Google has interesting results sometimes.
The explanation for the last result, of course, is that our sixth president was one of several presidential “skinny-dippers;” as the story is told today, once JQA was taking his morning dip in the Potomac when a reporter decided to sit on the president’s clothes until he agreed to an interview. He complied, and the reporter, Anne Royall, became the first female journalist to interview the president. I have been unable to find a copy of the interview, so it is unknown if Ms. Royall asked about shrinkage. Which is something, frankly, I’m glad not to know about.
The other search results link to reviews of the biography I’m reading, Harlow Gilles Unger’s John Quincy Adams. I’ve skipped around a bit in the book, but the reviews confirm what I suspected in my post last week – that Adams didn’t exactly rock our world as president, but otherwise led a spectacularly distinguished and successful career. The problem, of course, is that in America, once you’re president you’re almost entirely remembered for – and defined by – your presidency. And so John Quincy Adams’ stellar pre-presidential career as a diplomat and his powerful post-presidential career in Congress aren’t in the one-sentence definition of his impact on history: it’s his somewhat mediocre, ineffective presidency.
I was trying to think of a metaphor that fits here. At first I thought maybe Karl Malone, the NBA superstar who came close time after time to a world championship but never won one, but that’s not really accurate – Henry Clay, the would-be-but-never-was president, was the Karl Malone of American politics. No, Adams is more like the political equivalent of Leon Spinks, who was a Olympic gold medalist and a talented fighter but, as world champion, accomplished little beyond losing the championship.
Fairly or unfairly, it’s what you do – or don’t do – at the top that people remember.
But on the plus side, Spinks doesn’t have to worry about “nude beaches” showing up in his Google search results.