Rough Public Discourses
This democracy has spawned rough public discourses. American journalism “saint,” Thomas Jefferson, is often cited in defense of free press; these were said during his early years in the White House.
When Mr. Jefferson left office, he was opposed to the very notion. Newspapers in those days harped on his relationship with Sally Hemmings with whom he sired six children; she was his very light skinned slave.
President Andrew Jackson was notorious for carrying a cudgel and almost beating a man, who attempted to assassinate him, to death. In that dueling age, he fought several duels over his wife, Rachel. Her divorce came after they were married; they stood with the preacher again.
During the Civil War, criticism of Republican Abraham Lincoln was considered seditious; still his opponents reached low and dirty, particularly about his wife, Mary Todd. His successor was almost maligned out of the White House; only one vote saved him at the impeachment trial before the U.S. Senate.
President Ulysses S. Grant’s administration was widely held guilty of corruption, but he emerged clean. The next big scandal was set off by Democratic candidate, Grover Cleveland; he served two terms separated by four years. He faced the motto and song: “Ma, ma, where’s my pa? Gone to the White House! Ha! Ha! Ha!”
Mr. Cleveland sired a child with an unmarried woman – the truth behind the slogan. All the invective is by no means false! In any event, he was wed at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW to his 21-year-old ward; he was 38-years older. The country held its breath.
There were various stories manufactured for national politicians, but not everyone. William Gamaliel Harding was infamous for his White House closet trysts; but then the Teapot Dome scandal happened on his watch. The record shows he died of a heart attack; more mysterious was the rumor that he suffered blood poisoning while coming from a visit to Alaska.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt underwent many rumors. True, however, he had a mistress who was with him at the time of his death in April 1945, which sent the nation into mourning. His four terms made him the only president I knew during my boyhood.
Aside from a scandalous photo with Lauren Bacall, Harry S Truman was never known to stray. Blowups occurred during his years, the most famous had to do with fur coats; these had nothing to do with him. Dwight D. Eisenhower’s chief of staff, Sherman Adams, exited the White House, trailing stories of how expensive pelts done him in. The general of the armies seemed to have had a mistress while in Europe, his driver-officer Kay Summersby.
By his sexual appetite, John F. Kennedy set the record for various women, including blonde bombshell Marilyn Monroe – and his aide, Pam Turnure. An incident that went around Washington those days: his equally famous wife Jackie was giving a White House tour when she reached a closed door. Her guests were not let in, she explaining: this meant her husband was “entertaining Ms. Turnure.”
Of course, Richard M. Nixon had the Watergate that forced his resignation from the nation’s highest office. William Jefferson Clinton, like the first post-Civil War president, faced impeachment over an affair with the intern Monica Lewinsky; but he was reaffirmed by a larger margin.
George W. Bush was accused of a maneuver to “steal” the 2000 presidential election; all kind of charges followed. He created such revulsion; he was succeeded by the first African American White House resident.
As readers know, through thick and thin, I have defended Barack Obama; some of the tales smack of racism. They might turn out to be not true. But like every other U.S. columnist, I’m stuck with my choice – for better or worse.