Totally Normal Things The President Can't Do When In Office

There are a ton of things the President of the United States can't do in an official capacity as the head of the Executive Branch. But there are also mundane, everyday things the US president isn't allowed to do while in office, mainly for security reasons, that are quite surprising. Ironically, they're the kind of freedoms so commonplace most Americans take them for granted.

Many of the forbidden activities listed below don't come from the official "rules" for being president: they're not all based on any kind of law. The everyday things American presidents can't do come primarily from the ever-evolving guidelines set in place by the Secret Service, which the president technically has the right to ignore, but doesn't, for obvious reasons. Read on for the totally normal things even the president can't do.


  • Go Anywhere Without The "Football"

    The "Football" is the nickname given to the briefcase the Secret Service carries with them wherever they travel with the president. Though its exact contents are unknown, it does provide a way for the president to confirm his identity and contact the National Military Command Center in case of an emergency. It also provides a "menu" of options in case of a nuclear conflict. Presidents have to keep a laminated code card with them at all times to activate the "Football," and a Secret Service agent has to lug the 45-pound bag around in close proximity to the president wherever they go.

  • Eat Outside The White House Without A "Taster"

    It sounds like an unenviable task from the Middle Ages, but yes, presidential food "tasters" do exist. The Secret Service doesn't speak openly about it, but a White House spokesman and one senator (just to name a few legit sources) have mentioned the role to the press. This has led to some awkward situations, such as a lunch meeting with Senate Republicans on Capitol Hill in 2013 where a taster-free Obama couldn't partake.

     "He looked longingly at [the food]," according to Maine Senator Susan Collins.

  • Use An iPhone

    Use An iPhone
    Photo: Neirfy /

    Not even the Commander in Chief gets to pick what kind of smartphone to use. Obama - the first president to carry a smartphone - admitted in 2013 that he was not able to use the popular iPhone due to unspecified security concerns. He instead fought to use a heavily modified Blackberry while in office, his model of choice since before his first big win back in 2008.

     "They're going to pry it out of my hands," Obama told CNBC at the time.

  • Drive A Car

    Drive A Car
    Photo: A.PAES /

    That's right: US presidents are not even allowed to drive their own vehicles - at least not on public roads. Lyndon B. Johnson was likely the last president to ever drive on a taxpayer-funded highway. Private property is a different story: George W. Bush, for example, drove a pickup truck on his Crawford, TX, property and Ronald Reagan liked driving Jeeps on his ranch near Santa Barbara, CA. Obama, however, only drove a golf cart on private property during his years in office, surprisingly without the Secret Service at his side.

    Instead of driving, the president often rides in heavily modified presidential state cars.