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Presidents

  • [On hearing that President Coolidge was dead:] How can you tell?

  • I think in the years to come what Reagan will be remembered for is that he had the chance to stop the plague and he chose not to because the 'right people' were dying.

  • Franklin [D. Roosevelt] had a good way of simplifying things. He made people feel that he had a real understanding of things and they felt they had about the same understanding.

  • Mr. [Richard M.] Nixon never has anything but hindsight.

  • The charm of Ronald Reagan is not just that he kept telling us screwy things, it was that he believed them all. No wonder we trusted him, he never lied to us. ... His stubbornness, even defiance, in the face of facts ('stupid things,' he once called them in a memorable slip) was nothing short of splendid. ... This is the man who proved that ignorance is no handicap to the presidency.

    • Molly Ivins,
    • "Don't Worry, They're Happy," in Savvy ()
  • [On Richard M. Nixon:] The Republican nominee would be far worse than another Eisenhower — he is Tricky Dicky of the first magnitude. His entire record is one of opportunism. I cannot feel that there is the remotest sincerity in him, and that clearly he would be the tool of the highest bidder, which is always 'big business.'

    • Marguerite Rawalt,
    • 1960, in Judith Paterson, Be Somebody: A Biography of Marguerite Rawalt ()
  • The office of President has ever been stuck with thorns. It daily becomes a more difficult one to wield. A wise Man would find it a Herculean Task.

    • Abigail Adams,
    • letter (1808), in John P. Kaminski, The Quotable Abigail Adams ()
  • No Man has more of my compassion and commiseration than he who Stands upon the giddy height of the pinnacle.

    • Abigail Adams,
    • letter (1811), in John P. Kaminski, The Quotable Abigail Adams ()
  • I have seen and known that much of the conduct of a public ruler, is liable to be misunderstood and misrepresented.

    • Abigail Adams,
    • letter (1804), in John P. Kaminski, The Quotable Abigail Adams ()
  • There is a character issue for Mr. Bush in this campaign. The clothes have no emperor.

  • George Bush and Ronald Reagan have insured their place in history through the legacy they have created in the Supreme Court. They have managed to appoint a misogynistic woman and an anti-civil rights African-American to the Court. They have, however, also contributed a new oxymoron to the English language: Supreme Court Justice.

  • [On Richard M. Nixon:] Americans began with a president who couldn't tell a lie and now they have one who can't tell the truth.

  • He talked too much.

    • Jane Wyman,
    • on why she divorced Ronald Reagan (1948), in Sheilah Graham, Hollywood Revisited ()
  • [On George H.W. Bush vs. Michael Dukakis:] Americans now know they can vote for a man who can't express his thoughts or a man who can't express his feelings.

  • [On George H.W. Bush:] A man who wishes to lead the Western world should be able to find the right words, string them together in coherent sentences, and steer them to an intelligible conclusion. His sentences have the stuttering start of an old car on a cold morning. They never run smoothly. The only speech part that he has mastered completely is the non sequitur.

  • In Britain the government has to come down in front of Parliament every day to explain its actions, but here the President never answers directly to Congress.

  • Brains, integrity, and force may be all very well, but what you need today is Charm. Go ahead and work on your old economic programs if you want to, I'll develop my radio personality.

  • Women are being considered as candidates for vice-president of the United States because it is the worst job in America. It's amazing that men will take it. A job with real power is first lady. I'd be willing to run for that. As far as the men who are running for president are concerned, they aren't even people I would date.

  • Reagan's genius as a communicator lies in his use of ambiguity. ... Ambiguity is the mother of Teflon.

  • Once a President gets to the White House, the only audience that is left that really matters is history.

  • [As author of a biography on Abraham Lincoln:] The more people who knew about Lincoln, the more chance democracy had to destroy its two chief enemies, privilege and militancy.

  • As President Nixon says, presidents can do almost anything, and President Nixon has done many things that nobody would have thought of doing.

    • Golda Meir,
    • in Richard Milhous Nixon, RN: The Memoirs of Richard Nixon, vol. 2 ()
  • I was cooking breakfast this morning for my kids, and I thought, 'He's just like a Teflon frying pan: Nothing sticks to him.'

  • [On running for president:] Victoria Woodhull in 1872, Belva Lockwood in 1884, Shirley Chisholm in 1973 and Pat Schroeder in 1987 all found that the White House is still America's ultimate clubhouse with a 'No Girls Allowed' sign posted.

  • Presidents today spend more time speaking than they do reading or thinking.

  • [On George H.W. Bush:] Poor George, he can't help it — he was born with a silver foot in his mouth.

  • I was elected by the women of Ireland, who instead of rocking the cradle, rocked the system.

  • The White House is one of the few places in downtown Washington where you can get something to eat after 11 o'clock at night.

  • When Ronald Reagan spoke a thing aloud, he believed it forever and for always. By the time he started running for president, in 1976, he had already developed an unwavering and steadfast faith in the correctness of whatever came out of his mouth.

  • Harry and I have been sweethearts and married more than forty years — and no matter where I was, when I put out my hand Harry's was there to grasp it.

    • Bess Truman,
    • in Marianne Means, The Woman in the White House ()
  • I still gasp at the revealing lingo for weapons: erector launchers, thrust ratios; my teeth grind reflexively when Dubya sputters Eye-Rack and Eye-Ran have 'nookyular capabacity.'

  • [On John F. Kennedy:] ... now he is a legend when he would have preferred to be a man.

  • George Bush looks like the first husband we all divorced.

  • Ronald Reagan can't resist an appeal from defense contractors down on their luck. They ask him to spare a dime for a cup of coffee, and he gives them seven thousand dollars for a coffee maker. There wasn't a dry eye in the White House when the forgotten wealthy asked for a handout.

  • [On her father, Ronald Reagan:] How do you argue with someone who states that the people who are sleeping on the grates of the streets of America 'are homeless by choice'?

  • [On Theodore Roosevelt:] My father always wanted to be the corpse at every funeral, the bride at every wedding, and the baby at every christening.

  • [On Ronald Reagan:] I have a strange feeling that he will wake up one day and ask, 'What movie am I in?'

  • I have sacrificed everything in my life that I consider precious in order to advance the political career of my husband.

    • Pat Nixon,
    • in Betty Medsger, Women at Work ()
  • The battle for the mind of Ronald Reagan was like the trench warfare of World War I: Never have so many fought so hard for such barren terrain.

  • [Speech material written for George H.W. Bush's presidential campaign:] A kinder, gentler nation. ... A thousand points of light.

    • Peggy Noonan,
    • 1984, in Paul F. Boller, Jr., Presidential Campaigns ()
  • I firmly believe that some day a woman will be elected President of the United States.

    • Susan B. Anthony,
    • interview, 1905, in Lynn Sherr, ed., Failure Is Impossible: Susan B. Anthony in Her Own Words ()
  • I learned everything I ever need to know about questioning artful dodgers by covering the most artful of them all, Ronald Reagan. For Reagan, performance was as much a part of governing as understanding the details of the federal budget.

  • [On Eleanor and Franklin D. Roosevelt:] When Christmas came, all the five-ring-circus excitement of the past year seemed to gather to a point in the White House and explode in a lather of tinsel stars. ... I never knew people that loved Christmas the way the Roosevelts did. And to think I'd survive a round dozen more with the Roosevelts, getting more exciting, and sweeping in wider circles — year after year! Even toward the last, Christmas was risen to, like a hymn ...

  • [On Herbert Hoover:] Only what is done by Hoover, is of any meaning to him. He is a big man but he cannot bear rivalry of any sort. He is tortured by the fact that his vision is greater than his ability to execute. That is why he will compromise and does constantly compromise in any and every way, to achieve his purposes. For the first time I fully realized Eugene's difficulties with Hoover, and his with Eugene. Poor Eugene is trying to save the country, and the President is trying to save Hoover.

    • Agnes E. Meyer,
    • in Katharine Graham, Katharine Graham's Washington ()
  • [On Herbert Hoover:] I disliked him enormously especially when he clinked his change during one of the Beethoven Quartets. Chance makes great men of some queer people, or rather I should say prominent men. One thing that Washington has clearly taught me is that prominent men are very rarely great men.

    • Agnes E. Meyer,
    • in Katharine Graham, Katharine Graham's Washington ()
  • [On her husband after Hoover lost his reelection bid:] Perhaps like an Oriental widow he is expected to hurl himself upon his Master's funeral pyre. I think Hoover would like to go down to his political grave with all his retainers, household and even the pet dogs buried with him like the Iranian or Scythian chiefs.

    • Agnes E. Meyer,
    • in Katharine Graham, Katharine Graham's Washington ()
  • I am much more political than Jimmy and was more concerned about popularity and winning re-election, but I have to say that he had the courage to tackle the important issues, no matter how controversial — or politically damaging — they might be. And I admire him for it. (Often during his term, we used to sit around and try to think of something he was doing that was popular!)

  • Once he became president, George [H.] Bush revealed a vein of Styrofoam and no matter how deep he tried to go, he always ended up bobbing on the surface. His inaugural speech was like being present at the death of language ...

  • In his second term, [Ronald] Reagan completed the work of his first term — the rich got really rich, everything was deregulated, advocacy programs were quashed, the Savings and Loan program was trashed, the deficit was tripled, unions were busted, Housing and Urban Developing was in shambles, banks were closing, the military got lots of new toys, the religious right was strong, and AIDS was ignored.

  • After the Reagan years, there were only three people of color in the Republican Party. Their slogan was 'Republicans — the Other White Meat.' George [H.] Bush tried to dispel the 'whites only' image of his party, often referring to his Mexican-American grandkids as 'the little brown ones over there,' and nominated Clarence Uncle Thomas to the Supreme Court.

  • In the habit of a political lifetime, Ronald Reagan innocently squirrels away tidbits of misinformation and then, sometimes years later, casually drops them into his public discourse, like gum balls in a quiche.

  • [On George W. Bush:] How is it possible that the president is off on vacation and the vice president is, too? Not that it matters that much if the president is on vacation; on some level, the president is always on vacation.

  • Such pip-squeaks as Nixon and McCarthy are trying to get us so frightened of Communism that we'll be afraid to turn out the lights at night.

  • Coolidge is the best living demonstration that, if you keep silent long enough, something fortunate may happen to you.

  • [On Ronald Reagan:] Jane Wyman seemed more upset with her husband's obsession with politics than I. I tried to make her laugh. 'He'll outgrow it,' I told her. To her it wasn't funny.

    • June Allyson,
    • in Celebrity Research Group, The Bedside Book of Celebrity Gossip ()
  • [On President Nixon:] If I did half of the things this sorry President did, they would put me under the jail and send every key to the moon. They have the little punishments for the big men and the heavy chastisement for the poor.

    • Ruth Shays,
    • in John Langston Gwaltney, Drylongso ()
  • Someday, someone will follow in my footsteps and preside over the White House as the President's spouse. And I wish him well.

  • I said, 'George, if you really want to end tyranny in this world, you're going to have to stay up later.' Nine o'clock and Mr. Excitement here is sound asleep ...

    • Laura Bush,
    • White House Correspondents' Association Dinner, in Reader's Digest ()
  • I cannot tell you ... how much I enjoy home after having been deprived of one for so long, for our dwelling in New York and Philadelphia was not home, only a sojourning. The General and I feel like children just released from school or from a hard taskmaster, and we believe nothing can tempt us to leave the sacred roof tree again, except on private business or pleasure. We are so penurious with our enjoyment that we are loath to share it with anyone but dear friends, yet almost every day some stranger claims a portion of it, and we cannot refuse. I am again settled down to the pleasant duties of an old-fashioned Virginia housekeeper, steady as a clock, busy as a bee, and cheerful as a cricket.

    • Martha Washington,
    • letter to a friend (1797), in Benson John Lossing, Mary and Martha: The Mother and the Wife of George Washington ()
  • ... the secret of the Kennedy successes in politics was not money but meticulous planning and organization, tremendous effort, and the enthusiasm and devotion of family and friends.

  • Washington was a typical American. Napoleon was a typical Frenchman, but Lincoln was a humanitarian as broad as the world. He was bigger than his country — bigger than all the Presidents together.

    • Doris Kearns Goodwin,
    • foreword to K. M. Kostyal, Abraham Lincoln's Extraordinary Era: The Man and His Times ()