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19 Presidential Jokes for Presidential Joke Day

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We often think of American presidents as butts of jokes, the muses for mockery, and the subjects of satire. But every once in a while, our commanders-in-chief (or their speechwriters) come up with a few witty wisecracks of their own. Saturday is Presidential Joke Day – a holiday to commemorate the fact that presidents sometimes have a sense of humor.

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The holiday began in 1984, when Ronald Reagan made a joke during a sound check for a radio broadcast. "My fellow Americans,” he said, "I'm pleased to tell you today that I've signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes."

Reagan was not aware, however, that his feed was live. And unfortunately, not everyone got the joke. Soviet officials got word of the broadcast and put the military on high alert.

Once the threat of nuclear war had abated, Americans found the situation hilarious, and decided to memorialize Reagan’s famous quip by instituting National Presidential Joke Day on August 11th. To get you geared up to celebrate this holiday properly, we’re saluting these presidential knee-slappers.

Ronald Reagan

"I am not worried about the deficit. It is big enough to take care of itself."
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"I have left orders to be awakened at any time in case of national emergency -- even if I'm in a Cabinet meeting."
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"Politics is supposed to be the second-oldest profession. I have come to realize that it bears a very close resemblance to the first."
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"Recession is when your neighbor loses his job. Depression is when you lose yours. And recovery is when Jimmy Carter loses his."

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"I hope you're all Republicans." —Speaking to surgeons as he entered the operating room following a 1981 assassination attempt

George W. Bush

"These stories about my intellectual capacity really get under my skin. You know, for a while I even thought my staff believed it. There on my schedule first thing every morning it said, 'Intelligence Briefing.'"
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''Thank you for your email. This Internet of yours is a wonderful invention.'' —To Al Gore during the 2000 presidential campaign
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“We’re studying safe levels for arsenic in drinking water. To base our decision on sound science, the scientists told us we needed to test the water glasses of about 3,000 people. Thank you for participating.” —At the 2001 Radio-Television Correspondents’ Association dinner
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''The candidates are an interesting group, with diverse opinions -- for tax cuts and against them, for NAFTA and against NAFTA, for the Patriot Act and against the Patriot Act, in favor of liberating Iraq and opposed to it. And that's just one senator from Massachusetts.'' —During the 2004 campaign against John Kerry

Barack Obama

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''If I had to name my greatest strength, I guess it would be my humility. Greatest weakness, it's possible that I'm a little too awesome.''
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”There are few things in life harder to find and more important to keep than love. Well, love and a birth certificate.”
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''Many of you know that I got my name, Barack, from my father. What you may not know is Barack is actually Swahili for 'That One.' And I got my middle name from somebody who obviously didn't think I'd ever run for president.”

And More!

''Did you ever think that making a speech on economics is a lot like pissing down your leg? It seems hot to you, but it never does to anyone else.'' —Lyndon Johnson
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“I just received the following wire from my generous Daddy: Dear Jack, Don't buy a single vote more than is necessary. I'll be damned if I'm going to pay for a landslide.” —John F. Kennedy, addressing complaints that his father’s money was buying the primary for him.
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''My esteem in this country has gone up substantially. It is very nice now when people wave at me, they use all their fingers.” —Jimmy Carter
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"When they call the roll in the Senate, the Senators do not know whether to answer 'present' or 'not guilty.'" —Teddy Roosevelt
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''In my many years I have come to a conclusion that one useless man is a shame, two is a law firm, and three or more is a congress.'' —John Adams
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"Being president is like running a cemetery: you've got a lot of people under you and nobody's listening." —Bill Clinton
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“If I were two faced, would I be wearing this one?” —Abraham Lincoln

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Animals
Why Tiny 'Hedgehog Highways' Are Popping Up Around London
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Hedgehogs as pets have gained popularity in recent years, but in many parts of the world, they're still wild animals. That includes London, where close to a million of the creatures roam streets, parks, and gardens, seeking out wood and vegetation to take refuge in. Now, Atlas Obscura reports that animal activists are transforming the city into a more hospitable environment for hedgehogs.

Barnes Hedgehogs, a group founded by Michel Birkenwald in the London neighborhood of Barnes four years ago, is responsible for drilling tiny "hedgehog highways" through walls around London. The passages are just wide enough for the animals to climb through, making it easier for them to travel from one green space to the next.

London's wild hedgehog population has seen a sharp decline in recent decades. Though it's hard to pin down accurate numbers for the elusive animals, surveys have shown that the British population has dwindled by tens of millions since the 1950s. This is due to factors like human development and habitat destruction by farmers who aren't fond of the unattractive shrubs, hedges, and dead wood that hedgehogs use as their homes.

When such environments are left to grow, they can still be hard for hedgehogs to access. Carving hedgehog highways through the stone partitions and wooden fences bordering parks and gardens is one way Barnes Hedgehogs is making life in the big city a little easier for its most prickly residents.

[h/t Atlas Obscura]

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Big Questions
Where Should You Place the Apostrophe in President's Day?
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Happy Presidents’ Day! Or is it President’s Day? Or Presidents Day? What you call the national holiday depends on where you are, who you’re honoring, and how you think we’re celebrating.

Saying "President’s Day" infers that the day belongs to a singular president, such as George Washington or Abraham Lincoln, whose birthdays are the basis for the holiday. On the other hand, referring to it as "Presidents’ Day" means that the day belongs to all of the presidents—that it’s their day collectively. Finally, calling the day "Presidents Day"—plural with no apostrophe—would indicate that we’re honoring all POTUSes past and present (yes, even Andrew Johnson), but that no one president actually owns the day.

You would think that in the nearly 140 years since "Washington’s Birthday" was declared a holiday in 1879, someone would have officially declared a way to spell the day. But in fact, even the White House itself hasn’t chosen a single variation for its style guide. They spelled it “President’s Day” here and “Presidents’ Day” here.


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Maybe that indecision comes from the fact that Presidents Day isn’t even a federal holiday. The federal holiday is technically still called “Washington’s Birthday,” and states can choose to call it whatever they want. Some states, like Iowa, don’t officially acknowledge the day at all. And the location of the punctuation mark is a moot point when individual states choose to call it something else entirely, like “George Washington’s Birthday and Daisy Gatson Bates Day” in Arkansas, or “Birthdays of George Washington/Thomas Jefferson” in Alabama. (Alabama loves to split birthday celebrations, by the way; the third Monday in January celebrates both Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert E. Lee.)

You can look to official grammar sources to declare the right way, but even they don’t agree. The AP Stylebook prefers “Presidents Day,” while Chicago Style uses “Presidents’ Day.”

The bottom line: There’s no rhyme or reason to any of it. Go with what feels right. And even then, if you’re in one of those states that has chosen to spell it “President’s Day”—Washington, for example—and you use one of the grammar book stylings instead, you’re still technically wrong.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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