The news is filled with stories about Donald Trump’s sexual escapades with Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal to name but two. He is being judged and berated for cheating on his wife. I am no fan of Donald Trump. I recognize there may be some issues as to breach of campaign finance laws in the payments to women. No president has ever suffered lasting political damage just for adultery. Cover-up is a different story.
When looking at the 20th-century, the list of adulterous presidents is not short. There was Bill Clinton. Gerry Ford favoured young women while skiing out west. Lyndon Johnson, was notorious for pride in his genitalia. He held meetings with senior officials while he was on the toilet or otherwise and often was exposed. Lyndon Johnson was sexually active outside of his marriage. There was John Kennedy. From all accounts he was an unapologetic sexual predator of olympic appetites. He was preceded by FDR, like the others on this list, he had several mistresses both before and during their time in the White House. Before him, Warren Harding was involved with mistresses in the White House closets. Other than Clinton, and now Trump, the rest carried on with little or no public scrutiny or outcry.
In the 19th century Thomas Jefferson was sexually active with his slaves. Forty Nine year-old President Grover Cleveland married his 21-year-old ward, daughter of his deceased partner, whose estate he administered.
None of this activity seems to have prevented most of these men from accomplishing great things and being good leaders. It may have even helped. Those who did not succeed were not hindered by their extramarital activity.
People want bold and dynamic leaders. In order to succeed in politics you generally need to be an A-type personality. They are more often than not, best suited to deal with domestic and foreign enemies in dangerous and high-stakes games. That type of personality often brings with it some less than appealing personality traits manifesting in thought and action.
Had the behaviour of those leaders been public and judged based on standards of today’s political correctness and in the light of the internet, these men would be seen as the social and sexual transgressors that they were. I personally do not judge them, but then I can understand how a vast majority want their leaders to be role models.
There were many great presidents who were married and stayed faithful to their wives. Likewise there were failures as presidents who were faithful to their marriages. It may make a difference to those whose expectations of their presidents include high moral standards. There is no evidence that commitment to their marriages affected their success or failure anymore than it did the sexually aggressive and predatory presidents.
The problem with Trump is the lies and cover-up. He also is seen by many as sleazy given the attitude he expressed on the Billy Bush tape. He is crass and creepy. Trump’s public bragging of his sexual exploits and prowess cannot be compared to any other president. There are very few ways, if any, by which Trump could be compared to any other president.
When it comes to Presidential sex, whether Democrats, Republicans, Federalist, or Whigs, there is no evidence that it affects one’s ability to do the job.