How presidents spent their 52nd birthdays

Patrick Howley Political Reporter
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As everyone knows, a person’s early fifties are a magical time – one filled with tuition planning, hot flashes, impulse car purchases, and delusional dreams of making the PGA “Champions” Tour (and maybe, if one is so lucky, a nice little massage therapist on the side to remember what it feels like to feel again…)

As President Obama spends his 52nd birthday weekend playing golf and hanging out at Camp David, The Daily Caller looks back on the 52nd birthdays of some other U.S. presidents. Bet you didn’t know John Tyler was the first president to turn 52 in office. So go ahead and read this fast before “Monk” goes to commercial and you have to pee again.

Abraham Lincoln: When Lincoln turned 52 on February 12, 1861, he was in the middle of his historic journey from Springfield, Illinois to Washington, D.C. for his presidential inauguration. Wife Mary Todd and the three Lincoln boys joined the president-elect in Indianapolis, where they took off in the morning by train, making it all the way to Cincinnati before the day was through. Hundreds of thousands of people reportedly waved to the Lincolns as they made brief stops in Shelbyville, Greensburgh, Morris and Lawrenceburg. In his speech in Cincinnati, Lincoln described his goal of befriending southern Democrats, which, as with most middle-aged pet projects, never really ended up coming together.

William Howard Taft: President Taft marked his 52nd birthday on September 15, 1909 by setting off on a 44-city tour of the United States that lasted 67 days and proved to be one of the most politically disastrous public-relations campaigns of his presidency. Though he found himself to be in “rare good humor” when he kicked off his tour, Taft quickly riled people up in Winona, Minnesota by praising the Republican-supported Payne-Aldrich Tariff, which most Americans hated. Taft lost the 1910 midterms, and finished third in his 1912 re-election bid.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt: Then a year into office, President Roosevelt spent his 52nd birthday on January 30, 1934 signing into law the Gold Reserve Act, which made it illegal for most people to own gold. This effectively ended “gold clauses,” which permitted gold to be substituted for cash in legal contracts. Meanwhile in Germany, Adolf Hitler’s Nazi government abolished the Reichsrat, the legislative body that represented the German States in the country’s democratic legislature. “REICH TAKES OVER RIGHTS OF STATES; HITLER WARNS FOES; Bill Passed by the Reichstag Makes States Mere Agents, Ending Legislative Functions,” screamed the New York Times headline.

Nevertheless, Roosevelt spent his evening relaxing and carousing in a Julius Caesar costume at his White House birthday dinner, where he was photographed with his eight costumed “vestal virgins,” including wife Eleanor and private secretary Grace Tully.

Lyndon Johnson: Then-Senate Majority Leader and vice presidential candidate Johnson spent his 52nd birthday on August 27, 1960 at the place he loved the most: the Capitol. LBJ was photographed cutting the cake at his birthday party at the Old Supreme Court Chamber of the U.S. Capitol, standing beside a bored-looking Senator Everett Dirksen. Just weeks later, Johnson became vice president to younger man John Kennedy, whose tragic death led to Johnson’s roughly five-year presidency, the Civil Rights Act, the “Great Society” reforms of Medicare and Medicaid, and the Vietnam War. Sadly, Johnson’s time in the executive branch never fully lived up to the promise he showed as a senator, back before he hit the “Big Five-Two.”

Jimmy Carter: Presidential candidate Carter spent his 52nd birthday in front of the cameras on October 1, 1976, sitting for a CBS television interview to address the political fallout from his pre-election interview with Playboy magazine. Carter famously told journalist Robert Scheer in Playboy, “I’ve looked on a lot of women with lust. I’ve committed adultery in my heart many times.”

Five days later at the second presidential debate in San Francisco, Carter scored the decisive victory of his political career by standing there when opponent Gerald Ford said, “There is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe, and there never will be under a Ford administration.” Journalist Max Frankel grilled Ford on his confused foreign policy statement and in so doing effectively ushered in the Carter years – during which lust and adultery of the heart were rampant, but also the least of our problems.

Bill Clinton: Just two days after President Clinton admitted in an evening television address that he carried on a relationship with Monica Lewinsky that “was not appropriate,” CNN reported on August 19, 1998 that independent counsel Kenneth Starr was in possession of a sample of Clinton’s DNA. Instead of receiving birthday wishes from an adoring public, 52-year old Clinton instead heard House Majority Whip Tom DeLay call for his resignation.

“President Clinton is the Grand Canyon of need. He can never stay focused for long on running the country and the world because it gets in the way of his favorite pastime, a warped little mind game called ‘How Much Do You Love Me?,'” Maureen Dowd wrote in that morning’s New York Times.

On the second day of what would be a 12-day family vacation in Martha’s Vineyard, Clinton spoke to Vice President Gore and held four phone conversations with National Security Advisor Sandy Berger regarding potential cruise missile strikes in Afghanistan and Sudan to retaliate against Osama bin Laden’s bombings of U.S. embassies in East Africa earlier that month. After a long, sleepless night, Clinton finally authorized the strikes at 2 AM on August 20, ending his 52nd birthday on the war path.

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