The Truth About Taft Getting Stuck in a Bathtub, Part 1

Taft campaigning in Boston, 1908 President William Howard Taft is stuck, and he can’t get out. And he’s been in that state for a full century now. He’s stuck in presidential chronology between Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, two legendary egomaniacs whose primped personae forever shadow him – quite a task considering Taft tipped the scales over 300 pounds. He’s stuck between being conservative and progressive, fair and judicious, always seeking arbitration and striving for rational balance. He’s stuck with April Fifteenth too. Lincoln established Thanksgiving, Wilson gave Mothers their day, and dear old Washington had but to be born to give us – well, Washington’s Birthday. Taft? Having initiated corporate and then personal income taxes through the 15th Amendment we can hail him for Tax Day. Lovely. Largely, however, President Obesity is stuck in a White House bathtub, so the anecdote-addled American mind still imagines. Is it fair to judge a public official based on their weight, disability, race, height 0r other labels of physicality? And is that Taft bathtub story even true? Harpers magazine suggesting Taft did not take naturally to Roosevelts image, clothes – or policies. Not unlike efforts by Michelle Obama to raise consciousness on obesity through proper diet and nutrition, Franklin Roosevelt’s popularizing of the gin martini, Ronald Reagan’s love of jellybeans, Jefferson’s introduction of pasta to America, Jackie Kennedy’s hiring of a French chef, Dolley Madison’s popularizing of ice cream, or Coolidge’s serving ice water in paper cups to guests at receptions,, the story of William Howard Taft’s weight and over-eating is a cautionary tale of the political and pop culture impact of presidential food. Taft’s fatness was caricatured as he gained widespread recognition about 1905, as President Theodore Roosevelt’s War Secretary and chosen successor for the Republican presidential nomination. Stories began to publicly circulate about how good-naturedly Taft took the jokes about his weight, such as the one which told of his riding a horse and receiving a telegram from a Cabinet member asking, “How’s the horse?” Hefty, not fat. Not yet at least. Riding not steering the ship of state. Serving as President from 1909 to 1913, Taft marked the end of an era of portly Presidents, which began with Grant and included Chester Arthur, Grover Cleveland, Benjamin Harrison, all overstuffed, bearded, mustachioed or mutton-chopped distinguished gents of that indulgent Victorian Era. In a day when the press and public called Presidents by nicknames

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Categories: Americana, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Grover Cleveland, Presidential Foods, Presidential Mythology, Presidents, Ronald Reagan, The Tafts, Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, Woodrow Wilson

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