It is a universally recognized truth that the Achilles heel is not located anywhere near a person’s foot but rather higher up, as many US presidents and presidential candidates can attest. Stories of illicit sex – including sexual assault – have circulated around our political leaders since the days of the Founders. But if the past is a prologue, then alleged Democratic candidate Joe Biden need not worry about the allegations of his former employee Tara Reade, who claims that in 1993 he pushed her against a wall and took her. penetrated with his fingers. As I explore in my next book, Sex with Presidents, we Americans gasped in indignation at the bad sexual behavior of political candidates and then blithely ignored them at the polls, voting on questions instead.
As a 25-year-old bachelor, Thomas Jefferson assaulted his best friend’s wife who, according to one account, defended her virtue with a pair of scissors. Widowed 20 years later, he began a long-term sexual relationship with slave Sally Hemings when she was between the ages of 14 and 16, a relationship that many today would consider rape, even though at the time. his race was scandalous. The tabloid press gleefully praised the story in the 1804 election, but most voters didn’t care. Jefferson was re-elected on a strong economy, low taxes, and the triumph of the Louisiana Purchase, with which he had doubled the size of the United States with the stroke of a pen.
Ten years before running for president in 1884, Grover Cleveland raped a righteous widow, impregnated her, forcibly took their son from her and abandoned him for adoption and sent her against her will to an asylum. crazy. When, during the presidential campaign, his victim told his story to the press, Cleveland didn’t bother to deny it. His political opponents heckled him on stage and in the press with: “Ma! My! Where is my daddy?
Cleveland’s opponent, Republican candidate Richard Blaine, was known both as a loyal husband and a corrupt politician, after being accused of accepting bribes of around $ 2.5 million in today’s money when he was Speaker of the House. Cleveland, on the other hand, while he was mayor of Buffalo and governor of New York City, had cut taxes, cut bureaucracy and fought corruption. When a pastor asked, “Do the American people want a common libertine for their president?” the answer, as the election results proved, was yes, as long as he was financially honest.
For several decades in the 20th century, the press formed a barricade of complicit silence with regard to the sexual peccadilloes of politicians.
The public had no idea Warren G. Harding was bickering with young women in his Oval Office closet, in one case as his wife, Florence, knocked angrily on the office door.
They didn’t know that Franklin Roosevelt’s secretary, Missy LeHand, was walking around her room at the White House all night long in her nightshirt, taking dictation, as he said.
Or that Jack Kennedy and some of his male employees had orgies with secretaries and prostitutes in the White House swimming pool.
They never heard that Lyndon Johnson’s wife Lady Bird once entered the Oval Office to find him red-handed with one of his secretaries on a sofa, after which an enraged Johnson ordered the Secret Service install a ringing system to notify her when she was on her way.
Colorado Senator Gary Hart was the first victim to fall in the mouth of the new ’80s tabloid press. But it was his lies and obscurations about his monkey business with model Donna Rice that angered voters and the ‘led to abandoning the presidential race of 1988, not the case itself. Shortly after the story came out, a Time A poll asked Americans what they dislike most about a politician: engaging in extra-marital sex or lying to the public. Sixty-nine percent said they don’t like being lied to, while only 7% said they were more concerned about extra-marital sex.
“Donald Trump is the most extreme example to date of voters’ preference for balancing politics against personal holiness. “
A decade later, even the lie has not bothered most Americans. Bill Clinton’s highest approval ratings in eight years in office – 73 percent – came upon his impeachment in 1999 for lying about his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.
A Washington post A poll found that while a majority of Americans believed Clinton had lied under oath, they didn’t mind the lies because they were only about sex, and almost everyone was lying about sex. Clinton’s sex life was irrelevant to the sky-rocketing stock market, record-breaking job creation, low inflation, higher household incomes, a federal budget surplus, reduced crime, and lowest level of social assistance in 30 years. Gary Langer of ABC News summed up what most Americans felt about Bill Clinton: “You can’t trust him, he has weak morals and ethics and he did a good job.”
Donald Trump is the most extreme example to date of voters’ preference for balancing politics against personal holiness. During the 2016 campaign, many women accused him of inappropriate touching, including digital penetration. He even boasted of such behavior in a 2005 Access Hollywood cassette, published one month before the elections. In 2019, advice columnist E. Jean Carroll alleged that she raped her in a Bergdorf Goodman locker room in the mid-1990s. Many of her supporters – even evangelical Christians – don’t seem to care. They have found a candidate whose policies they wholeheartedly support.
Tara Reade’s allegations involve events decades old with a shifting narrative and some corroboration that she told friends about the assault years ago. Biden vigorously denied the story, saying it “never happened.” He was forced to refine his 2018 statement that “women should be believed” when it comes to sexual assault allegations, now stating the importance of “taking a woman’s allegations seriously when they are ‘advance – then examine them, examine them. “
Regardless of how the Joe Biden / Tara Reade story unfolds, chances are most voters won’t make it the deciding factor in their choice of president in November. To quote Grover Cleveland supporters after his victory, “Ma! My! Where is my daddy? I went to the White House, ha ha ha!
Eleanor Herman is the New York Times bestselling author of Sex with Kings and the upcoming Sex with Presidents (September 22, William Morrow)
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