Zachary Taylor for president?

Published 8:52 am Tuesday, March 13, 2012

All you students of history will tell me that Zachary Taylor was the 12th President of the United States, way back in 1848. Actually, that was the year he was elected and his presidency lasted for only 16 months (1849-1850), because he died in office from intestinal problems. Obviously, Zachary Taylor cannot run for president again, since he has already died, but, when one thinks about it, I guess we have done worse.

There is a reason I bring up the subject of Zachary Taylor today. I heard about this on the radio and I thought it was so uncharacteristic of our current political aspirants that I would tell you about it. Plus, a funny, little story wouldn’t hurt, would it?

First, let’s remember all the money that is being spent on seeking the victory for the 2012 presidential race. President Obama, at one time, bragged about having a re-election war chest of a billion dollars. I think they have downsized that amount, commensurate with a downsized economy.

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On the GOP side of things, Mitt Romney has been spending millions just trying to get into the finals. His opponents, with the help of what are known as SuperPACs, are spending a little less, but only because they don’t have his deep pockets. Suffice it to say, the money being spent to become president dwarfs any amount of money that would be paid in salary to the president. Makes one wonder.

Enter General Zachary Taylor, hero of the Mexican-American War. Taylor retired soon after that victorious campaign and was primed for the 1848 United States presidential election. Interestingly, Taylor had never voted in any election and was not particularly inclined to run for president. The Whig Party, however, felt that Taylor would be a winning candidate and pursued him as their nominee for that year.

Here is the funny part. Taylor did not even attend the nominating convention in 1848. It was held in Philadelphia and the Whig Party elected him in absentia and sent him a letter informing him of his being chosen as their national standard bearer for the presidency. Imagine Romney, Santorum, Gingrich, or Paul not attending the convention and telling the party to text him if he wins.

Even funnier, the Whigs sent a letter to inform Taylor of the nomination but forgot to put a stamp on the letter. When General Taylor received the letter, he refused to pay the postage. It was returned to sender, re-sent, this time with a stamp. Imagine letting the presidency of the United States go simply because of a stamp. I like Zachary Taylor!

In verifying the radio story about Taylor, I looked at a few websites that offered many trivial facts about our presidents. Here are a few.

Did you know that one of George Washington’s favorite foods was ice cream? Me, too, but I wonder where he kept his, since they didn’t have refrigerators.

Theodore Roosevelt was the first president to ride in a car. I wonder if it was a Chevy Volt?

Before becoming President, Harry Truman was a haberdasher. You probably know what a haberdasher is, but I had to look it up. A haberdasher deals in men’s clothing, especially hats. Reckon he sold sweater vests?

We’re all familiar with Abe Lincoln’s height. He was the tallest of our Presidents at 6-foot-4, but who was shortest? Our fourth president, James Madison, stood an underwhelming 5-foot-4 and weighed less than 100 pounds.

The slang phrase, OK, although a part of language before President Martin Van Buren, gained its greatest popularity and lasting power from him. He was from Kinderhook, N.Y., and a vote for Old Kinderhook or “Vote for OK” fit an election bumper sticker (for the stagecoach) better than Vote for Martin Van Buren.

Speaking of George Washington, wrong are those who say he had false teeth made of wood. He had false teeth, but they were made of other human teeth (ouch), animal teeth, ivory, or even lead. He had no formal education and is the only president to have received every electoral vote.

John Quincy Adams was the sixth president and the son of the second one. Interestingly, he received neither the majority of electoral votes, nor a majority of the popular vote. But, there were no hanging chads and he swam in the nude in the Potomac River in Washington each day, weather permitting. Hopefully, not in January, if you know what I mean.

William Henry Harrison was the first President to die in office. He is known for giving the longest of all inauguration speeches, two hours. Unfortunately for him, it was on a cold and snowy day. He caught pneumonia and died a month later. That’ll teach him.

Finally, as a dog lover, I was disappointed to hear that Dwight “Ike” Eisenhower’s dog was banned from the White House. It seems that he made an unfortunate deposit upon the floor of the diplomatic reception room. Well, at least he wasn’t strapped to the top of the car!