28 March 2010

Why Obama's signature looks so shaky

The President used over 20 different pens to sign the health care legislation.
The rationale is fairly simple. The pen used to sign historic legislation itself becomes a historical artifact. The more pens a President uses, the more thank-you gifts he can offer to those who helped create that piece of history. The White House often engraves the pens, which are then given as keepsakes to key proponents or supporters of the newly signed legislation. When Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act in 1964, he reportedly used more than 75 pens...

Not every President goes for the multipen signature, however. President George W. Bush preferred signing bills with only one pen and then offering several unused "gift" pens as souvenirs. Even a piece of legislation as famous as the Homeland Security Act got only one line of ink. When it was over, the President is rumored to have pocketed it.
Personally I think all of this is rather silly.  I suppose I could offer a rant about the waste of taxpayer money for the pens and for the time/salary of the lady depicted in the video, but I suppose there are more important things to save my outrage for.  Still, kudos to GWB for taking a more sensible approach.


  1. Maybe that was because nobody would want to own the pen used to sign the Patriot Act into law (except perhaps to punish it in an object lesson to the other pens).

  2. Sensible? Bush? "Here have this pen that I didn't use. It's not significant, but you should have it."

  3. I think it's really disrespectful and dismissive to break from a tradition like this. I mean, they're fancy PENS, they aren't that expensive, so why not take a few extra minutes to create some historical artifacts?

    I think Bush just didn't care and wanted to get finished as quickly as possible. By pocketing the pens it shows how little he cared for the symbolism of the presidency and the documents he signed.

    Giving the unused pens as gifts seems pretty ungrateful as well. "Here's a normal pen that I couldn't take 30 seconds to actually use to turn it into a historical artifact. You're welcome!"

  4. Someone else was more sensible because they only used one pen (whilst still buying all the others) and then just handing out the "fake" ones.

    I am disappointed Minnesotastan...


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