Hillary Clinton’s running for president, and lots of skeletons will clatter out of the closet. But she’s not the first, nor last, candidate with secrets. (© Brooks Kraft/Corbis photo)
Through the years, she has withstood considerable criticism from the press and elsewhere. Now that Hillary Clinton has officially opened the door (including closet door) to reclaim the White House, she can expect even heavier flack. Erased e-mails, Bill’s romps, Benghazi and scores more skeletons will loudly trail her campaign, making more closet clatter than Bill’s saxophone collection.
Of course, if she’s nominated and wins in 2016, it isn’t as if Hillary would be the only president who had closets full of skeletons. Even Bill’s extramarital misbehavior seems mild compared to some others. Does Watergate and Richard Nixon bring back any memories? And there were many others.
My first vote for a president was in 1948, when Harry Truman ran. Called the accidental president, he replaced Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1945 when FDR suddenly died. I was a volunteer campaigner for Truman and heard all kinds of scandal stories about him. Some are probably true.
After his men’s clothing store went broke, Truman later jumped from local judge to senator in Missouri. The skeleton in his closet was his pal Tom Pendergast, a corrupt political boss. When FDR was running for his fourth term, advisers suggested Truman as the vice presidential candidate. FDR was rumored to have remarked, “Just keep the little bastard out of my hair.”
Does that remind you of the 2008 campaign when John McCain was seeking a running mate? When his political crew suggested little-known Sarah Palin, then governor of Alaska, he supposedly said something very similar. Rumors are that he feared Hillary Clinton would be on the Democratic ticket with Obama, and he desperately needed a woman. Any woman.
What about the fun-loving Kennedys? Though much of it is still iffy, John F. Kennedy‘s secret relationships with a mob girlfriend, Marilyn Monroe and many others still echo through the rumor mills. Back then, to continue the tradition of presidential closet skeletons, possibly JFK suggested to brother Bobby Kennedy to spend some time with Marilyn as preparation for his presidential run.
Presidential history is full of scandalous closet skeletons. Andy Jackson married Rachel before she was officially divorced. Grover Cleveland had a similar scandal when he was accused of fathering a child with a secret girlfriend. Andrew Johnson, who became president when Lincoln was killed, was a longtime alcoholic who barely survived impeachment.
Probably the most historic presidential scandal was after little Georgie Washington chopped down the cherry tree. When he confessed to his dad and said he couldn’t tell a lie, maybe the elder Washington should have said, “You’ll never, never get to be president if you don’t know how to lie your way out of getting your butt smacked.”
Ted Sherman is a contributing journalist for TheBlot Magazine.