I’ve always considered JFK as one of our more over rated presidents.  Although best known for his failed Cuba policy, his Reganesque tax cuts allowed the economy to double GDP growth and escape Recession. Fulfilling the old John Derek line of, “Live fast, die young and have a good-looking corpse!” his handsome good looks and a powerful father catapulted him into the pantheon of great presidents when folks are regularly polled.

Many years ago I read this bio of JFK. The author makes a convincing argument that without daddy’s interference in Washington, JFK would have been court martialed over the loss of his PT-boat, much like Capt. McVay was after the loss of the USS Indianapolis . Instead he got the Navy medal for heroism.

There exists a romanticism about progress waylaid by Oswald’s 6.5 mm Carcano rifle. The 60’s was a decade of rebirth. Vibrant, volatile, vivacious, dynamic, a great man would have found it a veritable laboratory exploding with possibilities. His poor health needs to be factored in to all the exuberance. Racked with Addison’s, he was constantly medicated. In and out of hospitals his whole life, his list of maladies could fill a medical book. Pain killers and steroids were administered daily by his WH doctors.

He probably knew his days were numbered, hence his rapacious appetite for fornication. He used to say, reported by more than one source, that he needed to have a woman every day just to work. We can assume that this meant a different woman each time and not his wife.

The original intern seducer, one has to be struck at the remarkable alacrity his staff possessed in keeping his secret trysts secret. Having an adoring press willing to not only look the other way but spin any negative  to a positive, they saw only what they wanted to see, and reported even less.  Being the first Catholic president, there can be little doubt that if an  Access Hollywood tape surfaced with JFK talking about grabbing body parts; it would have been no presidency for him.

Prior to the 92 election we all knew that Bill Clinton was a serial adulterer. At the time we did not know that he was a rapist but his dalliances were in the public domain. With his diminutive docile wife next to him, holding his hand and lending him moral support, he told the world on 60 Minutes that all the allegations confronting him were the product of unscrupulous tabloid bosses offering large sums of cash to women hurt by the current recession. Although he denied the 12 year Flowers affair, he would not deny cheating on his wife. Using the descriptive duck test (looks like, walks like, talks like, yep it’s a duck) the voters knew of his connubial failings yet elected him anyway. So a moral template existed for a serial philanderer to enter the White House.

Now we have Trump, mired in the same controversy and using the same tactics. With a compliant wife at his side he categorically denies all affairs.  And applying our go to duck standard, we know that he is lying. The voters knew going in what type of man he was, they knew he was morally dishonorable and had significant character flaws. I think it would be a mistake to discount or dismiss the genuine soul-searching millions of voters went through.

It also helps to understand the conundrum when you weigh the choice against the other morally bankrupt candidate. This was the lowest level the lesser of two evils. And most figured ,”Hey, whats a little adultery against an actual felon on the other side”.

The evangelical community had it the roughest. Christian leaders were contorting themselves into positions they never imagined. How do you support a moral munchkin? I’m sure each had their own separate come to jesus moment in rationalizing/justifying supporting a degenerate. No doubt for many it all came down to, “What can this substandard candidate do for us?” not the worst of motivations. And they would pray for him to find some path to salvation.

The American culture is more strident and less forgiving of marital failings. Europeans might find this type of behavior de rigueur; we find it weasily and weak.  Attitudes about religion, marital responsibilities, even capital punishment, it’s a good thing we are separated by a large ocean. We each look across the waters with both askance and fascination, feeling very fortunate that we are not the other.

10 comments

  1. Joseph Kennedy Jr. was supposed to be the one who got the Presidency; unfortunately he was killed during the war and became a largely forgotten Kennedy.

    For the record, I don’t believe Clinton is a rapist. Monica Lewinsky was sleazy, but by all accounts consensual. I’ve never really believed Paula Jones, Juanita Broaddrick, or Kathleen Willy.

    History is littered with powerful men behaving this way, so how do we judge an otherwise good man? By his personal behavior, or his other actions?

  2. Monica Lewinsky was sleazy, but by all accounts consensual.

    You don’t see the power dynamic in play here? Do you really think when a doe eyed 22 year old intern has a sexual relationship with the most power man in the western world, that they both bring the same level of awareness and consent into the mix? Why do you think she was sleazy? I suppose you think that she deserved all the bad treatment, especially from Hillary, that she got?

    By his personal behavior, or his other actions?

    That’s an easy one, we judge the man by his level of integrity, honor and character. We judge the president by the good things he has done.

    History is littered with powerful men behaving this way

    So bad behavior is mitigated or excused by how common it is?

  3. The evangelical community had it the roughest. Christian leaders were contorting themselves into positions they never imagined. How do you support a moral munchkin?

    Bullshit. How about this – if you think both candidates are immoral, and morality is something that’s important to you – don’t support either candidate. The fact they didn’t makes them either liars, cowards or hypocrites.

  4. How about this

    Sorry, doesn’t work for me. Elections are binary, it is either or, no degrees in between. Of those that did support him (many didn’t) I can only surmise that they do so in support of his policies, not him. Voting for him was in no way endorsing his lifestyle, they were voting on the issues.

    I suspect you would have said the same thing in 1980 when some Christians voted for Reagan. A Hollywood womanizer, the first would be divorced President, how could anyone who cares about morality vote for him? That is a narrow myopic naive world you live in.

    Trump was pro life, pro 2nd amendment, pro religious liberty and pro strict constructionist judges, Hillary was none of those. Yet you seem to think that it is hypocritical to support an immoral man for those that promote morality.

    In case you forgot, they are citizens and have to live in this country as well, you don’t really expect them to sit out all elections because imperfect candidates run, do you?

  5. Firstly, it wasn’t like conservatives had no say in who the presidential candidate was. Conservatives chose this person to represent them in the election.

    Yet you seem to think that it is hypocritical to support an immoral man for those that promote morality.

    Um, yeah. It is hypocritical to support x if you’ve previously been against x.

    No group has shifted their position more dramatically than white evangelical Protestants. More than seven in ten (72%) white evangelical Protestants say an elected official can behave ethically even if they have committed transgressions in their personal life—a 42-point jump from 2011, when only 30 % of white evangelical Protestants said the same.

    Listen – I get that no candidate is perfect. And everyone has to compromise with who they vote for. But morality seemed to be a pretty big issue for evangelicals before.

  6. Conservatives chose this person to represent them in the election.

    I thought we were talking about evangelicals? You know they are like not the same thing, right?

    Um, yeah. It is hypocritical to support x if you’ve previously been against x.

    And they are against X. They are not supporting the man’s lifestyle, they are supporting his polices.

    From your link;

    More Americans, especially White Evangelicals, Now Say Personal Immorality Not Disqualifying for Elected Officials

    Think about it, if evangelicals used immorality as a litmus test, they would never get the chance to vote in any elections. Please provide a candidate, any candidate in the last 2000 years that was perfect.

    They are not voting for their next pastor, they are not voting for their next cardinal or pope, they are voting for the next leader of our secular nation.

    Of course attitudes on morality in weighing perspective candidates have changed. I will go back to my Reagan example. You could have used the same argument, a womanizing divorced candidate for president? No way evangelicals could support that, but obviously some did, you don’t really view them as “liars, cowards or hypocrites” do you?

    But morality seemed to be a pretty big issue for evangelicals before

    Still is, and if they were trying to convert him, they would have to bring a lunch. They are supporting the message, not the messenger. Would they prefer a man like Mike Pence over Trump? In a red hot minute, but again, binary, pick one.

  7. I thought we were talking about evangelicals? You know they are like not the same thing, right?

    Yeah – my point was that Trump was chosen as the candidate in the primaries by conservatives (including evangelicals) So it wasn’t binary. there were about 50 choices at one point.

    And they are against X. They are not supporting the man’s lifestyle, they are supporting his polices.

    So the question was about whether people thought that an immoral lifestyle would affect the job. in 2011 70% of white evangelicals said that the lifestyle did affect the job. Now that’s 28%.

    Is it your contention that evangelicals would have been fine if Obama had an affair with a porn star? That they’d be mad about healthcare, but wouldn’t have mentioned the adultery?

  8. Yeah – my point was that Trump was chosen as the candidate in the primaries by conservatives (including evangelicals)

    OK I may have jumped the gun here – did a bit more reading, and it actually looks like evangelicals weren’t actually that being Trump in the primary – but rallied behind him in the general – which supports what you’re saying.

  9. my point was that Trump was chosen as the candidate in the primaries by conservatives (including evangelicals)

    So even though we were talking exclusively about evangelicals, now you want to change course and talk about “conservatives”? OK, we can do that.

    You do know that they are different, right? Some cross sect, sure, but many religious folks vote democrat. And if you are going to suggest that it was conservatives only that put Trump over the top, I will need to see your data, since there are Republicans that do not self identify as “conservatives”.

    So it wasn’t binary

    Ah, yes it was, I was talking about elections (more than once when I used that term). Yeah, I guess you could include some of the outlier candidates, but for most folks there was just 2 choices, Trump or Hillary.

    So the question was about whether people thought that an immoral lifestyle would affect the job. in 2011 70% of white evangelicals said that the lifestyle did affect the job. Now that’s 28%

    .

    And I’ll repeat myself, what constitutes an “immoral lifestyle” has changed over the years. What raised eyebrows 40 years ago is pedestrian by today’s standards. There were honest genuine folks who had difficulty voting for a Catholic in 1960. Ditto voting for a Mormon in 2012. I suspect that a good moral atheist candidate could easily be elected today, do you think that could have happened 40 years ago? Serial philanders like Clinton and Trump are not automatically discounted as viable, they would have been in the past.

    Is it your contention that evangelicals would have been fine if Obama had an affair with a porn star?

    Not at all, but my prior comments answered this already.

    OK I may have jumped the gun here – did a bit more reading, and it actually looks like evangelicals weren’t actually that being Trump in the primary – but rallied behind him in the general – which supports what you’re saying.

    I appreciate that.

    Just to be clear, I believe every evangelical has his own level of tolerance. Many could not, under any circumstances, support Trump, even when faced with the obvious outcome of a president hostile to everything they stand for. For those folks, I understand their thinking and support their position to take a stand. For those that held their nose and voted for Trump, I understand them as well. Their principles are still intact, they are just backing a flawed man with the hopes that he will do a good job and promote their vision for a better America. The jury is still out.

  10. The American culture is more strident and less forgiving of marital failings. Europeans might find this type of behavior de rigueur; we find it weasily and weak.

    Though Americans certainly fail frequently in their marital relations, the fact that the culture still largely rejects cheating is to its credit. Your comment about it being seen as weaselly and weak is a remarkable insight, at least for me. In attempting to put my finger on my own strongly-held views on those who cheat, ‘weak’ hits the nail on the head. I never really saw what’s so hard about being faithful, so my opinion of cheaters is pretty low–willpower so weak they are unable to resist the simplest and most obvious temptation.

    As for how it relates to our President, it’s pretty straight-forward I think. Church-going evangelicals (as opposed to those who simply identify as evangelical) never turned out for Trump in the primaries. It was only when faced with a choice between Hillary and the Don they went for the latter, largely out of a utilitarian judgement–they were more likely to get what they wanted politically from the latter, personal baggage included. For myself, I couldn’t bring myself to vote for Trump, in part because of his moral failings, and instead pulled the lever for McMuffin, which I now strongly regret, though I remain lukewarm about Trump.

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