Last night’s book party celebrating the publication of Newsweek head Jon Meacham’s new book about Andrew Jackson, American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House, certainly attracted some big names (and presidential trivia buffs it turns out). Spotted by FBNY in the crowd of revelers at Newsweek‘s offices overlooking Columbus Circle (which was more or less shut down last night by Prop 8 protesters) were Brian Williams, Tom Wolfe, Liz Smith, Maria Bartiromo, Tammy Haddad, Jon Meacham (obviously), Jonathan Alter, Rachel Sklar, Richard Cohen, and a whole slew of other important looking people we couldn’t quite place. Not surprisingly much of the talk revolved around the recent election, which led us to wonder a) why a book about Jackson now? And b) who was everyone else’s favorite president. First of all, it turns out that Jackson is not Meacham’s favorite president, FDR is. Meacham told us he chose to focus on Jackson because of the early 19th century presidents Jackson is most similar to our modern day ones in both his strengths and his flaws. One of Meacham’s researchers, Louisa Thomas (also a Vogue and Newsweek contributor), told us she thought the interest stemmed from the fact that both Meacham and Jackson hailed from Tennessee. (Truth be told when we were kids Jackson was our favorite president because he was the best-looking one on the money, which Tammy Haddad thought was hysterical. This affinity lasted right up until we read about the Indian removal).
Brian Williams told us his favorite president was also FDR but that Lyndon Johnson held a special place in his heart (apparently BriWi has listened to more than 600 hours of Johnson phone conversations). Other tidbits you may not be aware of: according to BriWi Johnson was actually the one who had the phone wires installed in the White House (thereby contributing in his own way to Nixon’s demise), apparently there is a photo somewhere of Nixon and Johnson crawling around the residence as Johnson explains how it all works. Also? Woodrow Wilson is the most overrated and Americans love to forgive their presidents (i.e. Truman) so perhaps Bush still has a shot at the history books. There’s more! Tom Wolfe responded to our question by apologizing for having such an obvious pick.
“Thomas Jefferson,” he told us, “because Jefferson removed the aristocracy from the government.” According to Wolfe it was Jefferson’s decision to replace all the square tables in the White House with round ones so there could never be a head of the table. Interesting, no? Wolfe was accompanied by his daughter Alexandra, also a writer, who told us her favorite president was Reagan (calling Peggy Noonan!). Richard Cohen said his is Teddy Roosevelt, Rachel Sklar’s is Millard Fillmore because “he’s the only president with a double-letter in his first AND last name” (Canadians aren’t that picky!) and in the end Louisa Thomas told us hers was Lincoln, but that her favorite first lady was Louisa Adams (for reasons other than the name, mind you!). And with that, we conclude today’s civic lesson!
The Prop 8 protest at Columbus Circle as seen from the 26th flr.