Thursday, March 22, 2012

President’s Toys

A recent comment by an aide for Mitt Romney likening the candidate’s ability to re-set policy to shaking an Etch-a-Sketch, has been seen as a gaffe to be exploited by other candidates. Rick Santorum has gone so far as producing an Etch-a-Sketch at rallies as a means of ridiculing Romney’s lack of convictions. Newt Gingrich’s criticisms have even suggested the GOP front runner will be playing children’s games in the White House



However, if these detractors had paid attention in history class, they would know that some of greatest presidents had forged a nation, found solace and solved international issues with the use of simple toys.


  • George Washington used a game of skittles to strategize his attacks the night before facing a superior Hessian force at the Battle of Trenton and came out victorious.

  • It was after a weekend Risk tournament that James Monroe came to understand the impact the end of the Napoleonic Wars would have on Latin America. As the former Spanish and Portuguese colonies began claiming independence, he developed the Monroe Doctrine to prevent America from claiming those territories.

  • Unpopular one-term president Martin Van Buren often used a Cup-and-Ball game to decide critical domestic issues. Catching the ball in the cup meant “yes” and lead to lower tariffs, free trade and a diplomatic resolution with Mexico over financial remuneration. However, missing the ball in the cup meant “no” and resulted in the return to Spain of the kidnapped slaves aboard the ship Amistad, the Trail of Tears expulsion, and the lack of support for the threatened Mormon settlers in Missouri.

  • 10th President John Tyler was an obsessive Double Dutch jumper (although back in the 1840’s the game was called The Ottoman Empire Rope Dance). During the arduous process of gaining congressional support to annex Texas, Tyler was rumored to have jumped for as many as six hours a day.

  • Abraham Lincoln, while not a vampire hunter as the soon to be released film suggests, credited games of hide and seek with White House staffers for reducing stress during the early days of the Civil War when the tide had turned in favor of the South.

  • While the myth claims Ulysses S. Grant was a heavy drinker, little has been mentioned about his Jenga habit which verged on addiction. However, it was his understanding of the interrelationships of complex systems learned through Jenga that gave the Grant the foresight to expect that the European economic collapse of 1873 would reach the United States and swiftly put measures in place to stabilize Wall Street and reduce inflation.

  • Being something of an inventor, Woodrow Wilson developed an early version of the modern game Mousetrap. Through playing the game, Wilson understood how the European conflict in 1914 would ensnare all the participants for a protracted war. Wilson was able to keep the U.S. out of what would become World War I for two more years, saving thousands of American lives.

  • Ronald Reagan: Always had a Slinky on hand and claimed it helped him bring down the Soviet Union, although his memoirs are unclear on how.
    Who knows what Mitt could accomplish with his Etch-a-Sketch?

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