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.