Being the president of the United States has its perks.
It’s not like they can just go around issuing commands without due process, of course. But when it comes to certain things, such as choosing how to redecorate the White House and what sort of items get banned from the premises, the president has the final say. That kind of power can be intoxicating.
Having the ultimate say in what is and isn’t allowed at the White House also has some surprising consequences, including getting common critters (page 4) and even popular holiday decorations (page 8) banned during their term. Here are some weird things presidents have banned from the White House.
Behaving more like a power-tripping toddler than an elected official, former President George H.W. Bush instituted a ban on all broccoli in the White House and on Air Force One. “I do not like broccoli,” Bush said of the rule. “And I haven’t liked it since I was a little kid and my mother made me eat it. And I’m President of the United States, and I’m not going to eat any more broccoli!”
Next: Don’t let George W. Bush catch you wearing these.
Remember when people used to dress nicely rather than wandering the streets in Spongebob pajama pants? So does George W. Bush, which is why the former president adopted a strict dress code as one of the first orders of business after his inauguration.
Taking a cue from the more formal tone of his father’s presidency, Bush Jr. banned jeans in the Oval Office and required “appropriate business attire” at all times, which included neckties for men and knee-length skirts for the ladies.
Next: Secret Service will pop these.
It makes total sense that you’re not allowed to bring your gun, pocketknife, or fireworks along when you visit the White House. But what about balloons?
Just like removing your shoes at the airport, the ban on balloons came about during Barack Obama’s presidency after a security breach involving party balloons drifting over the grounds and landing on the North Lawn.
So if you’re lucky enough to get invited to the White House for a birthday party, stick to bringing flowers instead.
Next: Eisenhower told these to get off his lawn.
Dwight D. Eisenhower incurred the wrath of animal activists when he instructed his valet to permanently dispose of any squirrels who dared to dig up his newly installed putting green on the White House lawn. “The next time you see one of those squirrels go near my putting green, take a gun and shoot it!” he said.
Lucky for the rodents, the staff member had a gentler heart than the president and chose to capture and release them instead.
Next: Prohibition in the White House
Lucy Hayes earned the nickname “Lemonade Lucy” when she took a hard stand against all liquor in the White House while her husband, Rutherford B. Hayes, was president. But she wasn’t the only one to put a limit on libations.
Eleanor Roosevelt let wine slide but drew the line at hard liquor during Franklin D. Roosevelt’s time in office. Jimmy Carter also had a mostly alcohol-free presidency, only taking tiny sips of wine for a toast during a Soviet arms summit.
Next: Michelle Obama did away with this ban.
The White House camera ban stood for more than 40 years before Michelle Obama did away with it in 2015. It was originally put in place because the priceless artwork could get damaged from too many flashes, but modern cameras don’t need a flash to produce a decent quality picture. These days, you can document your White House tour with your Nikon.
Next: No texting
7. Personal cellphones
The Trump administration eliminated staff texting during coffee breaks by banning personal cellphones while working in the West Wing. The rule went into effect in January 2018.
White House Chief of Staff John Kelly claimed the rule was strictly a security measure and not a response to employees sending news tidbits to the media. The ban was met with backlash from concerned individuals who claimed texting was the only way family members could contact them throughout the day in case of an emergency.
Next: The holidays were a little less jolly because of this.
8. Christmas trees
The 26th president of the United States cared about preserving trees so much that he banned one of the most popular Christmas decorations from the White House.
Too bad his kids outsmarted him. Even though Theodore Roosevelt had a strict ban on live trees for the holidays, his 8-year-old son Archibald sneaked one into his bedroom closet and revealed it on Christmas day in 1902.
Next: A president’s daughter was actually banned from the White House.
9. Alice Roosevelt
Theodore Roosevelt’s outspoken daughter isn’t the first person to ever be banned from entering the White House, but she is one of the most interesting.
Legend holds that she buried a voodoo doll with the image of the incoming first lady, Nellie Taft, prior to the completion of her father’s tenure. That move along with some name-calling got her banned for two presidential terms after her father left office.
Next: Put it out.
Can you believe they once had ashtrays on the tables during White House dinners?
It all ended with Bill Clinton’s presidency when he prohibited smoking and had the ashtrays banished. He followed the new rule with an executive order that permanently banned smoking in all government buildings.
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