By NICK THOMAS
Imagine you could pluck a U.S. president from the pages of history and install him as your next-door neighbor. Who would you choose?
A popular historical figure like George Washington might seem an obvious choice, but you wouldn’t want George as a neighbor. He would sneak onto your property under the cover of darkness and chop down all your fruit trees while you slept.
Oh sure, in the morning, he would knock on your door, guilt-ridden, seeking forgiveness. But that would be little consolation come springtime with no cherry pies to take to the church bake sale.
And don’t think Thomas Jefferson would make a cool neighbor, either. Sure, according to Wikipedia, he “spoke five languages and was deeply interested in science, invention, architecture, religion and philosophy.” But who wants a smart-aleck living next door?
As the only president to never marry, James Buchanan would probably hold disruptive bachelor parties every weekend. He might scare the children, too, since he suffered from an odd condition called wryneck, resulting in his head always leaning to the left. Explain to the kids this is normal, for a Democrat.
You wouldn’t want Richard Nixon living next door either. According to most biographies, he was narcissistic, secretive, and suspicious—not endearing qualities in a neighbor. With tricky Dick on the other side of the fence, you’d end up a neurotic wreck: during backyard cookouts, you’d continually be checking the coleslaw for “bugs.”
However, not all presidents would make bad neighbors.
Abraham Lincoln would be a great practical asset to any community. Before he entered politics, he worked on the family farm wielding an axe with great skill to build rail fences. So you could count on Abe to help with the firewood in December.
Nevertheless, if he invited you to accompany him to the theater one night, skip it.
Often unfairly portrayed as a boozer, Ulysses S. Grant was a decent man of good character and would make a fine neighbor. Unfortunately, he was a poor judge of people when it came to political appointments—his administration was one of the most corrupt due to the scoundrels he unwittingly selected. So as a neighbor, if he ever recommended a plumber, go to the Yellow Pages instead.
Another good neighbor would be George H.W. Bush. A kind man, he and Barbara would always be willing to lend a neighborly cup of sugar; but if you ever ran out of broccoli, don’t expect George to return the favor.
George W. Bush would make a good neighbor, too. He would be personable, easy-going, and probably a lot of fun. I could also see George Jr., as the neighborhood practical joker, ringing door bells late at night, then running away claiming, “Cheney did it!”
As possibly the coolest president in recent history, Bill Clinton would be a hoot for a neighbor. But for those of you with 20-year-old daughters, I know what you’re thinking: “No way I’d want him next door!”
Don’t worry, he’s no longer chasing after young women, or Big Macs. Besides, Hillary would have invisible fencing around the property and a permanent electronic collar attached to Bill’s neck.
Barack Obama would make a nifty neighbor, too. As an energetic community organizer, expect him to also be active in the local Homeowners Association. Of course, there would always be doubters wanting proof that he actually did have membership.
And when it came to yard maintenance, expect him to insist that residents with extra fertilizer do their fair share, and spread it around to those having less.
Along these lines, I’m including Mitt Romney since he may be our next president. I could easily see the good Governor working the barbeque grill during a block party -—especially if he was running for president of the Homeowners Association.
Of course, there’s bound to be some in the community who might object to the Romneys because of their megawealth. Really? Maybe those folks would prefer a house load of Wall Street occupiers living next door instead?
One note of caution, however. If Mitt volunteered to drive your sick dog to the vet, politely decline.
(Thomas’ features and columns have appeared in more than 200 magazines and newspapers. He can be reached at email@example.com.)