You would think that being the most powerful person in the free world would mean you can do whatever you want. You get to make the rules, right? Wrong.
Just because you’re the President doesn’t mean you can live by whatever rules you want to, even in your own (temporary) house! The First Family actually has a number of rules they have to live by when they move into the White House, and it might make you reconsider how you treat your place.
The Immediate Family Is Expected To Move In
For the most part, the President’s immediate family is expected to move into the White House as well. It’s rare if a family member doesn’t move in — unless it’s a child away at boarding school or for some understandable reason.
Moving into the White House isn’t always the most pleasing if a President has younger children, but it’s a tradition of the country. However, recently, the Trump Administration broke this tradition as Melania and her son Barron continued to live in their Fifth Avenue penthouse in New York City while Barron finished his schooling.
There Are Move-In Limitations
When moving out of their own home and into the White House, the new First Family is allowed to hire their own moving crew on their own time. The moving crew can help them do everything until they reach the White House. From there, no one except the residence staff is allowed inside.
From there, it’s up to the First Family and a handful of helpers to move all of their personal belongings into the house. Once inside, they have to continue to rely on the staff available to move heavy furniture throughout the building.
The Christmas Tree Must Have A Theme
Since 1961, there has been a tradition in the White House that the Christmas tree inside must always have a theme. Although the White House put up Christmas trees in the past, this tradition began back in 1961 with Jacqueline Kennedy. She decorated the tree with “The Nutcracker” theme during the Kennedy’s first White House Christmas and the tradition stuck.
Since 1961, past themes have included the “American Flower Tree,” “Antique Toy,” “Mother Goose,” and more. In 2017, Melania Trump picked the theme as “Time-Honored Traditions.” We’ll have to wait and see what future First Families choose as their themes.
There Is A Budget For Redecorating
Luckily for the First Family, they are given the privilege of personalizing their new home where they will be living for at least the next four years (hopefully). However, it’s an incredibly vast space to fill, so they are given an allotment of money by Congress to help them decorate the interior.
For each new president, Congress determines how much each president gets. When John Adams was president, he was given $14,000, and Bill Clinton received $100,000. Presidents may exceed the amount of money they are given but must pay out of their own pocket.
The President Must Plan Their Funeral
Not long after moving into the White House, it is the President’s responsibility to plan his own funeral. Although it may seem like a grim task, it is essential considering that becoming President of the United States isn’t always the safest job.
During this process, the President can choose if they want to have a simple funeral or if they want all the fanfare with the guns, flags, drummers, and everything else. If you ever move into the White House, you’ll find yourself planning your own funeral as well.
The Presidential Roast
Every year, the President is expected to host the annual White House Correspondents Dinner at the White House. Here, comedians, journalists, athletes, and other pop culture icons take light-hearted jabs at the president calling out their insecurities and mistakes.
The dinner is considered to be a celebration of the First Amendment of Free Speech. The dinner also gives scholarships and awards which are usually covered by the pricy admittance fee. President Trump is the only president to have not attended the event even though it’s an unspoken tradition that the President hosts it at the White House.
The Move-In Window is Only 12 Hours
Up until January 19, the outgoing President still lives in the White House. However, although the new President already won the election, they aren’t permitted to begin moving anything in until January 20. They aren’t allowed to store furniture or anything until the day has arrived.
Also, the new First Family only has 12 hours to move into the White House fully. This is for a variety of reasons with the biggest one being for security. The Trumps really got to work during their move-in day and moved in while the Obamas moved out in only five hours.
The First Lady Must Choose An Interior Designer
Surprisingly, there is no on-site or government-hired White House interior decorator. It is the First Lady’s job to choose their own interior designer to help them design and organize the inside of the White House.
These interior designers then help turn the White House into a home for the new First Family while adding personal additions such as game rooms, living spaces, and more. Although Melania Trump didn’t move into the White House until June 2017, she made sure to hire Tham Kannalikham as the Trump’s interior designer on February 3, 2017.
There Are Decoration Restrictions
While you may think that the President can do anything they want inside the White House, you’d be wrong. Although the First Family is allowed to decorate their living space to their own personal liking, there are are some restrictions. The Oval Office and the Lincoln Bedroom are off limits for any customization or decoration.
They are of great historical importance and are to remain untouched. Granted, the President himself is allowed to make minor adjustments. However, changes must be approved by various historical associations.
Always Use A Secure Line
While living in the White House, every one of the President’s phone calls must be made using a secure line. Whether it’s for a business call or a personal conversation, nobody should have possible actions to any call that the President makes.
If people can easily tap into the President’s conversations, it would be a matter of national security. So, to play it safe, all calls that are answered or outgoing are done on a secured line that’s monitored and protected by the government.
No Imported Wine
Living in the White House means that you can order just about anything and have it delivered. However, there is one product that isn’t very welcome at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
That product is imported wine. If you happen to find yourself drinking wine at the White House, it was undoubtedly made in the United States. Typically it comes from Virginia, Idaho, and California. European wine was taken off of the menu entirely during the Ford Administration and it would be bad form for any President to request some.
The Easter Egg Roll
Another responsibility that comes with living in the White House is hosting the annual Easter Egg Roll. The tradition began back in 1878 when President Rutheford B. Hayes allowed a group of kids to play an egg rolling game on the White House lawn during Easter.
The tradition has continued since, only being canceled during times of war or during White House renovation. However, since 1953, there hasn’t been a single president that has not upheld the tradition during Easter.
Not Everything Is Free
Believe it or not, although the First Family may not have to pay rent or utilities, they do have to pay for their own food. While living in the White House, they have to pay for every meal that they eat.
The Presidential Room is covered, but other than that, they have to pay for their meals as well as any personal items. This way, the President, and his family can’t spend the citizen’s taxes on their own comfort. They have to work and pay to eat just like every other American.
They Have To Pardon A Turkey Every Year
It’s no secret that a lot of turkeys are killed during the holiday season in the United States. So, as a way of recognizing that this happens, each year, the President gives a Presidential pardon to a turkey on the White House lawn.
The turkey is then taken to a children’s farm not far from the White House where it can live out the rest of its days. Although the tradition began in 1947, in 1989, George H.W. Bush made it a complete Presidential tradition that has been carried out since.
Preserving Particular Household Items
While living in the White House, there is also a certain amount of responsibility regarding the historical items in the house. Besides living in an actual historical monument, there are countless historical paintings, sculptures and other artifacts that is the First Family’s responsibility to watch and take care of.
For example, one object that has never moved is the grand piano. It has been there for decades and although the family is allowed to play it, it’s also their duty to respect it and care for it among the other objects.
Family Members Are Always Accompanied By Secret Service
Upon moving into the White House, the President, Vice President, and both of their families trade their freedom for the constant watch by the secret service. This continuous surveillance is for their safety and protection and is a 24/7 service. They are being watched or guarded at all hours no matter how small the task.
Although it might seem nice to have your own personal security, we’re sure that after a while it can get a bit old not being able to go anywhere by yourself. But then again, it’s better than being kidnapped.
No Opening Windows
For security reasons, no windows are ever permitted to be open from within the White House. Although they can be opened in the case of an emergency, they are to remain closed at all times. During Michelle Obama’s time in the White House, she recalls an instance when her daughter Sasha opened her window.
Seconds later, the family was receiving calls with secret service instructing them to shut the window immediately. Although this may not seem like the worst thing in the world, Michelle claims that opening a window is one of the things she looked forward to the most in civilian life.
The President Has To Ride In “The Beast”
As well as getting a new house, the President and his family also get a new car after they are required to ride in. However, this isn’t an ordinary car. Nicknamed “The Beast,” “Cadillac One,” and “First Car,” it is a Cadillac that is built to the Secret Services standards for safety.
While riding in the car, the President is cut off from the outside world except for a few communication devices that are kept in the car. The car is so heavy because of all the bullet and bomb-proof material that it can only reach 60 miles per hour and gets on average 3.7 miles per gallon.
The First Family Must Design Their Own China
Upon settling in the White House, another thing that the First Family must do is design their own China for their administration. The Obama Administration’s China had 3,250 pieces that were rimmed in textured gold.
It also featured an inner ‘Kailua Blue” band as an indicator of Barack Obama’s home state of Hawaii. Each President needs to customize their own so that it sets apart their dining experiences with other world leaders that have dined with past Presidents. It also personalizes the look of the dining room and makes it feel more like home for the family.
Any Additions Need To Be Approved
Naturally, sometimes the President and their families want to make some additions to the White House. Whether it’s adding a basketball hoop, bowling alley, or renovating a bathroom, a lot of Presidents make changes while they’re in office.
But just because they’re the leader of the free world doesn’t mean they don’t have to ask for permission first. Most of the time these requests are granted, but they must ask permission first since they are essentially making renovations to a museum.
Eat Outside The Office Without A Taster
Although having a taste tester may seem like a pretty sweet deal, it’s not all that it’s made out to be. The presidential taste tester isn’t necessarily to make sure that the food is up to par, but more so to check for any dangers. Although the secret services remain quiet about this duty, a Whitehouse spokesperson and one senator have mentioned it to the proof.
One instance, when this occurred, was during a lunch meeting with Senate Republicans in 2013. President Obama didn’t have a taster on-hand and was forced to begrudgingly stare at the food that he was unable to eat.
Drive A Car
As President of the United States, you give up your privilege to be able to drive, even your own car. You will never see a president driving on a public highway, ever. This is mostly for safety reasons because why put the president in any more danger than necessary.
Lyndon B. Johnson was the last president to ever drive on a taxpayer-funded highway. However, on private property, presidents can have a little fun. George W. Bush drove a pickup truck on his private ranch on his Crawford, Texas property. Ronald Reagan would also drive Jeeps on his property in Santa Barabara.
Use An iPhone
Surprisingly, the President of the United States does not have the luxury of being equipped with the latest and trendiest technology. President Obama was the first president to ever even own a smartphone, however, he admits he wasn’t even able to use it for certain safety reasons. Instead, they are given a modified Blackberry with numerous safety and security precautions.
However, Obama did get to choose the model of his Blackberry. In a press conference, Obama showed his love for the phone when he said: “They’re going to have to pry it out of my hands.”
Drive In A Convertable
After the horrific assassination of President John F. Kennedy, it was clear that maybe convertibles weren’t the best idea for a president to ride in. They leave the Commander-in-Chief completely exposed. Especially today, with all of the technology that has been developed since Kennedy’s assassination, the president must be as protected as possible while traveling in a vehicle.
That’s why the Secret Service drives the president in a car that is explosion-proof, bullet-proof, riot-proof, and more. It’s a true bummer that presidents can’t ever feel the wind in their hair while in a car for at least four years.
Not Telling People What You’re Doing
While in office, the president must let the Secret Service know when they plan on doing anything outside of their schedule no less than four hours in advance. Former Secret Service agent Johnothan Wackrow admitted in an interview that “the Secret Service is the most intrusive things that anyone can ever experience.”
President Obama once tried to organize a pickup basketball game to no avail because he didn’t let the Secret Service know ahead of time. Unless the president is in a completely safe location, there is no chance that he will ever be alone.
No Conflicts Of Interest
The President of United States is definitely not allowed to have any of their outside businesses or ventures affect their decision making a president. There is a check and balance system to help prevent this from happening because otherwise, it might appear like the president is shaping domestic and foreign policies around their own businesses success.
This is relatively easy to see happening, so very few presidents have ever been so bold to outright try. The safeguards in place to prevent this from happening are good at their job to make sure it doesn’t.
No More Expensive Gifts
While you may think that the president is constantly receiving lavish gifts from leaders of other companies or supporters, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. There are strict rules against receiving such gifts from anyone. In 2016, the law states that any gifts worth more than #375 have to be turned over to the National Archives.
Anything of less value the president can keep and is considered as a “souvenir or mark of courtesy.” President George W. Bush even had to buy the Bulgarian sheepdog that he received as a gift in order to be able to give it to his friend in Maryland.
Can’t Secure A Copyright
On the off-chance that a United States President finds the time to write a book, memoir, or something that required publishing while in office, they wouldn’t be able to secure a copyright.
US copyright laws state that any work created by a federal government employee or even the president while in office is considered to be public domain. So, that means that anything that the president writes, says, or does that is unclassified is free for others to use and repurpose.
Go Anywhere Without “The Football”
The Football is the name of a briefcase that the Secret Service carries whenever the president is traveling. The exact contents inside are still mostly unknown to the public, but it also doubles as a way to confirm a presidents identity and to contact the National Military Command Center in case of an emergency.
It is also believed to hold the nuclear codes in case of an attack. At all times, presidents have a laminated key card in order to have access to the inside of the briefcase. The bag weighs around 45 pounds, and it’s some poor Secret Service agents job to carry it around the president when needed.
Earn Income Outside Of A Government Salary
While in office, it is against the law for the President of the United States to make any extra money outside of their government salary. As an active president, they make 400,000 a year, which isn’t all that much considering that they still have a lot of expenses that they must pay for.
However, for business tycoon presidents like Donald Trump, this may be an issue because they must be hand-off from their businesses. In addition, when it comes to investments, they must go into a blind trust, having no idea how their assets are managed until after they leave office.
Can’t Forgive Student Loan Debt
As nice as that would be to the millions of college graduates with student loans to pay off, the president doesn’t have the power to grant such a forgiveness. Even though they have the power of a presidential pardon and can pardon people with extreme crimes, they still can’t do this for students.
Even Obama’s forgiveness program still requires that people to make 10-20 years worth of monthly payments before they are eventually forgiven. So, if you’ve been waiting for the right president to come along and say goodbye to student loans, you’re out of luck.
Take Away Social Security Payments
Although while in office, some presidents may propose laws to increase payments or tax them in different ways, it still all has to go through and be passed by Congress. Americans will always get to pay into the system and take their money out after they retire.
Although some people claim that Social Security is running out, that’s not always the case because it’s just a fluctuation in the current laws surrounding it. Congress can still pass a budget that can help to solve this foreboding issue with Social Security.
Break The Law
Although it may seem obvious, it is more than to others. Although the president has the ability to start wars, pardon criminals, and everything in between, they are still held to the same standards as every other citizen when it comes to the law.
At any point, if the president has broken the law continuously has, the House reserves the right to vote to impeach that president. The Senate also has the right to take the president to trial where they can try them in court like any other citizen.
Add Or Reduce Welfare Programs
While welfare may seem like something that the president might have control over, that’s not the case. Any kind of welfare reform must first be passed as a law or part of a budget. This also means that it must go through Congress, meaning that the president really doesn’t have that much control over it.
Although the president can propose the changes, there’s no guarantee of them being passed, and they don’t have the power to enforce them. In addition, each state has their own Congress that votes on statewide matters.
Shut Down The Government
Since the president is the leader of the government, it would only make sense that they have the power to shut the government down in the case of an emergency or some kind of particular situation, this is not true.
The only people that have the power to shut down the government is the Senate after they fail to agree on a federal budget for the upcoming year. There have been numerous government shutdowns in the past, however, not a single one of them was enacted by a president.
For the president, there is a fast track that they can use when they are writing trade policy, however, it must still go through Congress in order to be approved. When a president fast track, it means that Congress cannot amend the policy, but instead have to simply vote yes or no among themselves for the policy to go into effect.
According to the Constitution, Congress is the only other body of government that has the ability to control trades and tariffs.
Formally Declare War
Although the president is the individual that must sign a declaration of war, the president does not have sole power to declare it. The Constitution grants Congress sole power to declare war. Congress has declared war on 11 occasions including the first declaration of war with Great Britain in 1812.
The last time that Congress officially declared war was during World War II. Since then, the United States has only been in conflicts which have required the use of military force and not exactly declarations of war.
Change Things On A Local Level
While the president may be the leader of the government, nation, and all of its citizens, it does not mean that they can become involved, influence, or interject in local politics. Only the residents of a particular area have the power to vote on their representatives, their local taxes, school districts, and more.
This means that the president cannot install any new Heads of Police, heads of School Boards, or anyone into power at a local level. The president is to remain as uninvolved as possible with the only major concerns for them being at a federal level.
Make Same-Sex Marriage Illegal
At the moment, same-sex marriage is now a constitutional right and nothing can change that, especially the president. The only way that any kind of change could occur is if a decision is made by the Supreme Court, however, this is unlikely to ever happen.
Furthermore, if a president did have any power to change the legalization of same-sex marriage, there’s little chance they would be able to do so without creating a social outrage. Luckily, it takes a lot to change something that the Supreme Court has already decided upon.
Surprisingly, the president doesn’t have the power to make marijuana legal across the entire country. Even though that may seem like an executive power they possess, they can’t whether it’s for recreational or medical purposes.
It’s not the president, but the DEA that has to be involved in order to make a change across the entire United States. However, states do have the power to legalize it in their particular region. At least that makes it so the president doesn’t need total power to legalize anything.