Wednesday, June 22, 2011

What a Difference a Day Makes (or not)

John Adams served the shortest single, full term in history, and he will continue holding that distinction for at least another 90 years.

How is this possible? Adams served four full years, just like a bunch of other single-termers such as Jimmy Carter, Herbert Hoover and his own son. However, those guys were president 1,461 days, while Adams only served for 1,460 days. Adams got screwed over by leap years.

Having four-year terms means — almost — every term gets one leap year day. Every four years is a leap year, and these are years divisible by 4. So, we had one in 2008 and we’ll have another one in 2012. Easy, right?

Well, no. It’s a tad more complicated than that. Years ending with ‘00 are not leap years, except the years that are divisible by 400 are. So, you may remember 2000 being a leap year, because it’s divisible by 400. A vast majority of you reading this in 2011 probably won’t be around long enough to see that 2100 will not be a leap year. I’m also willing to bet that even fewer people reading this remember 1900 not being a leap year either.

Bill Clinton was president on February 29, 2000, and served for 2,922 days, just like James Madison, Dwight D. Eisenhower and even Grover Cleveland.

William McKinley was president in 1900, when there was no February 29th, so he served one of these shorter terms. However, he also won re-election, so his time in the White House kept going (though his second term was cut short when he was assassinated).
Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo assassinate Buffalo buffalo.
This leaves Adams as the only one-term president to serve a full four-year term with no leap days. And will remain so depending on the outcome of the 2096 and 2100 elections.
Constitutionally not allowed to run, but could make a for a good Cabinet member.

Just to put things in perspective, it’s quite likely that the parents of that president aren’t even born yet. Don’t go out and get yourself (or someone else) pregnant, because you’re very likely not the grandparent of this president. Instead, vote and comment in this week’s poll, Ford vs. Adams.

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