Nicknames in presidential politics? Nothing new, nothing sacred. And no one's immune.
As a political science major, I have very little interest in politics these days. They have simply become an anathema to me.
But the trigger for this blog was The Washington Times story this week about the nicknames surrounding President Obama's Heartland Bus tour. We've all heard them by now: Rolling Blunder, Running on Empty, America Under the Wheels, etc.
How quickly nicknames become part of the political landscape, even when they are targeted at inanimate objects. But before you get all wrapped around the axle for fear of me making some kind of political statement about the current administration, "let me be perfectly clear," that is not my intention. I simply think the article was a good medium for a quick trip down American presidential nickname lane, as once again, nicknames took center stage this week, this time in the political media.
Nicknames not an important part of presidential history and politics? Think again.
Nicknames go back as far as the Founding Fathers. Good old George Washington was known as "The Father of His Country." And there was the infamous "Old Sink or Swim" John Adams. That nickname was given to him for his famous sink or swim speech. And for all the right reasons, Abe Lincoln was nicknamed "Honest Abe."
Andrew Jackson was nicknamed "Old Hickory" by his soldiers for being as tough as old hickory wood. And James Madison was nicknamed "His Little Majesty" because at a towering 5 feet 4 inches, he was the shortest President ever. Or how about William Henry Harrison, nicknamed "Old Tippecanoe"? This nickname was used in the 1840 presidential election in a campaign song "Tippecanoe and Tyler Too."
Then there was "Ten-Cent Jimmie." The nickname given to then president James Buchanan, who during the election of 1856 claimed during the campaign that 10 cents a day was enough money for the average working man to live on.
Or how about the newspapers during the 1892 presidential election calling Grover Cleveland "The Stuffed Prophet," because at the time of the election, his weight had climbed to 250 pounds? Very little was sacred, or politically correct, back then. Rather refreshing, frankly.
More recently, we have weathered and survived these well earned nicknames: "Slick Willie," "Tricky Dick" and one of my all-time favorites, "Light-bulb Lyndon" as Lyndon Johnson hated wasting electricity.
And some presidents had multiple monikers: Ronald Reagan was equally comfortable as "Dutch," "The Great Communicator" and "The Gipper."
So where could we possibly go from here? Well today, there is of course "No Drama Obama."
But what if the Republicans nominate Michele Bachmann? The only logical and perfect running mate would have the last name "Turner." They could put the campaign slogan and song together right now: "Bachmann Turner in Overdrive." Just takin' care of business, every day.
John Leaf was born in western Illinois, a mile east of the Mississippi. College in Chicago. He holds a B.A. in Political Science and Philosophy. Leaf was goalie on the soccer team and captain of the golf team in college. He cut class to ride the "L" to see Cubs games, hung out for hours at the Art Institute and bent the brain doing graduate school in Theology.
He spent three mind-blowing summers in coastal British Columbia, as a resort photographer. He worked and lived in Minneapolis. He did hard time at a bank on LaSalle Street in Chicago and learned about PR, working at big firm a block off Michigan Avenue, while living in Evanston.
Now Leaf is just living the dream, under the radar, in Cedarburg. He's passionate about nicknames and launched his website three years ago.
He dabbles in yoga and cycling. Fishtailing as always, and taking a whack at life, like everyone else.