“A good president does with executive power what Pablo Picasso did with paint. He takes bills into new and slightly discomfiting territory. He puts extra eyes on policies. He moves the mouth of the Supreme Court from where it should be to where it must be.”
— Lyndon B. Johnson

“The president is the cuticle of the nail bed of America: one would think pushing back makes him stronger, yet it turns out the opposite is true.”
— Warren G. Harding

“So much of the presidency is a matter of standing in the path of a Newsham Engine for Quenching Fires, opening one’s mouth, and attempting to get a drink.”
— Thomas Jefferson

“The president is to my mind the grand sommelier of military operations. Do those insurgents need an ’83 Grenada? A ‘47 Uruguay? Something trench-based where they get a sense of the terroir? Or should the strike be light and airy?”
— George H. W. Bush

“The president is that invisible force that makes a school of fish suddenly change direction, so that everyone ‘ohhs’ and ‘ahhs’ at the glimmering mass and only later wonders what makes them move in that way. I read somewhere—_Harper’s_, I’m fairly certain—that the fish are only avoiding pockets of extra cold water.”
— Theodore Roosevelt

“Why, it’s quite like being Peter Pan!”
— William Howard Taft

“Usually confronted with two diametrically opposed policies, X and Y, the president acts as a divine geneticist. Sometimes he combines them, making an XY or “girl” policy. Or he strengthens X policy, making it an XX or “boy” policy. Or he makes a YY, which is neither boy nor girl, but what I call a “Yo-Yo” policy, oftentimes the most effective one of all.”
— Franklin Delano Roosevelt

“The preſident is akin to a typeſetter, for he ſcrutinizeſ every laſt detail before he commitſ hiſ mark on the page. Oh, my ſight is going. Today I ſhall make a law that writing ſ’s instead of s’s needs to ſtop. I mean stop. This is going to take some getting used to.”
— James Madison

“It’s like playing Sid Meier’s Civilization for real.”
— Bill Clinton

“The president stands between the twin mirrors of the past and future, causing his being to become reflected an infinite amount of times. At first, this can be very disorienting. But it induces the president to move quickly. He may, for example, mimic a wave with his arms in order to see how his actions extend across this mirroring of time, observing if the figure at the end acts at the same instant as the figure before him, and so on and so forth.”
— Calvin Coolidge

“Being president is as difficult as writing the perfect poem. And being president is as effortless as writing the perfect poem. Always a Reckoning, my first collection of poetry, was described by Booklist as ‘keenly evocative.’”
— Jimmy Carter

“Being president means leaving one’s name in the history book of which few men are authors. It is my fortune to be blessed with a proud name, one that parents will employ for generations to instill the values of honesty, independence, and above all, courage in their sons.”
— Grover Cleveland

“Most days I feel like the sole survivor of a shipwreck, rowing my paddleboat across a sea of people on waves made of an infinite array of hands and crests that reveal anonymous faces. On a good day, the clouds part to alight on—lo and behold—an island! I step ashore, only find that it too is made of people, mangled bodies somehow still alive. They grab at my feet, pulling me under like quicksand. The last thing I see before suffocating is the sky, a billion eyes staring down, blinking in undulating electric ripples. The cold rain I feel on my cheeks is the tears of the people.”
— Richard Nixon

“It’s like cartwheeling naked through a cactus field.”
— Woodrow Wilson

“I’ve always compared my time spent in office to the three act structure of a romantic comedy: boy meets Congress, boy loses Congress, boy wins Congress back.”
— Ronald Reagan

“Someone always needs rescuing, yet there’s only one person who ever seems to understand you. It’s a lot like being Lassie.”
— John F. Kennedy

“Being president means knowing when to speak, when to listen, and when to casually take out your penknife and puncture both of your enemy’s lungs. Sssss. Sssss.”
— Dwight Eisenhower

“A president needs the cunning of a poker player, the preternatural dexterity of a craps shooter, a head for numbers like a blackjack wiz, the solitary patience of a slot puller, and the ‘why not’ attitude of the keno caller. In short, the president is nothing but a gambler, and you can quote me on that.”
— Harry S. Truman

“It’s as if someone filled your noggin up with all this juicy stuff and then stamped a big ol’ red CLASSIFIED on it.”
— Herbert Hoover

“Outwit, outlast, outplay. It’s the tagline for the television show Survivor and it’s damn near what presidenting is like, too.”
— George W. Bush

“The president is the cube of ice one places in the pot of a houseplant, providing a steady amount of nourishment over the course of a hot day. A good description of the job and also a fantastic bit of practical household advice.”
— Abraham Lincoln

“It feels like getting a back massage from the Grim Reaper: one must get comfortable with the most horrifying things in the world.”
— Gerald Ford

“The truth of the matter is one knows what it’s like being the president. Not I, nor any president to come hence. This is because life, thankfully, offers deeper quandaries. While in office, I would often wake up in a daze, wondering how I could wiggle my toes without even thinking it so, or why hair grows only on certain places and not our entire bodies, or why we aren’t completely bald, or why we must close our eyes and sleep every night, or any of the millions of particulars of daily existence, let alone that I was elected the leader of an entire nation.”
— George Washington