It’s not so easy being the son or daughter of the American president. Sure, there’s a big house to live in, cool rides to get around in, and pretty much anything you want when it comes to material goods. But, unlike many other nations, the American president’s family lives in a fishbowl under a unique spotlight, trailed by both Secret Service agents assigned to protect and a paparazzi eager for incriminating pics of First Family wrongdoing. Add social media and the ability for anybody to instantly broadcast bad behavior worldwide, and what’s a kid to do?
Naturally, there are those “good kids” like Chelsea Clinton, who Secret Service agents say was the best first child in living memory, or Sasha Obama and her virtuous summer job at a fast food restaurant in Martha’s Vineyard. Sure, just to make it look bad for everybody else. And there was that time Susan Ford, daughter of President Ford, famously hosted her high school prom at the White House – with un-spiked punch and appropriate supervision, natch.
But, if you’re a normal kid with the usual appetite for partying and teenage mayhem, it’s all about trying to ditch the Secret Service agents and dodging cell phone cameras in your quest for a good time. If you’re a determined Malia Obama, it means partying on anyway, despite the scrutiny. Here’s a look at the efforts of the dedicated partying offspring of several American presidents, past and present.
11. Al Gore III
Al Gore III, son of former Vice President Al Gore, found himself in the political spotlight throughout his teens and into his early twenties – prime time to get into trouble of various kinds, depending on individual inclinations. Al III found himself up against The Man both during and since his father’s notable Vice Presidency, which lasted from 1993 to 2001. In 1996 at the tender age of 13, he was suspended from his Washington, D.C. high school for smoking pot at a school dance. In August of 2000,his driver’s license was suspended for speeding. After dad returned to civilian life, Al III avoided a marijuana possession charge in 2004 after agreeing to drug counseling. In 2007, he wasn’t so lucky and faced marijuana and prescription drug charges after a traffic stop for speeding.
10. Malia Obama hits Amsterdam, Lollapalooza
July was a busy month for partying First Daughter Malia Obama. After graduating from high school this June, she was spotted lighting up the dance floor in an Amsterdam nightclub. Malia was on a trip with mother Michelle and sister Sasha, supposedly to raise awareness for a non-profit called the Let Girls Learn Initiative. Malia apparently took the credo to heart and the 18-year-old decided to learn all about Amsterdam’s fabled nightlife. Then, while the rest of the fam was making headlines at the Democratic National Convention in July, First Daughter Malia Obama was making waves of her own at Lollapalooza in Chicago. Onlookers posted videos of Malia twerking in a skimpy outfit on stage with the band, but soon Radar Online and other outlets posted an even more explosive photo that appears to show Malia smoking something that could be a joint of pot – or a “marijuana cigarette” as the cops like to say.
9. Malia Obama and the Beer Pong Table Incident
If you’re older than college age right now, you can thank God that you didn’t have to contend with Snapchat – and the video evidence of all your sins. Snapchat is why Malia Obama first made it to the list of misbehaving presidential progeny. Late last year, the then high school senior was checking out colleges when she hit Brown University, including a party that was happening on campus. A Snapchat video has Mali next to the beer pong table and Tweets from Brown students say she was ponging with the best of them. At least some of the Brown student body felt bad about posting the pics, though, and an editorial in the campus newspaper a few days later carried the title, Sorry, Malia Obama.
8. Jenna and Barbara Bush – Booze and Boyfriends
Jenna and Barbara, the Bush twins, were already 19 years old when George W. Bush was elected president, so they didn’t have to spend those delicate, formative years under the White House spotlight. But, their age and the timing of the Bush presidency still left them plenty of leeway to get into trouble. Jenna was arrested for drinking underage in a bar in Austin, Texas, mere months after the inauguration. Former Secret Service agents told author Ronald Kessler, who wrote a book about the agents assigned to protect the First Family, that the girls were “a Secret Service nightmare” who constantly tried to evade their protective detail. The former agents also alleged they were enlisted to get Jenna’s then boyfriend – now husband – medical attention when he got too wasted and that agents broke up a drunken bar fight he got mixed up in. Jenna and Barbara were both busted again not long after the first incident, once again for drinking under age; Jenna had also used a friend’s ID.
7. George W. and Jeb Bush – It’s Alright, It’s Alright
Sometimes, being the president’s son gives you enough clout to actually escape the kind of scrutiny that just about anyone else would have to deal with. George W. Bush managed to evade the questions that continued to come up about his alleged cocaine use for most of his political career – right up to his run for the White House in 2000. But as his exposure grew on the world stage, so did the scrutiny towards his former life. During his presidency, George W. finally addressed the matter head on, but claimed that whatever indiscretions he’d committed had ended when he’d woken up with a bad hangover on his 40th birthday. However, Kitty Kelley’s 2004 book The Family: The Real Story of the Bush Dynasty alleged that he had used cocaine at Camp David while his father George, Sr was president. In 2016, a former White House aide published a book alleging that George’s brother Jeb Bush led a secret life dominated by a cocaine addiction. The book by Roger Stone claims that Bush did a line with a Republican official to celebrate when he learned his father had won the presidential election.
6. Hunter Biden – the VP’s Son
Cocaine use seems to be a favorite vice of Washington’s political elite – at least when it comes to their kids. Hunter Biden, son of Vice President Joe Biden, was given an administrative discharge from the Navy in 2014 after testing positive for cocaine use. Hunter Biden, a lawyer and partner at an investment firm, was discharged from the Navy Reserve, where he had taken on the role of public affairs officer. The failed drug test came only a month or so after he was commissioned and assigned to the Norfolk, Virginia reserve unit. Members of the military can expect a random drug test at least once a year. It probably didn’t help that Hunter’s older brother is Beau Biden, who was the attorney general for the state of Delaware and a major in the Delaware Army National Guard.
5. Amy and Billy Carter – Paying a Presidential Price
Sometimes, the scrutiny turns a good time into a bad time. For Amy Carter, only child of President Jimmy Carter and wife Rosalynn, the scrutiny was unkind, to say the least. For whatever reason – like, maybe she was into building things – she wanted a chainsaw for Christmas one year. It caused a bit of a media and public frenzy; so much so that the White House took the step of issuing a statement that she had, in fact, asked for a train set. It’s kind’ve the opposite of partying, but a German reporter called her “lamentably spoiled” for bringing a book to read during a boring state dinner. The media was no less unkind to her uncle Billy Carter, who took over the family peanut business when Jimmy became Prez. Billy was involved in a slew of questionable dealings, including ties to the Libyan regime in the late 1970s, a number of failed business ventures, and investigations by the IRS and other federal agencies. In 1979, he entered into a treatment facility for alcohol abuse.
4. John Payne Todd – a 19th Century Player
James Madison was 43 when he married Dolley, a 25-year-old widow with a young son – John Payne Todd. Their relationship began quietly while Dolley was officially still in mourning for her late husband and another infant child who had died and Madison is said to have wormed his way into Dolley’s heart with presents for young Payne, as he was known. Payne grew up with an indulgent mother and a doting, older stepdad who didn’t hesitate to help him – and who could reportedly be counted on to bail him out throughout his younger years. Even as a child, Payne preferred play and pleasures to his lessons and went through a series of tutors, including James Madison himself. When he was sent to an exclusive boy’s school in Baltimore, his charm and good looks made him popular with the school’s social circle – although not in the way dad was hoping. He discovered a taste for wine, women, and gambling and disappointed his parents with lackluster results at school. Todd Payne led the classic rich boy’s lifestyle of drinking, partying, and beautiful women.
3. Charles and Robert Johnson – The Family Tradition
Andrew Johnson became President after Lincoln’s assassination and he already had a reputation as a heavy drinker during his term as Vice President. In fact, he was drunk on his inauguration day, so wasted that one of the senators wrote a letter to his wife saying that Johnson was, “was too drunk to perform his duties and disgraced himself and the Senate by making a drunken foolish speech.” It comes as no surprise that both his sons, Charles and Robert, were known to be alcoholics, too. While Johnson was Vice President, during the Civil War, Charles died after he fell from a horse. Robert Johnson made it to the rank of Colonel in the Union Army but was sent home in disgrace after being found drunk on duty. Dad bailed him out with a job as his own private secretary but Robert died in 1869 from alcoholism related causes at the age of 35.
2. John Tyler – Son of John Tyler
John Tyler, 10th president of the United States, is also one of its lesser known leaders. He came from a wealthy family and married not one but two wealthy women, but Tyler was apparently reckless with money and loved to live the high life. He also had fourteen children between his two marriages. All of it managed to keep him in financial chaos and in fact he died in debt. President Tyler’s oldest son was also named John and the Prez gave his son a job as press secretary during his presidential term to keep him in a decent salary. John Jr. was a drinker, though, and a general screw up who apparently couldn’t hold it together even in the job nepotism had gotten him. Dad ended up having to fire him towards the end of his term as President. Few images exist of President Tyler and none of son John.
1. Chester Alan Arthur, Jr – Not in the Family Footsteps
The White House under President Arthur was party central. Arthur, a widower by the time he was elected, had a somewhat distant relationship with his kids, but he loved to host opulent parties and his kids, Chester Jr and a sister, Ellen, were trotted out to be part of the display. Chester Alan Jr – also known as Chester Alan Arthur II – took to the upscale party vibe so well that it became his way of life. Chester II became known as “the Prince of Washington” with a reputation for partying all night long. He eventually got into first Princeton and then prestigious Columbia University’s law school, but disappointed his parents with his lack of ambition. Instead of taking up law, he went traveling in Europe for a decade and spent his life as a rich playboy with a love for both travel and horses.