MOTHERS USED to say to little boys, "This is America. You can grow up to be president of the United States." Today's version is, "If you don't watch out, you could grow up to be president of the United States."
What a scary threat. Look what being president has meant in the 20th century:
Bill Clinton faces impeachment. Maybe even jail. His predecessor, George Bush, was fired by the voters after one term. Bush's predecessor, Ronald Reagan, got shot in his first FTC term and got hammered for Iran-contra in his second. His predecessor, Jimmy Carter, was fired after a term.
Carter's predecessor, Gerald Ford, pardoned Richard Nixon and was fired after a half-term. Ford's predecessor, Nixon, quit after 1] terms, just ahead of certain impeachment and removal.
Nixon's predecessor, Lyndon Johnson, quit after one term plus one year, fearful of defeat. Johnson's predecessor, John Kennedy, was assassinated in his first term at age 46. His predecessor, Dwight Eisenhower, had a heart attack.
Eisenhower's predecessor, Harry Truman, wouldn't seek re-election because his approval ratings were in the 20s, as low as Nixon's. Truman's predecessor, Franklin Roosevelt, died in office of a cerebral hemorrhage at 63.
Roosevelt's predecessor, Herbert Hoover, was blamed for the Great Depression and lost his re-election bid in a landslide. Hoover's predecessor, Calvin Coolidge, disliked the job enough that he retired rather than run again.
Coolidge's predecessor, Warren Harding, was denounced as the head of a corrupt administration and died, apparently of a heart ailment, at 58. His predecessor, Woodrow Wilson, suffered a stroke in his second term. Wilson's predecessor, William Taft, was fired by voters after one term.
Taft's predecessor, Theodore Roosevelt, appeared to have gotten off easy when he retired in 1908, but then he decided to run again in 1912 and was shot. His predecessor, William McKinley, was assassinated at age 48, in 1901. Every president in this century has been stung by misfortune. So watch it, kids.
Theo Lippman Jr. is a former editorial writer for The Sun.
Pub Date: 11/22/98