The List March 2013

The Big House

AP

Harry S. Truman called it a “glamorous prison” and “the great white jail.” (“You never feel at home,” his daughter, Margaret, later elaborated. “Not if you have any sense.”) Over the years, the White House—America’s oldest still-inhabited federally funded mansion—has attracted an astonishing array of negative reviews from its residents. As the Obamas begin another term behind the wrought-iron gates, a roundup of the more pointed digs:


Gerald R. Ford: The best public housing I’ve ever seen.


Bill Clinton: I don’t know whether it’s the finest public housing in America or the crown jewel of the prison system.


Lyndon Johnson: It’s not the kind of place you would pick to live in.


Grover Cleveland: I have been thinking a good deal lately how nice it would be to have a little home a few miles away and live there.


Ronald Reagan: You’re a bird in a gilded cage.


Jackie Kennedy: I felt like a moth hanging on the windowpane.


Michelle Obama: One fantasy I have … is to walk right out the front door and just keep walking.

Presented by

Garance Franke-Ruta is a former senior editor covering national politics at The Atlantic.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Confessions of Moms Around the World

A global look at the hardest and best job ever

Video

A Stop-Motion Tour of New York City

A filmmaker animated hundreds of still photographs to create this Big Apple flip book

Video

The Absurd Psychology of Restaurant Menus

Would people eat healthier if celery was called "cool celery?"

Video

This Japanese Inn Has Been Open for 1,300 Years

It's one of the oldest family businesses in the world.

More in Politics

More back issues, Sept 1995 to present.

Just In