• Government

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.

  • Ride In A Convertible

    The assassination of John F. Kennedy was a turning point in the history of presidential security. Waving from an open-topped convertible in a parade just isn't an option anymore, for obvious reasons. But that tragic day in Dallas was far from Kennedy's first time riding through crowded city streets in such a vulnerable way.

    In 1963, for example, Kennedy stood in the back of a convertible to wave to crowds while on a visit to Dublin. Irish president Eamon de Valera commented at the time, "what an easy target he would have been."

  • Be Alone When Out In Public

    Photo: Evan El-Amin / Shutterstock.com

    As former agent Jonathan Wackrow puts it in an interview with NBC, "Secret Service protection is the most intrusive thing that anyone could ever experience." Presidents can't even arrange a pickup basketball game - as Obama attempted early in his administration - without four hours' notice. Unless a president is safely ensconced in the fortress-like conditions of the White House, they simply can't be alone.

  • Copyright Published Works While In Office

    Photo: Debby Wong / Shutterstock.com

    If a sitting US president somehow found the time to write and publish a memoir or book of essays while still in office, they couldn't, as a federal employee, secure a copyright on that work. US copyright law states any work created by a federal government employee in that person's official capacity - including the president - is in the public domain.

    A president is on duty 24/7, meaning anything unclassified they write while in office, including speeches, are free for others to use and repurpose.

  • Open The Windows In The White House

    Photo: evenfh / Shutterstock.com

    Even the most powerful person in the world can't crack a window in his house to let in the breeze. As Michelle Obama related to Stephen Colbert in 2015, the Secret Service requires that all the windows stay closed. This also applies to windows in all official transportation.

    The First Lady did reveal one exception: "One day as a treat, my lead agent let me have my windows open on the way to Camp David. It was like five minutes out. He was like, 'Windows open. Enjoy it.'"