The most badass presidents in U.S. history

George Washington had an uncanny ability to avoid British bullets during the Revolutionary War, and he certainly looked good crossing rivers in boats, but the first president of any nation is always going to set the bar high and look like a badass in the process. And while standing in the line of fire during a battle is certainly a quick way to buy a house in the town of Tough, it's not the only way, and George Washington isn't the only president living there. Here are a few other presidents who made that journey, and can lay claim to being among the most badass presidents in history.

Jimmy Carter

Jimmy Carter might not be the first name to come to mind when thinking of badass presidents, but that's probably because he didn't wait for his move to the White House to check that box. Back in 1952, while he was a nuclear specialist in the Navy, Carter was sent to Ontario, Canada, where an experimental nuclear reactor had gone into partial meltdown and flooded the reactor building's basement with radioactive water. To save the day, Carter and his team needed to dismantle the reactor core—however, the radiation levels were so high, they could only be exposed for 90 seconds at a time, and they only had hand tools. So they took turns entering the reactor, working as fast as they could, and getting right the hell out.

Slowly, the work got done, but not before they all received massive doses of radiation—so much, in fact, that their urine was still coming out radioactive months later. If this story were in a comic book, he'd be wearing a cape and flying after that … but since it's real life, he just gets glowing pee.

Dwight D. Eisenhower

It's common during an election for the candidates' qualifications to be a point of discussion. While some candidates might boast of their previous experience in Congress, and quite a few may claim military service, when it came to Dwight D. Eisenhower the point was moot. Not since Washington had there been a presidential candidate with more practice at dealing with high stakes. Washington faced the British, but Eisenhower faced arguably the most evil man in history and wielded a military force that would have made Washington wet his pants.

See, during World War II, not only was Eisenhower in the Army, he commanded the Army. Not just the US Army, by the way … all the armies. For Operation Overlord, the 1944 allied invasion of Nazi-occupied Europe, Eisenhower was appointed Supreme Allied Commander in Europe. He was responsible for overseeing the planning and execution of possibly the most important military operation of the war, which involved over two million men, nearly 10,000 aircraft, and countless tanks and ships. After that, being President must have seemed like a cinch.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Since FDR spent most of his life after 1921 in a wheelchair, he wasn't about to "action man" his way into the halls of badassery. So he found another way. Beginning his presidency in 1933, at the height of the worst depression the United States had ever seen, it would probably have been hard to make things worse. But thanks to some decisive leadership, things started to turn around—by the time he died at the start of his record fourth consecutive term, unemployment had dropped from 25 percent to less than two percent.

While impressive, that's not even why FDR was a badass. The United States was in depression in 1933 in more ways than one, namely that Prohibition was still in effect. But less than a month after his inauguration, he had signed into law the Cullen-Harrison Act, which legalized the sale of drinks with less than 3.2 percent alcohol. This marked the first nail in the coffin of Prohibition. It would only take six more months for the rest of the job to be completed, with the repeal of the 18th Amendment—another three terms for Roosevelt was virtually guaranteed.

John F. Kennedy

JFK is famous for a lot of things, such as dying very publicly in 1963. But there was obviously more to the man than his death (and his well-publicized philandering), and some of it happened before he was president. When World War II finally washed up on American shores in 1941, many people did all they could to avoid getting called up in the draft, which was easier to achieve if you had connections. JFK had connections, but instead of avoiding the draft, he went the other way. Kennedy was actually ruled unfit for military service, due to problems with his lower back, but he was so determined to serve, that he pulled strings and was commissioned as an ensign in October 1941.

After serving in a few safe staff jobs in the US, he again went out of his way to get in harm's way, volunteering for Motor Torpedo Boat school in 1942. Before long, he was commanding a PT boat in the Pacific. While in command of PT-109 in August 1943, he and his crew were surprised by a Japanese destroyer travelling at high speed—before anything could be done to avoid it, the PT boat was rammed and cut in half. Left floating in the sea with ten other survivors, the group decided to avoid capture by swimming to a nearby island. However, since one of the crew was too badly burned to swim, Kennedy—who was injured himself—grabbed a strap of the man's life jacket in his teeth, and towed him three miles to safety.

Gerald Ford

Gerald Ford was a star athlete in high school and college, but he must have known his future lay elsewhere. After he graduated from the University of Michigan in 1935, he made his first badass decision, turning down contract offers from both the Detroit Lions and the Green Bay Packers. Instead, he went to Yale where he became a coach, and later studied law. After serving in the Navy during the World War II, he began a long career in politics—after rising through the ranks of the Republican Party, he found himself in just the right position to take over, when Vice President Agnew resigned in 1973. However, he didn't have much time to enjoy his unexpected promotion, because less than a year later, the Watergate scandal finally caught up with President Nixon, and Ford found himself once again unexpectedly promoted. This earned him the impressive distinction of being the only person to be both Vice President and President, without ever actually being elected for either role.

Some people are born badasses, some people achieve badassery, and some, like Gerald Ford, have badassery thrust upon them.