Last updated on October 27th, 2023 at 01:14 am
As we focus on the upcoming 2024 U.S. elections, the spotlight is naturally on the candidates vying for the presidency. But let’s take a moment to discuss those who have already served as president. What are the rules and restrictions that govern their lives after leaving office? Or what happens after a president says their goodbyes and boards Marine One for the last time? You’d be surprised to know that their life is far from a free-for-all. Let’s dive into the intriguing world of things former presidents can’t do.
- The Presidential Library: A Mandatory Legacy
You’ve probably noticed that every U.S. president seems to have a library named after them. That’s not a coincidence; it’s a requirement. The Presidential Libraries Act of 1955 mandates that each former president must establish a library in their name. But don’t be fooled—these aren’t your average libraries. They must contain every piece of writing by that president during their term, even the less flattering stuff. After all, it’s public property.
- National Security Briefings: The Never-Ending Homework
Remember the sleepless nights spent cramming for exams? Well, for former presidents, the studying never ends. They are required to read national security briefings to stay informed and offer advice to the current administration. So, if you thought retirement meant no more late-night reading, think again!
- The Unspoken Rule: No Badmouthing Allowed
While not an official rule, it’s heavily frowned upon for former presidents to criticize their successors. This tradition has been somewhat eroded in recent years due to increasing partisanship, but it remains a significant part of White House decorum.
- Mail Surveillance: No Secrets in the Postbox
If you’re a former president, forget about receiving a surprise package. Every piece of mail is screened by both the Secret Service and the United States Postal Service. It’s like having a permanent spoiler alert for your life.
- The Driving Ban: Road Trips Are History
Remember the freedom of hitting the open road? For former presidents, that’s a thing of the past. They are not allowed to drive on public roads. The last president to enjoy this simple pleasure was Lyndon B. Johnson. Now, the Secret Service takes the wheel, literally.
- Tech Limitations: No Impulse Shopping
If you’re eyeing the latest iPhone, think twice. Former presidents can’t just buy any electronic device they fancy. Each gadget must be inspected and approved by the Secret Service. It’s not about missing out on the latest tech; it’s about national security.
- The Role of Goodwill Ambassador: A Million-Dollar Budget
Even after leaving office, former presidents are expected to serve as goodwill ambassadors. They are encouraged to travel extensively and are even allocated a budget of one million dollars annually for this purpose. Diplomatic passports come as part of the package, making international travel a breeze.
- The Constant Companionship: Alone Time is Overrated
If you value your alone time, the presidency is not for you. Former presidents are not allowed to go anywhere alone. As former Secret Service agent Jonathan Wackrow puts it, it’s “the most intrusive thing anyone could ever experience.”
- The Waiver: A Way Out?
For those who find these rules too stifling, there’s an option: sign a waiver to forgo the Secret Service’s protection. But remember, you’re then on your own, both in terms of security and freedom.
Interesting Facts About Things Former Presidents Can’t Do
1. The Million-Dollar Travel Budget
Former presidents are not just encouraged to travel; they’re practically funded to do so. With an annual budget of one million dollars specifically allocated for travel, they can jet-set around the globe as goodwill ambassadors. It’s diplomacy with a golden ticket!
2. The Last President to Drive: Lyndon B. Johnson
While it’s a known fact that former presidents can’t drive on public roads, did you know that Lyndon B. Johnson was the last U.S. president to enjoy this simple freedom? Imagine the Secret Service’s collective sigh of relief when this rule was implemented.
3. The Waiver: Opting Out of Security
If a former president finds the constant surveillance and restrictions too much to bear, they can actually opt-out. By signing a waiver, they can relinquish the Secret Service’s protection. It’s a risky move, but it offers a taste of normalcy that’s otherwise hard to come by.
4. The Presidential Library: An Unfiltered Archive
Presidential libraries are not just repositories of a president’s achievements; they are comprehensive archives that include even the less flattering aspects of their term. Everything written by the president while in office must be included, making these libraries a treasure trove for historians and political analysts.
5. The Unspoken “No Smack-Talk” Rule
While not officially codified, former presidents are traditionally discouraged from criticizing their successors. This unwritten rule has been tested in recent years, but it remains a fascinating aspect of post-presidential life, reflecting the decorum that’s expected even after leaving the Oval Office.
20 Common Questions and Answers About Former U.S. Presidents
Do Former Presidents Still Get Paid?
Yes, former presidents receive a lifetime pension, which is equal to the pay of the head of an Executive Branch department, approximately $208,000 per year as of now.
Can Former Presidents Run for Office Again?
A former president can run for and be re-elected to the presidency only if they have served just one term. The 22nd Amendment prohibits anyone from being elected to the presidency more than twice.
Do They Still Receive Security Briefings?
Yes, former presidents continue to receive national security briefings, although they are not as detailed as the ones given to the sitting president.
Are Former Presidents Allowed to Drive?
No, former presidents are not allowed to drive on public roads. They must be driven by a Secret Service agent or another approved individual. Former Presidents Act of 1958, aims to ensure their safety and protect the confidential information they possess.
What Happens to Their Presidential Library?
Each former president is required to establish a presidential library to house documents, recordings, and other materials from their time in office.
Can They Decline Secret Service Protection?
Yes, a former president can decline Secret Service protection by signing a waiver, but this is rarely done.
Do They Have to Pay for Their Own Housing?
Yes, former presidents are responsible for their own housing costs, including any mortgages or upkeep on their personal residences.
Can They Endorse Political Candidates?
While there’s no law against it, traditionally, former presidents have been cautious about endorsing political candidates, especially those running for the presidency.
Are They Allowed to Publish Memoirs?
Yes, they can publish memoirs, but they must be careful not to disclose classified information.
Can They Serve in Other Political Offices?
Yes, a former president can run for and serve in other political offices. John Quincy Adams, for example, served in the House of Representatives after his presidency.
Who was the youngest elected U.S. President?
John F. Kennedy was the youngest elected U.S. President at the age of 43.
Which former President had a career as a Hollywood actor?
Ronald Reagan had a career as a Hollywood actor before entering politics.
Who was the only U.S. President to resign from office?
Richard Nixon is the only U.S. President to have resigned from office.
Which former President was a peanut farmer?
Jimmy Carter was a peanut farmer before becoming President.
Who was the first President to live in the White House?
John Adams was the first President to live in the White House.
Which President served the shortest term?
William Henry Harrison served the shortest term, dying just 32 days after taking office.
Who was the first President to be impeached?
Andrew Johnson was the first President to be impeached, although he was not convicted.
Which President was known for his environmental conservation efforts?
Theodore Roosevelt was known for his efforts in environmental conservation.
Who was the first President born in the United States?
Martin Van Buren was the first President born in the United States after it gained independence.
Which President signed the Emancipation Proclamation?
Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing slaves in Confederate states.
A Life of Paradoxes
Being a former president is a life of paradoxes. You’re both a private citizen and a perpetual public figure, bound by a unique set of rules and traditions. As we approach the 2024 elections, it’s worth pondering how these guidelines will influence the actions of those who’ve already served their term.