David Greenberg: Presidential Doodles
fter Somali militiamen killed eighteen U.S. soldiers in October 1993, President Clinton convened his national-security team. He sat silently while being briefed. Then, his aide Richard Clarke recalled, “When they had talked themselves out, Clinton stopped doodling and looked up. ‘Okay, here’s what we’re going to do.’”
We imagine White House meetings to be efficient and focused on grave matters; we don’t imagine the president dithering, daydreaming, or making idle scribbles—especially during moments of national crisis. But presidents, like the rest of us, doodle. Dwight Eisenhower drew sturdy, 1950s images: tables, pencils, nuclear weapons. A Herbert Hoover scrawl provided the pattern for a line of rompers. Ronald Reagan dispensed cheery cartoons to aides. John F. Kennedy reportedly doodled the word poverty at the last cabinet meeting before his death.
In an age of politics as scripted spectacle, these doodles, made without speechwriters or focus groups, promise a glimpse of the unguarded president. Because their meaning may be opaque even to the doodler himself, they invite us to interpret them—as befits our democracy—as we wish.
A skilled draftsman and architect, Jefferson was also a noted epicure. While in Europe in the 1780s, he became enamored of pasta—so much so that he stuck a feather in his inkwell, sketched out a design, and called it a “maccaroni”-making machine. In 1802, he served macaroni and cheese in the White House. ...
comments powered by Disqus
- Egyptian ‘Mona Lisa’ A Fake
- The Story Behind ‘Woman in Gold’: Nazi Art Thieves and One Painting’s Return
- Scott Walker, Allergic to Dogs, May Run Against Political History
- Russian History Receives a Makeover That Starts With Ivan the Terrible
- Parsing Ronald Reagan’s Words for Early Signs of Alzheimer’s
- Joan Waugh on Grant's and Lee's 'gentlemen's agreement' ending the Civil War
- Charlatan or Sage? Contested Legacy of the late Dr. Ben, a Father of African Studies
- Historians make it easy for visitors to DC to understand the history of the Mall
- History's Grandin Wins Bancroft Prize for "The Empire of Necessity"
- Nobel prize-winning scientist writes a history of science