When I found out that Daniel O’Brien was writing a book about presidents I was really excited, and not just because I think that DOB might be my soulmate, but also because I knew that the book was going to make me laugh and that I’d probably learn something.
I did both. (I also, incidentally fell deeper in love with O’Brien, but that’s not relevant.)
Anyway, How To Fight Presidents had it’s inception when a college professor told O’Brien that neither he nor any of his classmates would ever be president, DOB’s response? “I never wanted to be president, but when that constantly angry profesor told me I couldn’t — even if I want to — something inside of me was triggered and I thought, “Oh yeah? I’ll show you. I’m going to president. I’m going to be president all over this country, and there’s not a damn thing you can do about it!” (O’Brien, 2) and he went about learning everything he could about Presidents to become like them.
He concluded that he could never be president, because all of the presidents are insane in a very specific way, and he was not insane that way. Thus, he decided that if he couldn’t be president, he would learn how to beat them all up. How To Fight Presidents is a primer on presidential trivia and a very funny one. And again, cements my eternal nerd crush on this man.
I mean, how do you not fall in love with a guy who paraphrases Thomas Jefferson by saying, “blood is the poop of freedom,” (O’Brien, 20) and describing James K Polk as “The James Browniest President.” (69) and makes a detailed case that Ronald Reagan might have been Wolverine. But also, how do you not just love a book like that?
I come from a generation that likes our education with a healthy dose of humor and entertainment. We were raised on Bill Nye The Science Guy and Wishbone, and that’s why it makes sense that one of us would write a book that when describing JFK says, “Plenty of presidents have been as good as Kennedy, and many have been better, but he is the only president that made the American people, in unison, say, ‘What a cool dude. I’d let him have sex with my girlfriend if she was into it.'” (O’Brien, 215) or when advising you on how to beat James Madison says, “Grab that sucker, lift him up in the air, say, ‘By the away, I’m a big fan of the Constitution, I’m really glad you put that thing together.” (29)
Of course if you don’t have time to read the whole book just read three chapters, Andrew Jackson, Teddy Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson, absolutely worth it.