A Brief History of Potty-Mouthed Presidents

PoliZette

A Brief History of Potty-Mouthed Presidents

Donald Trump may have used a vulgarity in a meeting, but many of his predecessors also needed their tongues washed with soap

President Donald Trump may or may not have used a particularly unflattering vulgarity to describe impoverished nations in the Caribbean and Africa — but he’s got nothing on Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard M. Nixon, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, or Barack Obama.

The truth is that vulgar language and conduct have long been associated with presidents — and it has happened and been heard in the Oval Office, the adjoining hallway, and out on the campaign trail.

Lyndon Baines Johnson of Texas may have been America’s most vulgar chief executive, at least in the modern era. Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin was more than diplomatic in telling C-SPAN about “Landslide Lyndon’s” habit of conducting conversations with aides while sitting on the throne.

And who can forget those infamous tapes of Richard Nixon, including hundreds of hours of him rudely kibitzing in the Oval Office with inner-circle aides about his many enemies, The New York Times, foreigners, Watergate, bureaucrats, and a multitude of other pains in his backside?

Speaking of The New York Times, President George W. Bush famously was overheard — though certainly unintentionally — referring to reporter Adam Clymer of the “newspaper of record” as a “major league a**hole.” He later apologized, but it wasn’t a particularly convincing mea culpa.

Dick Cheney, who was Bush’s vice president, probably did know his angry suggestion to a Democratic colleague in a Senate hallway that he “go f***” himself” would be reported to the nation — but it didn’t prompt him to hold his tongue.

It is highly doubtful that the vulgarity displayed on multiple occasions by President Bill Clinton will ever be exceeded.

Former President Barack Obama, Trump’s immediate predecessor, used similarly blue language in describing the chaotic political situation in Libya and the mess made of the U.S. effort led by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. That was in the aftermath of the assassination by Libyan dictator Muammar Qadaffi by rebels.

Time magazine’s Claire Suddath provides additional details on the Nixon, Bush, Cheney and Obama incidents, along with facts about other dirty talk by elected officials over the years.

But it is highly doubtful that the vulgarity displayed on multiple occasions by President Bill Clinton will ever be exceeded — unless LBJ is somehow reincarnated. Clinton’s encounter with White House intern Monica Lewinsky as he waited to meet with Palestinian terrorist Yassir Arafat was only one of many illustrations of how low “Slick Willie” delighted to go.

Senior editor Mark Tapscott can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter.

meet the author

Mark Tapscott manages LifeZette's political coverage, working with staff reporters covering the White House and the executive branch, Congress, the federal courts, the national media and the campaign trail. He has covered federal politics and policy for more than three decades, working as a reporter, business editor, national editor, and in multiple senior editorial management roles over the years. He is an elected member of the First Amendment Center's Freedom of Information Act Hall of Fame and is a former CPAC Conservative Journalist of the Year.