How To Fight Presidents: Defending Yourself Against The Badasses Who Ran This Country by Daniel O'brienHow To Fight Presidents: Defending Yourself Against The Badasses Who Ran This Country by Daniel O'brien

How To Fight Presidents: Defending Yourself Against The Badasses Who Ran This Country

byDaniel O'brienIllustratorWinston Rowntree

Paperback | March 18, 2014

Pricing and Purchase Info


Earn 90 plum® points

Prices and offers may vary in store


In stock online

Ships free on orders over $25

Available in stores


Make no mistake: Our founding fathers were more bandanas-and-muscles than powdered-wigs-and-tea.
As a prisoner of war, Andrew Jackson walked several miles barefoot across state lines while suffering from smallpox and a serious head wound received when he refused to polish the boots of the soldiers who had taken him captive. He was thirteen years old. A few decades later, he became the first popularly elected president and served the nation, pausing briefly only to beat a would-be assassin with a cane to within an inch of his life. Theodore Roosevelt had asthma, was blind in one eye, survived multiple gunshot wounds, had only one regret (that there were no wars to fight under his presidency), and was the first U.S. president to win the Medal of Honor, which he did after he died. Faced with the choice, George Washington actually preferred the sound of bullets whizzing by his head in battle over the sound of silence.
And now these men—these hallowed leaders of the free world—want to kick your ass.
Plenty of historians can tell you which president had the most effective economic strategies, and which president helped shape our current political parties, but can any of them tell you what to do if you encounter Chester A. Arthur in a bare-knuckled boxing fight? This book will teach you how to be better, stronger, faster, and more deadly than the most powerful (and craziest) men in history. You’re welcome.
DANIEL O’BRIEN is the head writer and creative director of video for, the coauthor of the New York Times bestseller You Might Be a Zombie and Other Bad News, and senior writer on The De-Textbook.
Title:How To Fight Presidents: Defending Yourself Against The Badasses Who Ran This CountryFormat:PaperbackDimensions:272 pages, 8 × 5.18 × 0.66 inPublished:March 18, 2014Publisher:Crown/ArchetypeLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:038534757X

ISBN - 13:9780385347570


Rated 5 out of 5 by from Funny, Intriguing and Informative I have zero interest in American presidents, seeing as I'm not American, yet still this book beckoned me to read it. Though I went into it skeptical by the end I wished there was more to read. Daniel O'Brien takes a subject that should be, to anyone outside of the United States, boring and makes it into a funny and intriguing read, tuning reading history fun again, or should I say for most of us, the first time. You'll be learning history without even knowing it. Even if the truly interesting and surprising facts aren’t reason enough for you to open this book, the humor itself should be more then plenty. It’s been a while since a book made me laugh this much.
Date published: 2015-12-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Extremly Funny I have zero interest in American presidents, seeing as I'm not American, yet still this book beckoned me to read it. Though I went into it skeptical by the end I wished there was more to read. Daniel O'Brien takes a subject that should be, to anyone outside of the United States, boring and makes it into a funny and intriguing read, tuning reading history fun again, or should I say for most of us, the first time. You'll be learning history without even knowing it. Even if the truly interesting and surprising facts aren’t enough of a reason for you to open this book, the humor itself should be more then plenty. It’s been a while since a book made me laugh this much.
Date published: 2015-12-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Absolutely hilarious! Tremendously funny book! I now feel moderately equipped to lose slightly less pitifully in any Presidential street-fight than I would have otherwise. I think my chances against John Tyler may be pretty decent.
Date published: 2014-11-01

Read from the Book

GEORGE WASHINGTON cannot tell a lie: you're in for a world of painThere are two kinds of people in this world: people who don't actively enjoy being shot at, and George Washington. Most of you are probably in that first group, and that's why no one will ever write a book about how to fight you.The idea that Washington liked being shot at isn't conjecture, mind you. No one is saying that Washington "probably" enjoyed being shot at, based on his willingness to return to battle in service of his country; he admitted to it. In a letter to his brother about his time on the battlefield, Washington said, "I heard the bullets whistle and, believe me, there is something charming to the sound of bullets," which, according to rumor, prompted King George III to remark that Washington's attitude would change if he'd heard a few more. "Oh, ho ho, perhaps you're right," Washington may have good-naturedly said with a chuckle, before he beat the shit out of King George's entire army and ran America for eight glorious and strong-jawed years.But we know all that already. We all know how badass Washington was. We all know what a good and just president he was. We know him as the Soldier-Farmer, as a man of the people. We know all of this, because everyone talks about how bright, and strong, and fair President George Washington was. So I'm going to talk about how he was probably magic.Let's start with how Washington knew America was going to war before America even had an army. Sure, the seeds of discontent had already been sown, but war was not a foregone conclusion to anyone but Washington even in 1775, when the Continental Congress met for the second time to discuss what to do about Great Britain's unfair taxation practices. War was an option, but not a certainty at that point, at least not in the eyes of the members of the Continental Congress. Many of the framers, like Benjamin Franklin, still had great fondness for their mother country, and were eager to find a solution that involved working peacefully with the homeland.But not Washington. Whether he could see the future and knew war was coming or he simply willed the war into existence, Washington was ahead of the curve. On his way to the conference--before war had been declared (or even discussed), before he'd been given command of the Continental Army--he stopped off to buy some books about war strategy, tomahawks, and new holsters for his guns. If that didn't send a clear enough message, he showed up to the conference already wearing his military uniform, while the rest of the representatives were trying to delicately handle this whole "revolution thing" diplomatically. It was like everyone else at the conference was discussing whether or not they should build a bomb and Washington had already lit the fuse. It wasn't just about finding another chance to challenge a bunch of bullets to a game of chicken (though, true, Washington never missed an opportunity to do so); he knew war was inevitable and wanted to be dressed appropriately.And of course, Washington was right. War was necessary. Even if it wasn't necessary before, it was necessary because he said it was, because, for reasons that will never be clear to historians (but will be to people who accept magic as a possibility), the universe bends to Washington's will.Here's one of the most important things you need to know about Washington: he should not have been able to lead America to victory in the War for Independence. When it came time to choose someone to command the Continental Army, Washington was chosen for his popularity, not for his skills as a general. He was brave and a great soldier, but he'd never commanded anything larger than a regiment and, when he'd been handed an entire army of untrained, undisciplined troops, he started screwing up almost immediately. He lost more battles than he won, and the majority of those losses were a direct result of his own arrogance and overaggressiveness. Yes, Washington, the man we all like to remember as the quiet, dignified, reluctant soldier, was a short-tempered fighter who never turned down a battle. Why? The same reason any president does anything: because he could. One of the biggest myths about Washington is that he had wooden teeth. This myth, while a cute little bit of superfluous historical trivia, isn't technically true. In truth, it wasn't his teeth, it was his testicles, and they weren't wood, they were stone-cold steel.Unlike most soldiers (and, indeed, most sane human beings), Washington didn't see a battle as a means to an end, or as an unfortunate but necessary part of achieving one's goals; he saw it as a chance to show his enemies how brave and strong he was. And, as commander, he felt that his army should function purely as an extension of himself. He'd treat every challenge from his opponents not like a necessary evil that needed to be stopped as quickly as possible, but like a dick-measuring contest, and the Continental Army was the big angry dick that Washington was always eager to pull out and wave around.In a dick-measuring contest, sure, that's a terrific strategy, but it's not great in a tough war, especially when your opponent is stronger, larger, and more experienced, and this over-aggressive dick-waving strategy blew up in Washington's face over and over again. He sent his men into battle even when the odds were stacked against them, and he refused to retreat or back down even at the cost of human lives, all because he wanted his enemy to know that they weren't as brave as he was (read: their dicks weren't as big and crazy as his). At many times during the war, it seemed that America's favorite son was too arrogant and reckless to bring us to victory.So how did it happen? How did an inexperienced commander with an unfocused and untrained army win the most important war in American history? The short answer, again, is "Probably magic." Washington firmly believed that Providence or fate was on his side, in everything he did. In the way that war was declared because Washington walked into a room and said war was declared, Washington won the war because he said he was going to. That's how Washington could look at loss after loss and say, "Huh, that's weird. I'm supposed to win. I guess no one told these guys I'm George Fucking Washington. No matter, I'll just go ahead and win it now." And he did.Washington's tyranny of will didn't just determine the outcome of the war, it also saved his life. He would return from many battles unscathed but with bullet holes in his clothing, or without a horse (two different horses were shot out from under Washington--in the same battle). This happened so many times that George Washington admitted on more than one occasion that he could not be killed in battle. He genuinely believed this, and the crazy part? We have no way to prove him wrong.That's how a first-time commander won a war against the most powerful army and navy in the world: Sheer. Blind. Madness. Washington said he was going to win, and he did. He said he couldn't be killed, and he said it with such casual authority and certainty that Death was like, "Oh, okay. I thought I was supposed to end you, but you just seem so sure. You must be right. I'll . . . wait, I guess? I'll wait over here."Even Death waited on Washington's orders before finally claiming his soul for that big battlefield in the sky. In December of 1799, Washington fell ill and a team of doctors tried for hours to restore his health. Having decided that he'd spent enough time kicking ass at being alive, Washington decided to try his hand at fighting ghosts, and he sent the doctors away, telling them to give up. The doctors could have kept him alive, but Washington had had enough. On his deathbed, Washington told his aide, Tobias Lear, "I am just going," and he died while taking his own pulse. You can almost see Death quietly sitting in Washington's room, waiting for permission to take his life.So your best bet in your George Washington fight: Run. Run as fast as you can, though it probably won't do much. If Washington's already decided that he's won his fight with you, there's nothing you can do. George Washington, the quiet soldier who built our country out of blood and willpower, gives the universe its orders.John Adams: THE CEREBRAL ASSASSINLet's get this right out of the way: Our first vice president and second president of the United States of America, John Adams, is much, much smarter than you. He's not the toughest guy in the world (we'll get to Teddy Roosevelt later), but he had one of the greatest minds of any president in history, and he regularly used that mind to accomplish seemingly unaccomplishable tasks. Like a great boxer who gets so tired of beating other boxers that he starts training and fighting armed grizzly bears, Adams dedicated his mind to fighting and winning the hardest and most uphill battles he could find.In 1770, members of the British Army shot and killed five civilian men in what came to be known as the "Boston Massacre" (adjusted for inflation, five men from the 1700s would be about fifty thousand today, so the "massacre" bit actually holds up). The soldiers were destined to face trial, but no lawyer in Boston would represent them in court, because everyone knew that whoever defended the horrible British would: a) probably lose, and b) certainly be vilified by the rest of the British-hating Bostonians.John Adams was not a man who cared about being vilified. Much like the thousands of reality television stars that would eventually fill the beautiful country he worked so hard to build, he didn't come here to make friends. He loved humanity, but didn't care for people and never quite figured out how to relate to and interact with them. He cared about his legacy and getting proper credit for his accomplishments, but he didn't care about fame or popularity; having principles and sticking to them was all that interested Adams. He had his ideals and his beliefs and his convictions and wasn't shy about sharing them. Being righteous wasn't just more important than being friendly or considerate; to Adams, it was everything.That's why he took the hell out of the Boston Massacre case. There was no better way to represent his "Being righteous is more important than having friends" philosophy than by defending the British soldiers in the Boston Massacre trial. Remember, Boston in the 1700s was basically the heart of anti-British sentiment. People in Pennsylvania and New York, for example, weren't too angry with their across-the-pond oppressors, but discontent with Great Britain had reached a fever pitch in Boston, which is why the "massacre" happened in the first place. It would be convenient for us to believe that the British were needlessly cruel and evil, heartlessly firing shots at the poor, innocent Bostonians, but the less flattering truth is that the "innocent" civilians provoked the attack. They confronted the British in the form of a rowdy, unruly mob armed with clubs, and hurled garbage and insults in equal measure. Most suggested that the British start firing upon them. That's how much the people of Boston hated the British; they begged to be shot just so they'd have an excuse to demand independence. Many townsfolk later went to the post-massacre trial to intimidate the witnesses into testifying against the British. Now the soldiers were facing trial with a jury full of Bostonians and, if that wasn't enough, the witnesses were being tampered with.John Adams won that case. That's how good he is. That's how smart he is. If Adams believes he's in the right, then absolutely nothing will stop him from accomplishing his goals. Boston was a ticking time-bomb of anti-British rhetoric, and Adams convinced an entire courtroom that the soldiers who shot and killed five civilians were in the right. (That's the equivalent to knocking out two grizzly bears with chainsaws, if anyone is still following the bear-fighting analogy.)Adams continued his streak of fighting the hard battles years later at the Continental Congress, where he faced the uphill battle of convincing every other representative of the thirteen colonies that a revolution was necessary. Almost everyone wanted to negotiate with the British peacefully and avoid war at absolutely all costs. Only Adams and Washington knew for sure that a violent revolution was not only necessary but needed to happen immediately. Adams did it with his giant, terrifying brain. Richard Stockton, New Jersey's representative to the Congress, called Adams the "Atlas of American Independence" because of his dedication to carrying this cause on his back. You see, the Continental Congress was like a big street brawl, except instead of fighting with hands and feet, opposing sides traded long, passionate, and olde-tyme-profanity-laced monologues. You can call it "word-fighting" (or simply "talking," if you're a square), and Adams was the best word-fighter around. His speeches advocating independence were so heartfelt and convincing that he reduced grown men to tears. His most outspoken opponent in the Continental Congress, Pennsylvania's John Dickinson, was so devastated by John Adams's skill as a word-boxer that he resigned his position and joined the Pennsylvania militia. Dickinson was the guy who never wanted to resort to war--he wanted peace with Great Britain more than anything--but Adams's argument was so moving that he quit and picked up a gun.Damn.To put it simply, Adams just knew how to think and speak better than everyone. He knew how to get inside people's heads because he paid attention. Whenever he met someone new, he'd go home and write about them in his diary. How tall they were, what their hobbies were, what their strengths were, what their flaws were. Adams was an observer, and he used the information he gathered to cut to the core of people. He knew men well enough to know what they needed to hear to get them to see his point of view, and if they refused to join his side, he would take their biggest insecurity and shine the brightest spotlight on it for everyone to see. If you have shortcomings, he will find and exploit them.You're at a disadvantage in your fight with Adams specifically because he's already the underdog. He was never a soldier (even though he would often tell his wife that he was jealous that Washington got to go out and fight battles while he had to dick around boring Philadelphia shaping the modern idea of Democracy), and physically, there's nothing too impressive about him. He smoked, he was overweight, he lost most of his teeth by the time he became president, and his hands shook. Despite all that, Adams lived to be over ninety years old, in the 1800s, back when people died at fifty and got married at twelve, probably.That's exactly why you have to watch out for him, because unless you're also a toothless old guy with shaky hands, you've got the upper hand in this battle, and Adams thrives when someone else has the upper hand. He wasn't a man who often got in fights, so if he's fighting you, it means he thinks it's the right thing to do, which puts you in a very dangerous place. Remember, one of the other times someone went up against John Adams, Adams convinced him to quit his job and lead a militia to help defend Adams's ideals. What do you think he's going to do to you?