October 16, 2014

As of 1978, there were only 3 presidential candidates — known to Theodore White — who had not succumbed to sexual adventures with women who were not their wives.

"In his 1978 memoir, Theodore White, the most prolific and influential chronicler of presidential politics in the last half of the twentieth century, made John Kennedy and most of the other candidates he’d known sound like the Rolling Stones gathering up groupies on a North American tour. 'What was later written about Kennedy and women bothered White but little,' he wrote. 'He knew that Kennedy loved his wife — but that Kennedy, the politician, exuded that musk odor of power which acts as an aphrodisiac to of the other candidates he’d known sound like the Rolling Stones gathering up groupies on a North American tour. White was reasonably sure that only three presidential candidates he had ever met had denied themselves the pleasures invited by that aphrodisiac — Harry Truman, George Romney and Jimmy Carter. He was reasonably sure that all the others he had met had, at one time or another, on the campaign trail, accepted casual partners.” (Yes, White wrote his memoir in the reportorial third-person voice, and he used terms like 'musk odor.' It was a different time.)"

From the new book by Matt Bai, "All the Truth Is Out: The Week Politics Went Tabloid." That book is about how reporting on presidential candidates changed in 1987, when, for various reasons, the reporters who followed the candidates suddenly broke their conspiracy of silence and destroyed Gary Hart.

39 comments:

MayBee said...

It is really weird when you think about how Kennedy acted (blow jobs for aides in the White House pool during work hours!) and how he was portrayed (super family man, idyllic lifestyle).

I'd like to go back to a hybrid of that coverage. Little of the personal reporting, period. Not about the mistresses, but also not about the first lady and first kids. I hate the family-as-poll-number-enhancers tabloidism we have now.

(I like my new word)

Henry said...

That's three out of how many? Ten? Thirty? Three hundred?

Lyssa said...

I find this issue fascinating. You would think that this would have become normalized in the post-Clinton-era, but it appears that the opposite has happened - there's virtually no hint of any infidelity at all from GW Bush or Obama, nor from their main opponents at the time. John Edwards was crucified for it (among other things, but that seemed to be the most outrageous). It seems like we've moved to the point where this is unacceptable, without even meaning to.

traditionalguy said...

The smell of political power works for any man. Only two Southern Baptists and one Mormon were prouder of their Religious standing than they were of their power over young women.

Which makes those three the abnormal ones... they didn't even drink alcohol normally.

MayBee said...

Sexual adventures to women? That's odd wording, no?

RecChief said...

Is the Gary Hart incident the starting point of when the media decided that they could shape elections? Look how they propelled a failed community organizer who had no executive experience into the white house.

MayBee said...

there's virtually no hint of any infidelity at all from GW Bush or Obama, nor from their main opponents at the time.

The NYTs went after McCain with an infidelity insinuation. There was a weird thing that happened with Obama in 2008 when a rumor of an infidelity got out, and the woman subsequently deleted her business website.
But you are right, it is all very low-level low-grade rumor spreading.

TreeJoe said...

I would be more interested in this if Matt Bai hadn't acted as a really untalented partisan hack writing for Yahoo.

Don't get me wrong: I can respect a talented partisan hack. I just can't get excited about the writing of Matt Bai given his history of poorly writing.

St. George said...

The way things are going for Obama we'll see a National Enquirer story on him and/or his wife any day now.

Michael Fitzgerald said...

"John Edwards was crucified for it"- No, he was not. The democrat party media protected him, and buried the truth about his scumbaggery. It didn't come out until years later when the National Enquirer published the photos of him and his prostitute in a hotel room. Still, the progressive media barely touched the story, because it made them look like the complicit unprincipled partisan liars that they are. But they still point and laugh at Mark Sanford hiking the Appalachian trail. Democrat party hypocrite scum...

Ann Althouse said...

"That's three out of how many? Ten? Thirty? Three hundred?"

I think it's a period that begins with Truman and ends with Carter. White followed the presidential campaigns closely, and his books were the most prominent during that period, and apparently he know a lot of these characters. It's got to be at least 30, don't you think?

Did Nixon commit adultery? Did McGovern? Did Goldwater?

Ann Althouse said...

"Sexual adventures to women? That's odd wording, no?"

Sorry, that was an editing artifact. Nothing to attempt to understand there. Fixed.

Ann Althouse said...

"history of poorly writing"

That's the kind of thing that inevitably happens when you attack someone else's writing.

Lyssa said...

Michael Fitzgerald "John Edwards was crucified for it"- No, he was not. The democrat party media protected him, and buried the truth about his scumbaggery. It didn't come out until years later when the National Enquirer published the photos

Oh, I agree with that. But when it ultimately was recognized, he became radioactive, and his political career is now over because of it, is what I'm saying.

mccullough said...

I can't picture Nixon having sex. The bowling image keeps popping up in my head instead.

cubanbob said...

Not Nixon. Can anyone imagine Nixon having sex? Even with his own wife? Gerald Ford? No one has ever implied that he ever fooled around or Ronald Reagan while governor or while campaigning in '76 or '80 or while president. It appears the only candidates and presidents since Truman who have had outside marriage sex have been Democrats.

MayBee said...

I wonder if Reagan counts as a sexual adventurer (straying on his first wife) or not (possibly not cheating on Nancy).

ps. ha! Thanks for the clarification, Althouse.

rehajm said...

Adultery is a normal part of every presidential couple's relationship. It's. Very. Normal.

Very.

mikee said...

When can we expect the news reports about the many men drawn irresistibly to the musk of power exuded by Hillary! in the upcoming campaign, and will the reporters dare tell the truth about her behavior with them?

RecChief said...

Also, Matt Bai is an incredible liar, all the truth is not out. How rigorously did they vet Obama? and no, I'm not talking about his birth certificate. how about his medical records? People like Matt Bai demanded all of McCain's medical records, but allowed a doctor's note to suffice for Obama. We know what grades Bush got at Harvard Business School, but Obama's transcripts? 'Well, he's obviously brilliant!! If you're asking for his college transpripts, that are sealed, you must have a racist reason for asking.'

RecChief said...

Also, I see this as simply more normalization of Bill Clinton's behavior in the White House in order to ease the path for Hillary!

damikesc said...

I could've sworn Democrats told us, under Clinton, that ALL Presidents cheated. Hey, how can they AVOID it with women throwing vaginas at them all willy-nilly.

richardsson said...

I read the Amazon excerpt from Matt Bai's book and to me it reads like old fashioned Hollywood fan mag stuff. I was taken in by those old Teddy White books about the elections as a child and in my early teens. But, the Vietnam War and Chappaquiddick soured me on all of that. I had been taken in by all those lush LIFE magazine photo spreads of Jack sailing with Jackie and Caroline. It was all a deceit filled prelude to a long chain of disasters. By the time Gary Hart and later John Edwards came along, the last people I would ever vote for were liberal glamour boys. That the press "outed" Gary Hart was not enough to redeem them. They certainly played all their old tricks with Barack Obama, didn't they?

Left Bank of the Charles said...

The caveat "he had ever met" is significant. It's possible Theodore White never met Barry Goldwater or Richard Nixon.

rcocean said...

"That's three out of how many? Ten? Thirty? Three hundred?"

Sorry. Ike -no, Nixon -no Reagan - no, Ford - No. McGovern? I doubt it.

Rockefeller? Hell yes. LBJ? Yes, talk about disgusting though. Stevenson? Yep. Goldwater and Wallace? Who knows, And what about RFK?

rcocean said...

Forgot about RFK and Monroe. I think he had like 10 kids too. What a horn-dog.

DanTheMan said...

>> Ike - no

Ike, absolutely. Ask Kay Summersby about his fidelity.

The Godfather said...

Does f*cking the United States count? Because that would certainly put Jimmy and Barry on the list.

Kirk Parker said...

"Did Nixon commit adultery? Did McGovern? Did Goldwater? "

See? Gay, the whole lot of them.

Anonymous said...

One thing the media likes to do is point to other media and make an argument. I can see it now.

"Why are we bringing up Bill Clinton's dalliances? It's perfectly normal. See this article written by Matt Bai, see? Perfectly normal. If anything, Bill Clinton would have been abnormal if he hadn't!"

dwick said...

traditionalguy said: Which makes those three the abnormal ones... they didn't even drink alcohol normally.

Well, I don't know about Carter and Romney - but Truman was hardly a teetotaler. Read up on his regular backroom poker games with Sam Ervin and other pals when the whiskey and soda flowed freely during his years in the Senate.

Brian McKim & Traci Skene said...

Saw Matt Bai on Charley Rose. Delusional is the word that comes to mind. Gary Hart was "brilliant," dontcha know. He practically wept when recounting the whole sordid mess.

The Hart affair was the last time the media actually did their job.

Michael K said...

"men drawn irresistibly to the musk of power exuded by Hillary! in the upcoming campaign, and will the reporters dare tell the truth about her behavior with them?"

You obviously haven't been keeping up with her.

Huna, Huna , Huna

William said...

Saying that they all do it is a way of absolving JFK and Clinton. With the exception of Charlie Sheehan and Tiger Woods, one would be hard pressed to name two more flaming horn dogs who ever existed.......I read White's book, Witness to History. He was the Time reporter in China during the war. He was able to uncover the corruption among the Nationalists but the fact that the Reds were a bunch of psychopathic murderers escaped his attention. White accurately and objectively reported what his prejudices allowed him to see........Does anyone truly believe that if Nixon carried on the way JFK or even LBJ did, the press would not have reported it?

rcocean said...

"Ike, absolutely. Ask Kay Summersby about his fidelity."

Not really. Special situation, gone from Mamie for 3 years.

No evidence of infidelity before or after Kay Summersby.

rcocean said...

To continue the Presidents:

TR - No, never, not a possibility
Taft - See TR
Wilson -Nope
Harding - Hell yes.
Coolidge- LoL NO.
Hoover - See TR
FDR - Hell Yes.
Truman - Nope.

rcocean said...

The Democrats seem so much sexier or looser in moral don't they.

I mean you can imagine Dukakis, Gore, Kerry, or Obama stepping out on their wives, but Mitt, Dole, McCain or Bush I and II?!

William said...

I suppose you could say that a chief executive who doesn't fool around has more time and energy to expend in affairs of state. Affairs of the heart are notoriously time consuming--although JFK seemed to score with an economy of effort......On the other hand, Hitler had a relatively tranquil and monogamous relationship with Eva so being faithful doesn't have much of a crossover into other areas of life.

Anthony said...

I cannot imagine President Obama fooling around (do people still use that term) for the same reason my father never cheated on my mother.

Michelle would crack him in two like a dried twig and he knows it. (and I say good for Michelle)