The White House holds no rapture for me.
I’ve seen it from the street—during a drive-by while working as a travelling hockey writer in a distant lifetime—but I never felt the urge to ring the doorbell and ask for a peek inside.
Just as well, I suppose, because it was near the dinner hour that early-November day in 1979 and I’m thinking that the residents of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW at the time—the gentleman peanut farmer from Plains, Ga., Jimmy Carter, his bride Rosalynn and little Amy—might have been breaking bread and likely were not inclined to entertain a wandering sports scribe from Canada.
So I merely requested that the cab driver ease his right foot from the gas pedal so I might take a lingering look at the shack sitting on 18 acres of presidential sprawl. Scant seconds later, the White House was in the rear-view mirror and we were soon passing the golden arches of a McDonald’s restaurant.
“How convenient for little Amy,” I recall thinking. “Ronald McDonald and a Happy Meal are only a block away.”
I reflect on my fleeting, non-eventful encounter with the hub of the free world today because the Pittsburgh Penguins have RSVP’d their intention to drop in on the Trumps sometime during the 2017-18 National Hockey League season. No doubt they’ll have the Stanley Cup in tow and we can only hope that the Resident-in-Chief, Donald J. Trump, won’t mistake it for a spittoon.
The Golden State Warriors, meanwhile, were in ponder of their invitation to touch elbows with Donald J. when the United States president, piqued by the hesitancy of star player Steph Curry, went all Soup Nazi and declared his temporary home in Washington, D.C., off limits to the National Basketball Association champions.
“I never promised you a Rose Garden!” he snapped.
Well, okay, the Apprentice President didn’t actually say that. More likely the Commander-in-Tweet called Curry a disrespectful SOB, then sat down to watch a NASCAR race or type out a list of mis-truths for his Paid Pinocchio, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, to deliver to news snoops at her next press briefing. (“When President Trump said that some Nazis and white supremacists are ‘fine people’ and that National Football League players are ‘sons of bitches,’ that’s not what he meant. He meant something else entirely and you’re missing the president’s message completely if you think he meant something other than what you think he meant to say.”)
So I’m thinking: If granted the opportunity, would I want to attend the White House to meet this president? About as much as I want a Happy Meal.
There have been 13 U.S. presidents in my lifetime—in chronological order, Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, Papa George Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump. I have recollections of all but Truman, whose term in the White House expired when I was barely knee high to Jackie Kennedy.
Of the 13, I thought it’d be cool to meet three—JFK, Nixon and Obama.
I was raised Roman Catholic and the ruler-wielding nuns at St. Clements and St. Alphonsus schools assured us that JFK winning the White House in 1960 was a big deal. The reason it was important to have a Catholic in the Oval Office escaped me at the time, but my little mind determined it prudent to resist any urge to challenge the nuns on that issue and, thus, spare my knuckles a stinging rap. But I wanted to meet JFK. Maybe ask him about Khrushchev and air raid drills during the 1960s Cold War. You know, just one Catholic to another. I wept when JFK was gunned down. Still do whenever I see the film.
Nixon was a nasty bit of business and a man for whom I harbored no admiration, but he appealed to a morbid curiosity. I always wondered what made him tick. Picking his brain would have been a trip. I mostly wanted to ask him what the hell he was thinking during the My Lai massacre coverup. Shouldn’t the soldiers responsible for killing more than 500 unarmed, innocent Vietnamese civilians (most of them women, children and old men) be held accountable? He deserved impeachment for that, never mind Watergate, and I wanted answers.
I was sitting at the bar at Paparazzi Nightclub in Victoria the night Barack Obama was elected president. Our American neighbors had put a black man in the White House and pure joy in the form of tears fell from my eyes. I never thought I’d see that day. I’ve always wanted to shake his hand. I really don’t know what I’d say to President Obama, but it would be about peace and acceptance.
For me, any of those three would be worth a trip to the White House. The other 10, not so much.