, who could've grabbed a lot of power from the git-go, but didn't - still, not a "Happy President."
Adams? Jefferson? Madison? Monroe? Jackson? Van Buren? Buchanan? Any of those seem to fit the "Happy President" mold? Not from what history tells us. Just a bunch of grunts - some brilliant, some not so - doing their job.
Lincoln? Happy? Hardly. Maybe a wry chuckle now and then, but with a Civil War, a whacko wife, and a couple of dead sons, the words "Happy President" don't come to mind.
And let's face it. It was all downhill for Teddy Roosevelt after his mountain-top experience at San Juan Hill (pre-president).
Wilson? Stroked out, and no 14 Points ratification. Coolidge? Please. Just look at the photos of him, though that may have just been his pent-up New England style. Hoover?
FDR? Well, at least he put on a good show. I figure he lost a lot of his happiness once polio set in at mid-life. Still, with the Depression and WWII and mistresses coming and going, you couldn't call the guy carefree.
Eisenhower? Too military to be happy. Plus all those heart attacks. Kennedy? What do you think? Johnson? Nixon? And poor Carter - basically a happy man who got beaten down (or beat himself down, depending on whichever side you're on). None of the rest, from Reagan to Bush II, seem particularly, genuinely Happy Presidents, though Reagan, Clinton, and the Bush boys could fake it pretty convincingly at times.
It's just the nature of the job. A conundrum. If you're a truly Happy President, then you don't understand the hugeness of the job. And will thus become unhappy when the people turn on you. And they will. We will. Just give us a chance. So happiness is overrated in terms of the office of president. Work to do. Arms to twist. Treaties to sign. Photo-ops to smile through. Sleepless nights worrying about this thing or that. Dodging slings and arrows. Building a legacy.
I realize this post seems packed with cynicism, though I don't feel cynical about the office of the presidency. Honestly. Only, I did start to wonder about "Happy" and "Presidents," and history tells us that the two words don't seem to go together much.
Except when they're mentioned in terms of a 3-day weekend in February. And I, for one, am very "Happy" to have "Presidents" Day off.