Curious? Presumably, otherwise you would not have clicked on this list. We’ve collected ten scandals here, all of which have been caused (or had to do with) American presidents. Some of these scandals you’re probably familiar with (the first one, I hope), but some of the others happened so long ago that not everyone knows about them. However, after reading this list you will know that. Nice to think about the next time you hear a debate from Donald Trump. He could also commit such a blunder, should he become president!
10. The Lewinsky Affair, starring Bill Clinton
Bill Clinton was born in the year 1946, and was president of America from 1993 to 2001. He was a Democrat, which is the more or less ‘left’ party in America. Bill was (is) a charming man who never had any trouble convincing people to do what he thought was best. He was a reasonable president until his infamous affair came to light. He had suffered from loose hands, and had applied those hands to a White House staff member named Monica Lewinsky. And that while he was married!
The fact that he invariably continued to deny that any relationship (or any other form of interaction) had taken place between him and Monica only made things worse for him, and the whole world reacted with outrage. In 1998 the House of Representatives asked for him to be impeached, but the Senate decided that this was not necessary and Bill was allowed to serve his term. However, his reputation was virtually destroyed after this.
Funny thing is, in the upcoming presidential election, one of the major candidates is Bill’s wife, Hillary. And she seems to have a flair for it too! Let’s just hope she doesn’t suffer from loose hands.
9. Iran-Contra Affair, with Ronald Reagan
Ronald Reagan was born in 1911, and died in 2004. As the 40th president of America, he ruled between 1981 and 1989. During that period he managed to bring a lot of changes to the American economic system. The term ‘reaganomics’ does not come from its name for nothing, it stands for a strong reduction of state involvement in the market, lower taxes and more deregulation. He also survived an attempted assassination, and was president when the Iron Curtain was finally removed from Germany. In addition, he was a participant in the infamous Iran-Contra scandal.
You may have never heard of it. The bottom line is that, against international alliances, he helped financially support a revolution. He sold weapons to Iran and used the money he earned to support a revolutionary group of rebels in Nicaragua. This group went by the name Contra. Naturally, this resulted in a huge uproar, and congressional hearings were eventually held to resolve the matter. While some Americans remember Reagan as a “market liberator,” for many others his name symbolizes “the man who breaks rules when they don’t suit him.” Not very reliable as president, perhaps?
8. Watergate, with Richard Nixon as the culprit
Nixon was born in 1913, and died in 1994. He was the 37th president of America and the only one in the history of American presidents to resign on his own initiative. He ran the United States from 1969 to 1974, during which time he is believed to have engaged in so-called “dirty tricks,” underhanded practices to uncover the plans and ideas of his opponents in government.
In 1972, five men broke into Watergate and exposed these practices. It soon became known, through further investigation, which practices Richard and his advisers had used over the years. Before he could be ousted by the Senate, however, Richard himself resigned “honorably” and gave his successor a chance to clean up. Anyway, Nixon was a Republican.
7. “America Can Do Anything”, with Lyndon Johnson
A slightly lesser-known president and also a lesser-known scandal, but no less shocking for that. Lyndon was born in 1908 and died in 1973, he was president from 1963 to 1969 (thus succeeded by Richard Nixon). Lyndon was a Democrat. However, that was not his mistake. His blunder lay in underestimating the persistent toughness of the Viet Cong, and lacking a clear strategy for bringing the Vietnam War to an end.
The tactics of the Viet Cong were difficult for the American army, which was trained to wage ‘real’ war, because these Vietnamese guerrilla fighters rarely stayed in one place for long, knew how best to use the terrain (dense jungle). to their advantage and were experts at sudden obstacles. It was during Lyndon’s presidency that the most powerful nation in the world was taught a lesson in the humility of a third world country with only inferior weapons and military support. Not a pleasant lesson for the warlike American of the time…
6. Bay of Pigs invasion, during John F Kennedy’s presidency
John F Kennedy, born in 1917 and assassinated in 1963, is perhaps best known for his death, which was the result of a successful attempt on his life. As the 35th president of America, he was executive from 1961 to 1963. As a Democrat, he has accomplished many good things for America, but also a number of things that are less deserving of the beauty prize.
You are undoubtedly familiar with the Cuba Crisis, but the Bay of Pigs invasion?
This is a futile attempt by Cuban exiles, supported by America, to retake Cuba. John’s predecessor Eisenhower had already approved a plan of action before John’s time, severing diplomatic relations. John followed this action with another, namely the financial support of the exiled Cubans. However, it amounted to such a defeat for America that it left the entire Kennedy administration in shame for months to come.
5. Teapot Dome scandal, during Warren G Harding’s period
Warren was born in 1865 and died in 1923, so now we’re going back in time a little further. He was president between 1921 and 1923 (the Roaring Twenties, a time of economic growth and prosperity in America), and he was, as is often the case during prosperous times, a Republican. As the 29th president, he was quite popular during his presidency, but his popularity quickly declined after his death as the scandals he had to his name came to light. One of those scandals is the teapot dome.
It may not be fair to attribute this scandal entirely to Warren, as it was not really caused by his direct actions. Anyway, it happened during the period when he had to lead his country, and therefore he bears partial responsibility. The problem lay in his Secretary General Albert Fall taking bribes in exchange for permits for the Mammoth Oil Company oil company on the Teapot Dome reservation.
He earned about $100,000 in tokens, an amount that doesn’t sound terribly high, but was a huge amount of capital at the time.
Fortunately for Harding, this scandal only came to light after he himself had already put out the pennant. Unfortunately, the scandal was linked to his name, and his reputation as a reasonable president is therefore fairly under threat.
4. President Cleveland’s sex scandal, which landed him a presidency!
Grover Cleveland, born 1837 and died 1908, was a Democratic president with serial number 22 (and later, 24). He was therefore president between 1885 and 1889, and a little later between 1893 and 1897. In 1884, in his first presidential campaign, he had a relationship with a widow named Maria C Halpin. So far no trouble. However, the widow in question claimed that Grover was the father of her child, which was of course out of the question at the time, as they were not married.
However, he did not deny anything, but instead decided to support the child financially. Curiously, his open attitude to the incident helped him vote, and he was valued for his honesty, rather than loathed for his loose hands. Number ten in the list could have learned from this…
3. The Eaton Affair, Andrew Jackson and His Best Friend
We go further back in time to the seventh president of the United States, Andrew Jackson. Andrew was born in 1767 and died about 1845, he was president between 1829 and 1837. What was Andrew up to?
Quite little actually, he himself was innocent in the case, but he took it up for the wrong person. He was personally not flawless, he had married ‘accidentally’ to a woman who was actually still married to another. He himself knew nothing about it, of course, but she did.
But this was not the ‘Eaton Affair’ (also known as the Pettikata affair), which involved his war secretary general John Henry Eaton. J
ohn Eaton married the recently widowed Margaret Timberlake, whose husband had taken his own life. Presumably the man had been depressed, but of course it was quickly rumored that Margaret’s first husband had committed suicide because of her “adultery” with Eaton. Almost the entire cabinet has turned against Eaton in this affair, except for Andrew Jackson. This, of course, brought discord among the ranks and the cabinet nearly collapsed from the friction caused by these (presumably incorrect) rumours.
2. Star Route Scandal, with James Garfield
James Garfield was America’s 20th president, born in 1831, and died in 1881. As president between March 1881 and, well, unfortunately for him, September that same year, he didn’t have the power of the nation for long. He was murdered, but not before he had to prove his own abilities in the Star Route scandal.
The scandal in question involved gross corruption in the postal system. The mail was delivered by private companies during that period, and those companies made a lot of money by cheating the amounts they demanded as payment for delivery. Perhaps because of his own humble origins, James found this unacceptable, despite the fact that many of his party members presumably earned a nice pocket money in this kind of unethical practice. He made short work of it,
1. Thomas Jefferson’s Slave Girl
In an era where the slave trade had not yet been abolished, Thomas Jefferson rose to power. Born in 1743 and died in 1826, he was president of (then slightly smaller) America between 1801 and 1809. He is most famous as one of the ‘Founding Fathers’, the forefathers of America. He was also one of the main authors of the Declaration of Independence, a document that still forms the basis of the American Constitution.
He was not the first, but the third president of America, with only John Adams and George Washington as predecessors to learn from. No wonder he didn’t do it exactly as he should.
He was accused of having an intimate relationship with a slave girl, Sally Hemings. This was, at the time, totally unthinkable for a man of his stature (for any man, for that matter, who was free and white).
To make matters worse, she also managed to have a child by him. Wrong stuff, of course. He vehemently denied the allegations and managed to fulfill his presidential position. However, speculation continued for a long time after his death, and when it was finally possible, DNA testing was carried out, showing that there was ‘presumably’ a passionate gene transfer between Thomas and Sally. And who would have any problem with that nowadays? But at that time…
So far, ten scandals involving US presidents. Of course, the list of possible blunders is much longer than the ten incidents mentioned here. We have only done a small selection from a large collection. Finally, presidents, they are like real people, and as such fully capable of making mistakes.
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