Fun Facts

 

PRESIDENT LYNDON B. JOHNSON

  • Johnson had his first meeting of the day in his bedroom with his wife trying to sleep under the covers.
  • Johnson made his staff follow him into the bathroom to continue working (to conduct official business while the president conducted personal business, as Johnson's former Chief of Staff Jim Jones puts it).
  • Johnson had a series of buttons right under his desk. When he pressed them, a gentleman would bring him either coffee, coca cola or root beer.
  • Johnson once asked to be driven around Dupont Circle in an unmarked car because he wanted to look at hippies.
  • Johnson loved gossip so much that he had FBI director J. Edgar Hoover send over FBI files of the rich, famous or influential people to his office every day.
  • Johnson had the youngest chief of staff ever: Jim Jones, who was 28.
  • At the height of the Cold War, the military calculated that if a nuclear missile were launched from the Soviet Union, it had 22 minutes before it struck anywhere in the U.S. Johnson had three options on where to go to survive: to a plane, a ship or inside of a mountain.
  • Johnson was the first modern president to refuse to run for a second term as president.
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PRESIDENT RICHARD NIXON

  • The voice-activated system in the Oval Office that ultimately led to Richard Nixon’s downfall was installed by his chief of staff H.R. Haldeman for one simple reason: Nixon was so clumsy he could not operate a manual tape recorder.
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PRESIDENT GERALD FORD

  • Ford was the target of two assassination attempts within two weeks of each other. One of the perpetrators was a follower of Charles Manson.
  • Rumsfeld received the offer to become chief of staff as he was sitting in a little café in a small French town.
  • When Chief of Staff Donald Rumsfeld appointed his protégé Dick Cheney as his deputy, Cheney’s FBI background check came bouncing back: he had been kicked out of Yale twice—and was arrested twice for DWI when he was 21 years old.
  • Rumsfeld once threatened to make the president walk to the birthday party of his best friend Speaker Tip O’Neill. The party was being thrown by a South Korean businessman who was under investigation by the Justice Department. Rumsfeld thought attending the party was “not presidential.”
  • Ford was famously clumsy and fell down the steps of Air Force One.
  • Chevy Chase on Saturday Night Live used to impersonate the president falling down and being clumsy in the White House.
  • Cheney and Rumsfeld would help journalists play pranks on other journalists. On one occasion, Cheney helped distract a reporter as others put a live sheep in his hotel room.
  • Cheney had his first heart attack when he was 34 years old, after having been chief of staff. He believes the stress of the job brought it on.
  • On a trip on Air Force One with the president and the first lady, Rumsfeld took a personality test with everyone aboard. The test concluded that the best job for him would be undertaker.
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PRESIDENT JIMMY CARTER

  • Carter did not appoint a chief of staff until two-and-a-half years into his term.
  • First Lady Rosalyn Carter was the only modern first lady to sit in on cabinet meetings.
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PRESIDENT RONALD REAGAN

  • When he was offered the job as chief, James Baker’s wife started crying; she knew he would be working all the time. Reagan promised her that Baker would be home every night at 6 p.m. It didn’t work out that way.
  • Reagan loved jokes so much that his staff had to bring a new joke everyday to start the meetings.
  • Just before being wheeled into surgery for the gunshot wound he sustained during the assassination attempt, Reagan turned to his chief Baker and other advisors and said “Fellows, who’s minding the store?” Then he turned to his wife Nancy and said, “Honey, I forgot to duck.” Then he turned to the doctors and said, “I hope all of you are republicans.”
  • Secretary of State Alexander Haig mangled the succession of power under the 25th Amendment after the assassination attempt on Reagan. Haig famously proclaimed at a press conference: “I am in control now in the White House.” He did not know, or had forgotten, that in the order of succession, the Secretary of State comes after the Vice President, Speaker of the House and the President of Senate.
  • Reagan’s second chief of staff, Donald Regan, was fired after hanging up the phone on the First Lady Nancy Reagan. James Baker called it “a hanging offense.”
  • After the assassination attempt on her husband, Nancy Reagan started consulting with an astrologer in order to plan the president’s travels.
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PRESIDENT GEORGE H.W. BUSH

  • James Baker is the only person to be chief of staff for two different presidents, Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush.
  • James Baker and President George H.W. Bush are convinced that third-party candidate H. Ross Perot ran in the '92 election because of a personal vendetta against the president.
  • President Bush bestowed the “Scowcroft Award for somnolent excellence” – named after National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft – to staff members who fell asleep during Cabinet meetings. He awarded points for a variety of factors: when you fell asleep, how long you were sleeping and the “recovery factor” – how quickly you pretended you had not been asleep at all.
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PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON

  • President Clinton was famous for his explosive temper—the so-called purple rages.
  • In most administrations, the chief wakes up the president in the middle of the night; the nocturnal Bill Clinton turned the tables—and would call his chiefs at all hours of the night.
  • President Clinton loved playing cards and would play speed card games on the helicopter and on Air Force One.
  • President Clinton’s first chief was his kindergarten friend Thomas “Mack” McLarty.
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PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH

  • Minutes after he arrived in the Oval Office, right after his swearing-in, George W. Bush was joined by his father, the 41st president. Both men wept.
  • On September 11th chief Andrew Card ignored George W. Bush’s direct order to fly the president back to Washington. “He was yelling at me,” says Card.
  • Chief Card says he wanted to be "the opposite of that TV show Cheers, where everybody knows your name. I wanted to be the chief where nobody knew my name. But all that changed on Sept. 11."
  • Because of George W. Bush's habit of mangling words, chief Bolten started calling strategy meetings: “strategery” meetings.
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PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA

  • Before the president took office, George W. Bush’s chief Bolten invited 13 former chiefs to the White House to give their advice to incoming chief Rahm Emanuel.
  • Chief Daley got the shingles right after leaving the job – due, he believes, to the stress.

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