No matter how high a pedestal we place our leaders on, presidents are not perfect. However, some of them are so “imperfect” that they become long-standing jokes long outlasting their actual stint in office.
In honor of presidential joke day, here are 10 books that exposed some… unsavory presidential terms.
Rage blew the cover off of the hectic first months of the pandemic and incriminated former President Trump in brushing it under the rug while privately acknowledging the severity of the virus.
While he publicly denounced the pandemic as a “hoax,” renowned journalist Bob Woodward, in 17 interviews, shows how Trump understood the severity of the virus, yet did nothing about it until it was too late.
While not incriminating one president in the downfall of democracy, Dark Money spotlights the secret billionaires pouring money into the political system to swing it in their favor.
Jane Mayer follows the money trail all the way back to the “think tanks, academic institutions, media groups, courthouses, and government allies” under the influence of the mega-rich.
If you want to hold onto any shred of faith in the political system, don’t read this.
Journalist and former White House speechwriter David Frum brings your worst Trump-themed nightmares to life in Trumpocracy, detailing the covert ways that the administration broke down long-standing facets of the office and democracy in general.
While most of us focused on Russia, “fake news,” and more, Frum centered how Trump and his administration steadily snapped the boundaries of his power, widening his reach and rattling the foundation of our sacred institutions.
This book is a must-read even if you don’t want to drag a president, but especially if you do.
Broken into sections based on the lifetimes of various political figures, from pilgrims to activists, author Ibram X. Kendi details how the barriers surrounding Black Americans have been built over decades by numerous figures, rooted in white supremacy and racist ideology.
The Andrew Jackson section, rather than portray him as the American “hero” he has come to be known as, breaks down his anxiety and cowardice over Black Americans, including the mother of his children, a freed slave.
Jackson’s presidential term is made into a complete gaff, revealing his contradictory thoughts on Black inferiority, his secret biracial children, and a useless stint in office, ending eventually in his lonely death and unimpressive legacy.
All the President’s Men remains a quintessential journalistic masterpiece, still used as the prime example of investigative political reporting to this day.
Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, both Washington Post reporters at the time, dove deep into the Watergate scandal, combing through headlines and uncovering the mysterious “Deep Throat.”
Released soon before Nixon’s resignation, the book exposes every facet of the scandal. Spoiler alert: it was much worse than anyone thought.
If you’re really looking for some juicy presidential misdoings, look no further than Eleanor Herman’s Sex With Presidents. From Alexander Hamilton’s blackmailing prostitute to John F. Kennedy’s naked swims with female staffers, Eleanor Herman explores the famous sex scandals of American leaders and what they say about those who occupy the office.
Why do we focus on these scandals? Do we give them more attention than other countries? Will a female president fall into the same scandals, and what will that look like?
Speaking of sex scandals, this list wouldn’t do justice to presidential blunders if it didn’t mention the Clinton scandal.
Balancing the legal clarifications and countless misunderstandings about impeachment, Richard Posner explores other famous scandals and compares them to Clinton’s, while recounting the events following his affair as they happened.
Posner also prods our relationship to private and public morality, why we fixated on the affair to this day. For those wanting to know the ins and outs of Clinton’s impeachment, look no further than An Affair of the State.
Landslide unmasks the seemingly invincible Reagan administration after a “landslide reelection,” as they fell into chaos and disaster, AKA the Iran-Contra scandal.
Revealing how Reagan cared more about “stagecraft than statecraft,” and the earth-shattering results of this dangerous preference, Jane Mayer unravels the scandal and the events that led to its inevitable disaster.
Robert Draper did the impossible, telling the story of a Presidential term from inside the White House. Through one-on-one interviews with George Bush and various staff members, Draper illustrates the tumultuous time in office and the behind-the-scenes mess that few got to see.
This brief introduction to the book says it all: “We begin with a revealing lunch at the White House where a testy, hot dog-chomping president finally unburdens himself to the inquisitive reporter, a fellow Texan who well understands the manly argot that courses through this administration.”
In an interesting twist, John W. Dean, former White House counsel for Richard Nixon, examines the Bush administration and comes to a stark conclusion: it’s worse than Watergate.
Dean details how the secrecy and deception of the administration set our democracy back for years, eventually doing “more damage to the nation than Nixon at his worst.”