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Is Obama No. 43 or No. 44?

By Lisa Vorderbrueggen
Monday, December 22nd, 2008 at 2:51 pm in Obama presidency.

Barack Obama: The 44th or the 43rd U.S. president, depending on how you count it

Barack Obama: The 44th or the 43rd U.S. president, depending on how you count it

One of my editors asked me this afternoon why everyone keeps referring to Barack Obama as the pending 44th president of the United States when, in fact, he will be the 43rd man to serve as president.

For an inexplicable reason, the commonly accepted presidential numbering system lists Grover Cleveland twice — No.’s 22 and 24 — because he served two non-consecutive terms. Hence, Obama is said to be the 44th president while only 42 other men have held the job. Interestingly, the men who served two consecutive terms are listed only once. (Check out Wikipedia’s list.)

Does anyone know how this decision to count Cleveland twice came about? (I put this question to a couple of crack U.S. presidential history buffs and I’ll let you know what they say.)

Whatever the reason, it aggravates my accuracy-is-paramount editor and even a third-grade teacher who wrote to Newsday.

“It seems to me like they just started doing it a LONG time ago on faulty logic and everybody has just fallen into step,” my editor says. “Stupid geese that we are … ”

I Googled “Obama” and “44th president” and found 2,160 entries under news.

Honk. Honk.

UPDATE: My friend Tim Farley, presidential buff extradordinaire, has this to say about the question: “A ruling by the State Department said that Cleveland should be listed as both the 22nd and 24th president as the administrations were not consecutive. They  were two different administrations all together. They had different VP’s and a different cabinet. So, the standard answer is ‘a ruling by the State Department.’ “

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  • RR

    Old Grover was fat enough to be 2 presidents! But he must have had considerable charm: his lovely bride Frances was more than 25 yrs his junior.

  • Renegade GOP

    Loooks like Mr. Farley has it right Lisa. Two different administrations. Deal with it.

  • http://www.ibabuzz.com wiliam

    obama is the 43rd president and he is also 43

  • http://www.presidentsusa.net cb
  • numberlogic

    The problem with the assertion made on the above-linked site is that it is indeed NOT irrelevant that Cleveland’s terms are nonconsecutive. There is a huge difference in serving for a given time period uninterrupted, and serving a new term after a term served by the opposition party.

  • bernie quigley

    A President is a person. Obama’s may be the 44th Administration, but is the 43rd person to serve as President.

  • William is a stupid head

    he’s 47 dumas!