Donald Trump may be the wittiest president in American history but he has some serious contenders, particularly Lincoln and Truman. Of course neither of these folks had Twitter, so we are limited to their very occasional one-liners reported in the press.
Reportedly Lincoln said a lot of funny stuff. As a civil war buff my personal favorite was when, early in the war, General McClellan failed to advance on the Confederates in the Virginia peninsula. (Those pesky Rebs used tree trunks to look like artillery, later called “Quaker cannons.)
Lincoln said that McClellan had a bad “case of the slows” which is as funny as it gets, historically funny.
Harry Truman of course said, of federal policy making (my little field): “If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen.”
My all time favorite was not said by a president, but was said to one, in a command performance. As I understand it, Will Rogers was asked to perform for President Franklin Roosevelt. In his autobiography Rogers says this was scary, as one can imagine.
But he came up with one of the greatest lines in American history: “It is not hard to be a comedian when you have the whole American government working for you.”
I often use this line to describe my work.
I am not sure President Trump has said anything this historically famous and funny, but he has said a lot and drives the left wing media nuts, as he well knows. They insist on taking his jokes seriously, which then makes them look like the fools they are.
My favorite case so far is when Trump tweeted that the climate change scare was a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese. As always, it is the elements of truth that make this so funny. That the climate scare has the elements of a hoax is undeniable. That the resulting destruction of the U.S. industrial base will benefit China is also pretty clear.
But it was a joke. I cannot count the number of times that I have seen this joke repeated by the left wing media as some sort of factual claim by the President.
That is the thing about wit and humor. It depends on shared beliefs. Lincoln was portrayed as a monkey by his opponents. Truman as a fool and Trump as the devil. You have to be on their side to appreciate their humor.
I find President Trump to be arguably the wittiest president in American history. Or at least the wittiest we get to see, thanks to social media. We do not have to wait for “fireside chats” or the New York Tines to tell us whatever they think the President has said. I suspect that Jefferson was also a wit, but who knows. Trump is now.