The holiday began in 1984, when Ronald Reagan made a joke during a sound check for a radio broadcast. "My fellow Americans,” he said, "I'm pleased to tell you today that I've signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes." (audio only clip at youtube here).
Reagan was not aware, however, that his feed was live. And unfortunately, not everyone got the joke. Soviet officials got word of the broadcast and put the military on high alert.
Once the threat of nuclear war had abated, Americans found the situation hilarious, and decided to memorialize Reagan’s famous quip by instituting National Presidential Joke Day on August 11th. To get you geared up to celebrate this holiday properly, we’re saluting these presidential knee-slappers.
"I am not worried about the deficit. It is big enough to take care of itself."
"I have left orders to be awakened at any time in case of national emergency -- even if I'm in a Cabinet meeting."
"Politics is supposed to be the second-oldest profession. I have come to realize that it bears a very close resemblance to the first."
"Recession is when your neighbor loses his job. Depression is when you lose yours. And recovery is when Jimmy Carter loses his."
"I hope you're all Republicans." —Speaking to surgeons as he entered the operating room following a 1981 assassination attempt
GEORGE W. BUSH
"These stories about my intellectual capacity really get under my skin. You know, for a while I even thought my staff believed it. There on my schedule first thing every morning it said, 'Intelligence Briefing.'"
''Thank you for your email. This Internet of yours is a wonderful invention.'' —To Al Gore during the 2000 presidential campaign
“We’re studying safe levels for arsenic in drinking water. To base our decision on sound science, the scientists told us we needed to test the water glasses of about 3,000 people. Thank you for participating.” —At the 2001 Radio-Television Correspondents’ Association dinner
''The candidates are an interesting group, with diverse opinions -- for tax cuts and against them, for NAFTA and against NAFTA, for the Patriot Act and against the Patriot Act, in favor of liberating Iraq and opposed to it. And that's just one senator from Massachusetts.'' —During the 2004 campaign against John Kerry
BARACK OBAMA (This list is from a Mental Floss article in 2012 - presumably there have been additional jokes from Obama since then)
''If I had to name my greatest strength, I guess it would be my humility. Greatest weakness, it's possible that I'm a little too awesome.''
”There are few things in life harder to find and more important to keep than love. Well, love and a birth certificate.”
''Many of you know that I got my name, Barack, from my father. What you may not know is Barack is actually Swahili for 'That One.' And I got my middle name from somebody who obviously didn't think I'd ever run for president.”
''Did you ever think that making a speech on economics is a lot like pissing down your leg? It seems hot to you, but it never does to anyone else.'' —Lyndon Johnson
“I just received the following wire from my generous Daddy: Dear Jack, Don't buy a single vote more than is necessary. I'll be damned if I'm going to pay for a landslide.” —John F. Kennedy, addressing complaints that his father’s money was buying the primary for him.
''My esteem in this country has gone up substantially. It is very nice now when people wave at me, they use all their fingers.” —Jimmy Carter
"When they call the roll in the Senate, the Senators do not know whether to answer 'present' or 'not guilty.'" —Teddy Roosevelt
''In my many years I have come to a conclusion that one useless man is a shame, two is a law firm, and three or more is a congress.'' —John Adams
"Being president is like running a cemetery: you've got a lot of people under you and nobody's listening." —Bill Clinton
“If I were two faced, would I be wearing this one?” —Abraham Lincoln