Nothing is more American than that holy trio of Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that our Presidents embody such noble ideals.
We’ve already taken a look at our nation’s glorious history of electing rabid sex fiends to office, and while admittedly our leaders have traditionally failed to uphold the Rock and Roll part of that famous saying –- Bill Clinton’s tender saxophone stylings aside -– they seem to have no problem with the Drugs part. Some of these you may know and some of them may surprise you. A few have admitted to getting high on things other than life while some have merely been implicated by rumor and hearsay. But what they all have in common is at one point in their lives, they liked to party and God bless them for it. With that said, and without further ado, we bring you eight Presidents who didn’t just say no.
8 Bill Clinton
The Drug: Marijuana
The Story: Bill Clinton is renowned for being one of the nation’s foremost experts on crushing ass. But when people get tired of making jokes about good ol’ Bill violating Lady Liberty with cigars they turn to his infamous admission that when he was a college student, young and carefree, he smoked pot. Of course, if you ask him, he didn’t actually smoke pot because –- and say it with me –- he “didn’t inhale.” Yes, long before Clinton taught us all the subtly different meanings of the word “is”, he took it upon himself to explain the technical differences between the professional toker and the mere amateur.
Now, I don’t want to cast aspersions on the man who balanced our budget and oversaw an era of unprecedented peace and prosperity for our nation, but when he said he didn’t inhale, he was admitting that either he was so dumb that he couldn’t figure out the mechanics of smoking –- which doesn’t exactly inspire confidence -– or that he did understand but he was just a poseur and was pretending to smoke to fit in with some cooler kids. Again, not exactly what you want to hear from the leader of the free world, you know? Then again, there is always the possibility that Bill Clinton lied and that he actually inhaled. But Bill Clinton would never lie. Never. No. Of course not.
7. Barack Obama
The Drugs: Marijuana, Cocaine
The Story: In his book Dreams from My Father, Obama openly admitted that in his youth he smoked pot and did “maybe a little blow when you could afford it.” Well, then. It’s kind of surprising he hasn’t gotten attacked more for this, if only because he is attacked for everything else from where he was born to where he goes to church. But it’s kind of refreshing too, isn’t it? It’s kind of nice to have a president who instead of ducking and hiding from mysterious allegations about drugs just shrugs his shoulders and basically says “Yeah, I got f-cked up when I was younger, so what?”
Then again, maybe Obama’s opponents think that the “Choom Gang” Obama was identified with in his high school yearbook was actually one of them there newfangled “Hippity-Hop” groups like Wyoming Senator Alan Simpson’s favorite rap artists Snoopy Snoopy Poop Dog or Enema Man. I’m sure that’s it. Nobody has told them that Chooming was Hawaiian slang for smoking pot when Obama was in high school, which is a good thing because it would probably make them all faint in horror and their Pat Boone records to screech to an ugly halt. Get off their lawn!
6. Franklin Pierce
The Drug: Hashish
The Story: Apparently, during the Mexican-American War, Pierce allegedly smoked hashish with his troops and after the war was over, wrote home to his family, claiming that smoking Hash was the only good thing to come out of the war. That may seem surprising, but let’s face it, that’s probably about the mildest thing that Pierce would have done after being stuck in Mexico for so long. I mean, what else was he supposed to write about? The donkey shows in Tijuana? Having to mainline penicillin after getting pinned down by the enemy in a Mexican bordello?
Let’s face it, there were probably far far worse things that went on during the Mexican-American War other than smoking hash. Like, I don’t know, maybe killing people? Just a thought. Are you going to sit there and blame the guy for hitting the pipe after having bullets whizzing by his head all day? The man needed to relax. It’s not like he was shooting up heroin in the Oval Office and offering to blow the French Ambassador for drug money. At least I don’t think so. All he did was get high with his soldiers, like that scene in Platoon or like Jesus did with his disciples before they mounted up and took out their enemies, Stallone style. And are you gonna argue with Jesus? Or with Rambo? I didn’t think so.
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons
5. Ulysses S. Grant
The Drug: Cocaine
The Story: Yes, Ulysses S. Grant was our first cokehead president. But before you jump to any conclusions, it wasn’t like Grant was hooked on blow like some degenerate character in Boogie Nights. No, instead, Grant turned to cocaine after he developed throat cancer and so he could finish his memoirs. Apparently, the poor old dude would regularly swab his throat with cocaine until he became addicted.
The best –- and most ridiculous part about all this -– is that some people actually believe that none other than Mark Twain got Grant hooked on coke. The theory goes that Twain –- who was Grant’s publisher and who also had once expressed a dream to go to the Amazon and become the nation’s cocaine hookup (yeah, seriously) -– urged Grant to use coke so he could get through the pain and finish his memoirs. Of course, Grant was out of the Oval Office by then and he only had a short time left to live thanks to the cancer, so no harm done I guess. But if the image of Mark Twain serving as U.S. Grant’s coke dealer doesn’t make you laugh at least a little bit, you’re dead inside and I just don’t want to know you.
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons
4. George W. Bush
The Drugs: Marijuana and Cocaine
The Story: You had to know this one was coming. Before, during and after his presidency, Bush was dogged by rumors that he had been an inveterate cokehead during his callow youth. A lot of people have am image in their head of Bush as some sort of cartoon character wearing a giant cowboy hat, downing shots of whiskey like J.R. Ewing and doing line after line of coke with a gang of wild strippers. That’s probably not exactly how it went down, but let’s face it, it’s probably not that far off either.
Bush still won’t openly admit his past drug use but he doesn’t really deny it either. Instead, he says things like “I wouldn’t answer the marijuana questions. You know why? Because I don’t want some little kid doing what I tried,” which is what he apparently said to a friend of his, the ironically named Doug Wead, who supposedly recorded the conversation and then played it for a reporter from the New York Times. Meanwhile, when it comes to cocaine, Bush denies using any illegal drug since 1974. Well, that’s great. The only problem is that the dude was born in 1946, which leaves a whole 28 years of his life unaccounted for. I guess those years don’t count.
Still, I’m not really knocking Bush for his drug use. After all, that would be like going after Al Capone because he didn’t pay his taxes. I mean, there are much, much bigger issues the dude needs to own up to, you know what I mean? He liked to party. So what? You know the guy is probably a lot of fun and if anyone has good hookups, it would be him. It’s just too bad there are other, slightly more important qualities that go into being a good president.
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons
3. George Washington
The Drug: Marijuana
The Story: Like many of the founding fathers, George Washington was an advocate of hemp. This cash crop was one of the early staples of the American colonies, much like tobacco and like with tobacco, it’s not hard to imagine that someone who grew the crop liked to, uh, indulge in it from time to time. Of course, hemp and marijuana are not exactly one and the same -– just listen to one of the magnificent speeches of the noble Lord Woodrow Harrelson -– but then again, Woody’s not exactly shy about using the hemp plant for more recreational purposes either. So it was probably the same with men like Washington back in the day.
It is believed that Washington liked to smoke weed in order to ease the pain of his persistent toothaches and it was even said that he liked the smell of his hemp pipe. Plus, let’s not forget the damning evidence provided by the historians in the film Dazed and Confused, particularly Professor Slater who said “Absolutely George toked weed, are you kiddin’ me, man? He grew fields of that stuff, man, that’s what I’m talkin’ about – Fields,” and “Behind every good man there is a woman, and that woman was Martha Washington, man, and everyday George would come home, she would have a big fat bowl waiting for him, man, when he come in the door, man, she was a hip, hip, hip lady, man.” Well, I’m convinced.
2. Thomas Jefferson
The Drug: Marijuana
The Story: Like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson was a farmer and like Washington, Jefferson –- or at least his slaves (when he wasn’t busy boning them) -– grew fields of hemp. In a possibly apocryphal quote, Jefferson is claimed to have said “Some of my finest hours have been spent on the back of my veranda, smoking hemp and observing as far as the eye can see.” Whether or not he actually said these words is kind of immaterial. The sentiment is generally considered to be accurate and most people would agree that Jefferson very well could have said those words. There are also stories which claim that he exchanged smoking recipes with Washington.
Like with Washington, it has become almost impossible to discern fact from urban legend when it comes to Jefferson and his fondness for hemp/marijuana. Some seem to want to paint him as some sort of crusading pothead, doing everything from smoking down with a naked Sally Hemings while listening to the Grateful Dead to writing the Declaration of Independence on hemp paper like some sort of stoner scribbling notes on his Zig-Zags. Still others have denied that Jefferson had anything to do with the growing and use of hemp other than in clothing and manufacturing. The truth, as it usually does, probably lies somewhere in between. I doubt that Jefferson was hitting the bong whenever he rolled out of bed in the morning, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he didn’t relax every now and again with a few tokes from the ol’ pipe either. I mean, come on, like the noble Slater said, the dude was growing fields of that shit.
1. John F. Kennedy
The Drugs: Codeine, Demerol, Methadone, Ritalin, Various Barbituates, Steroids, Marijuana, LSD, Ground Up Baby Bones
The Story: What a list! And I only made up one of them (See if you can guess which one. Okay fine, you got me, it’s the Ritalin.) Yes, our nation’s most famous presidential horndog was also apparently its most drug addled. Of course, most of these drugs were taken due to a variety of weird ailments -– it’s not like JFK was just shooting up methadone in the Oval Office because he wanted to feel what it was like to make love to a cloud, or then again maybe he was -– which forced the President to become almost an inveterate junky, hooked on a crazy cocktail of drugs that kept him functioning throughout the day.
Kennedy had severe back problems which necessitated the use of many different types of painkillers. Because he was all pilled up and high as a kite, he was forced to take stimulants like Ritalin to balance all that out and then various Barbituates to come back down and sleep at night. He also suffered from a mysterious affliction called Addison’s Disease, which affects the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar and sodium, and apparently the only way to treat this was to take steroids. Why? Don’t ask me, I wasn’t the man’s doctor. In fact, I’m guessing the dude’s doctor was named Dr. Feelgood and operated out of an unmarked white van that was always on the move so the cops couldn’t track him.
If all that wasn’t enough, there has been speculation that one of JFK’s many sexual conquests, Mary Pinchot Meyer, both smoked weed with President Kennedy and introduced him to the wonders of LSD. Jesus! The image we all have of Kennedy is the Camelot “Ask not what your country can do for you…” crusader when the reality is that the dude was probably spending most of his time arguing with paintings of Abe Lincoln that he thought had come to life and hiding from imaginary spiders. For those noble feats and for his dedication to getting utterly obliterated on all manner of substances, we celebrate John F. Kennedy as this nation’s foremost presidential drug fiend.
(Previously published on March 24, 2011.)