Dear political media,
On the occasion of Chelsea Clinton announcing that she is pregnant two and a half years in advance of an election in which her mother might run for president:
- You were born. Chances are good that your gestation did not have any impact on your grandparents’ strategy regarding higher political office.
- Hillary Clinton is not having a baby. If she were, that shouldn’t matter either.
To be clear: Hillary Clinton is also not yet officially running for president. However, she is a public figure who, over the course of her life, has had her undergraduate leadership covered by Life magazine; worked on the impeachment inquiry staff that advised the House Judiciary in the Watergate investigation; became the second female faculty member at the University of Arkansas’s Law School; served as First Lady of Arkansas and First Lady of the United States; was the first First Lady of the United States to have an advanced degree or independent career; was elected the junior senator from New York, twice; became the first woman in the history of the nation to win a presidential primary contest1; served as secretary of state under President Barack Obama. It is safe to say that the fact that her daughter is scheduled to give birth to one of this year’s four million American babies is pretty much the least interesting and least relevant thing about her hypothetical future run for presidency. (I am sure that it is very interesting and relevant to her and her family).
I tried to look up how many presidents have been grandfathers while serving in office. It’s pretty hard to look up because no one in the history of presidents has ever cared about whether or not they have grandchildren or will ever have grandchildren because it is truly one of the dumbest things to care about in the universe. But, if we were going to do some back-of-the-envelope guessing, I would estimate that like 85 percent of presidents had grandchildren before becoming presidents or while in office, seeing as how they were mostly all old white men, married to women, in eras when what women were supposed to do was have children, who then usually had children of their own, by the time the old white men got to be presidents.
But if we're looking for specifics, right off the top of my head there’s George H.W. Bush. He was a grandfather when he ran for president; in fact, he referred to some of his grandchildren as “the little brown ones” on the 1988 campaign trail. All things being equal (which, as should be evident by now, they are not), there’s a decent chance that one of those “little brown ones,” George P. Bush, will someday run for president.
- One of George H.W. Bush’s sons, George W. Bush, is also a grandfather now. He wasn't while he was in the White House, though.
- George H.W. Bush’s other son, Jeb Bush, might well run for president, possibly against Hillary Clinton, in 2016. He is a grandfather.
- And also William Henry Harrison was a grandfather when he was president.
- Which I remember mostly because one of his grandsons, Benjamin Harrison, went on to be president. Benjamin Harrison was also a grandfather when he was in office. I looked it up.
- Here is the number of presidents who have been grandmothers: zero.
- Here is the number of presidents whose daughters or granddaughters have gone on to be president: zero.
Shirley Chisholm did win a New Jersey nonbinding preference primary in 1972, though many of her competitors, including George McGovern and Hubert Humphrey, were not on the ballot.