10 Bizarre Stories About The People Running For President
With media scrutiny at an all-time high, it’s common to complain that politics these days just attracts bland, uninteresting careerists. But that might be a bit of a myth, since a quick look at the candidates for 2016 reveals that America’s next president is probably going to be a very strange person indeed.
10John Kasich’s Feud With Blockbuster
Ohio governor John Kasich seems like one of the less-interesting presidential hopefuls, until you hear about his epic, long-running dispute with his local branch of Blockbuster. As recounted at length in his actual autobiography, the feud started in the late ’90s, when Kasich and his wife, Karen, rented the movie Fargo. Apparently, “the guy behind the counter . . . assured me it was a great movie and that I should probably rent it.” So Kasich “walked right over to that shelf where they had their general titles, grabbed a copy and took it home.”
However, Kasich and his wife only made it as far as the infamous wood chipper scene before realizing that the movie “wasn’t funny. It was graphic, and brutal, and completely unnecessary.” In fact, the then-Congressman ended up being so appalled by the R-rated movie’s violence that he immediately called Blockbuster and demanded that they take it off their shelves. Blockbuster declined, although a manager apparently offered to start labeling movies with graphic content. But things weren’t over there: “I couldn’t say firsthand whether the situation had gotten any better, because I had taken my business elsewhere, but from all accounts not much had changed, so I called the store again to remind them of our deal.”
Eventually, Kasich’s wife had to tell him to relax and he later admitted the situation made him look like a “wild man.” Blockbuster eventually resolved the impasse by ceasing to exist, but Kasich had another run in with pop culture when he bought a CD by the Roots, which he literally hurled from his car after realizing the lyrics were “offensive drivel.”
9Jeb Bush Just Hands Out Mythical Swords
As two politicians from Florida, Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio have a lot of history together, with Jeb once declaring that Rubio made him “cry for joy.” However, now that they’re facing off in the 2016 race, Rubio has been at pains to emphasize that he’s not Jeb’s protege. Which is strange, considering that Jeb once bestowed a mystical sword of power on him.
In 2005, Rubio had just been voted speaker of the Florida House of Representatives when then-governor Jeb suddenly descended to the House floor to present him with a golden sword. Bear in mind that a golden blade is not a standard part of the speaker’s regalia; Jeb Bush just likes to hand out swords. And not just any sword, but the Mythical Sword of Chang.
As Jeb himself explained to a bemused Florida legislature: “Chang is a mystical warrior. Chang is somebody who believes in conservative principles, believes in entrepreneurial capitalism, believes in moral values that underpin a free society. I rely on Chang with great regularity in my public life. He has been by my side and sometimes I let him down. But Chang, this mystical warrior, has never let me down.”
According to the New Republic, Jeb’s weird imaginary friend is probably a reference to “Unleash Chiang,” a ’50s conservative slogan calling for a US-backed invasion of China by Chiang Kai-Shek, which George H.W. Bush used to scream at people during tennis matches. Incidentally, everyone from the Washington Post to USA Today called it a “samurai sword” even though it very clearly wasn’t and Chang is a Chinese name anyway. Sadly, Rubio hasn’t really wielded the sword with much panache, telling reporters that he still has it somewhere, but “I have young kids. I don’t want them to run around with a sword.”
8Rand Paul And Aqua Buddha
Before going on to medical school at Duke, the libertarian senator attended the Baptist Baylor University. The school was known for its highly conservative student body, but it seems that Rand didn’t quite fit in. Instead, he joined the NoZe Brotherhood, a banned secret society that published a satirical newspaper (sponsored by local strip clubs), carried out a series of sacrilegious pranks, and generally caused enough chaos that membership was soon made grounds for immediate expulsion. In one incident, Paul and a few of his NoZe brothers knocked over a university monument in a drunken attempt to dig up the time capsule buried underneath it in 1945.
But Paul’s years at the school are probably best summed up by the time he and a friend got extremely stoned and jokingly kidnapped a female acquaintance. The woman, now a psychologist, told GQ magazine that Paul and his buddy “blindfolded me, tied me up, and put me in their car. They took me to their apartment and tried to force me to take bong hits.” They then drove her to a nearby creek, where they demanded that she bow down and worship their god “Aqua Buddha” before they would let her go. The woman described the incident as basically harmless and definitely not an actual kidnapping, but so “weird” that she immediately ended the friendship.
7Jim Webb’s Steamy Novels
Of course, we all know that Democratic candidate Jim Webb is a smoldering maelstrom of barely repressed erotic dynamism. That came back to haunt him during his 2006 Senate run in Virginia, where his opponent found a researcher willing to trawl through the former Navy secretary’s novels and put out a press release featuring the steamiest passages, which were allegedly demeaning to women. The tactic backfired badly, with supporters defending Webb’s right to write. Still, it’s probably the only time a sitting United States senator has put out a press release discussing the political implications of a Vietnamese stripper leaving a “banana on the bar, cut in four equal sections by the muscles of her vagina.”
But Webb’s not the only Democratic candidate with some surprisingly frank fiction in their past. Vermont senator Bernie Sanders faced some mild controversy earlier this year when Mother Jones unearthed an old short story in which a woman “fantasizes being raped by three men simultaneously.” Sanders’ campaign quickly moved to distance him from the story, published in a Vermont alt-weekly in 1972, telling CNN that it was “dumb attempt at dark satire” that “looks as stupid today as it was then.” But with the erotica market still in a post–50 Shades Of Grey boom, should Sanders and Webb really be wasting their talents on the presidency?
6Hillary Clinton’s Chats With Dead People
During her time as First Lady, it was no secret that Hillary Clinton was a big fan of Eleanor Roosevelt, who paved the way for the President’s wife to take an active role in politics. In fact, Hillary was such a big fan that she even held lengthy conversations with an imaginary Eleanor—and threw in Gandhi for good measure.
It all started thanks to Clinton’s friendship with Jean Houston, a New Age researcher who describes herself as “one of the foremost visionary thinkers and doers of our time” and “one of the principal founders of the Human Potential Movement.” When Houston heard that Clinton was in a funk after the defeat of her 1994 health care initiative, she offered to guide her through a series of conversations with her political heroes, in which Clinton would ask a question and then respond as Roosevelt or Gandhi. However, she declined to hold a conversation with Jesus, arguing that it would be “too personal.”
The sessions were revealed to the public in a 1996 book by Bob Woodward, the legendary journalist who helped expose the Watergate scandal. Woodward’s book accurately described the sessions as imaginary conversations, but they were widely reported in the media as seances, causing considerable embarrassment to Clinton, who was unfairly compared to the astrology-loving Nancy Reagan. She subsequently distanced herself from Houston, who currently lives in a geodesic dome and runs a “Mystery School” self-help program.
5Ted Cruz vs. The Guy Who Wrote Scary Movie III
As the firebrand junior senator from Texas, Ted Cruz has never had any problems making enemies. Even within his own party, John McCain has called him a “wacko bird,” Orrin Hatch has attacked his “squabbling and sanctimony,” and Senate leader Mitch McConnell seems to openly hate him. As writer of Scary Movie III, writer and producer of Scary Movie IV, and writer, producer, and director of Superhero Movie, Craig Mazin probably has quite a few enemies of his own. But the unlikely pair’s longest-running beef might be with each other.
It all started back in 1988, when a young Cruz arrived at Princeton University and was assigned Mazin as a roommate. According to Mazin, Cruz was “creepy,” had “body odor issues,” and “would endlessly hit the snooze button” until Mazin glued it down. Some classmates also told the Daily Beast that Cruz had a habit of hanging around the coed dormitory building in a paisley bathrobe, prompting female students to demand that Mazin “please keep your roommate out of our hallway.”
The two also clashed over politics, with Mazin alarmed to see his roommate reading a book titled Was Karl Marx A Satanist? Cruz apparently later became something of a “stud” on the debate team, but Mazin’s still holding a grudge: ”I would rather have anybody else be the president of the United States. Anyone. I would rather pick somebody from the phone book.”
A feud with the wordsmith behind the third Hangover movie seems weird enough, but it’s definitely not the strangest story about Cruz. In his recent autobiography, the Texas senator looked back on his time clerking for Supreme Court chief justice William Rehnquist. One case required the elderly Supreme Court judges to be introduced to the newfangled concept of Internet pornography. That somehow ended in Cruz accompanying Rehnquist and Justice Sandra Day O’Connor to a showing of “hard-core, explicit images” in the court’s library. Apparently, nobody said anything except O’Connor, who briefly muttered “Oh, my.”
4Ben Carson’s Prophetic Dream
Ben Carson’s life story is so incredible Cuba Gooding Jr. played him in a TV movie. Growing up in an impoverished area of Detroit, Carson overcame numerous challenges to become a pioneering neurosurgeon and the first person to successfully separate twins conjoined at the head. But none of that might have been possible without a Twilight Zone dream that helped him pass a particularly tricky chemistry course.
As Carson told an audience during the National Day of Prayer breakfast, his first year at Yale was almost a disaster. In fact, his grades in one chemistry course were so bad that it was impossible for him to pass, even if he got 100 percent on the final exam. That meant there was no way he would be able to go on to a top medical school. But at the last minute the professor offered double credit on the final to failing students. So Carson went home and asked God to “please tell me what it is you really want me to do? Or, alternatively and preferably, work a miracle?”
Carson then settled down to study all night, only to promptly fall asleep instead. But it seems like someone up there was looking out for him, since he “dreamed I was in this large auditorium,” where “a nebulous figure” went through some chemistry problems with him. The next day, Carson opened the exam and “recognized the first problem as one of the ones I dreamed about. And the next, and the next, and the next, and I aced the exam . . . and I promised the Lord he would never have to do that for me again.” Still, maybe a quick nap before the next debate couldn’t hurt?
3Donald Trump And The Speeches Of Hitler
Of course, when it comes to Donald Trump, the challenge is finding a story that isn’t weird. His hair is non-euclidean, his wealth is a lot less than he wants you to think it is, and his “Trump University” has been accused of being a massive con that taught students nothing except how to lie to credit card companies. But maybe the weirdest Trump tale came out during his famously bitter 1990 divorce from his wife Ivana.
As proceedings rumbled on, Donald behaved with his usual class and restraint, telling the media that Ivana was only getting sympathy because “when a man leaves a woman, especially when it was perceived that he has left for a piece of ass—a good one!—there are 50 percent of the population who will love the woman who was left.” But Ivana got her own back by revealing that Donald enjoyed reading a book of Hitler’s speeches, which he kept by his bed.
Asked about the issue by Vanity Fair, Trump admitted he had the book, but added that it was given to him by Paramount’s Marty Davis “and he’s a Jew.” The magazine also tracked down Davis, who said he thought Trump “would find it interesting,” adding “I’m not Jewish.” His lawyer later observed that the tycoon was “a believer in the big-lie theory,” referring to Hitler’s belief that people were more likely to believe colossal, confident lies than small half-truths.
2Lincoln Chafee’s Surprisingly Heartbreaking Campaign
The first thing to say about Lincoln Chafee is that he exists and he’s running for president. In a presidential cycle currently boasting an astonishing 22 major candidates, the former senator and Rhode Island governor might be the longest shot of them all. As of June, his entire campaign staff consisted of two people and he only had three events on his schedule for the next three weeks. Even the announcement that he was running for president was made to a crowd of just 100 people. In one Monmouth University poll of over 1,000 people, he received literally zero votes. According to the Daily Beast, “getting him on the phone is not particularly difficult, and he will graciously remain on the line until you’ve asked all your questions.”
Of course, Chafee has to make the most of what coverage he can get. After he announced he was considering a run, his wife posted on Facebook that not a single journalist had bothered to get in touch: “No one has contacted him. So SAD!” She later posted asking if anyone remembered the password to his own Facebook page, which had around 6,100 likes at the time. Even George Pataki is doing better than that and George Pataki could probably swoop across the nation on a mighty dragon without the media noticing.
1Bobby Jindal Battled A Demon
A political prodigy, current governor Bobby Jindal was running the Louisiana Department of Health at just 24 years old. Still, Jindal had already managed to pack in plenty of life experience at that point, including converting to Catholicism and participating in a terrifying demonic exorcism.
According to an article Jindal wrote for the New Oxford Review, the exorcism involved a friend and potential love interest (although they were “very careful to avoid any form of physical contact in our friendship”) named Susan, who had been dealt a string of personal blows, including skin cancer and a friend’s suicide. When Susan started smelling of sulphur and having strange visions, it began to seem like her personal demons might be starting to get a bit literal.
Things came to a head at a prayer meeting, when “Susan emitted some strange guttural sounds and fell to the floor” before speaking in a strange voice. Gathering around, Susan’s friends began chanting “Satan, I command you to leave this woman” and ordering all “demons to leave in the name of Christ.” They tried to get Susan to read some Bible passages, but she literally couldn’t spit the words out and just started cursing instead.
According to Jindal, he then began feeling “some type of physical force distracting me. It was as if something was pushing down on my chest, making it very hard for me to breathe . . . I began to think that the demon would only attack me if I tried to pray or fight back; thus, I resigned myself to leaving it alone in an attempt to find peace for myself.”
Luckily, the exorcism seemed to work and Susan suddenly snapped to and shouted “Jesus is Lord” before asking if anything had happened. Asked about the incident by the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Jindal would only say that he “wrote a lot of stuff in high school and college . . . I just hope they don’t review my grade school work.”
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