January 14, 1995
Men of great ability are generally of a large and vigorous animal nature.
Henry Taylor, 1836
The British Broadcasting Company just released a one hour documentary on Chairman Mao in which, among other things, a five minute segment is devoted to The Chairman disporting himself with young women. The Chinese government was miffed and said so. The film makers are delighted. It is the equivalent of a book being banned in Boston, and insures that the broadcast will get a large audience. Nothing sells like celebrity sex. Even confirmed dour intellectuals' eyes light up at the thought that Mao fooled around.
Among the American presidents, two have well established reputations as womanizers, John Kennedy and Bill Clinton. Both were relatively young and in their sexual prime. Jimmy Carter went as far as to say that he has lusted in his heart. All that can be said about the other presidents is that we don't know, so we should give them the benefit of the doubt. Whether we should assume that they did or that they didn't depends on your point of view. Joseph Kennedy, father of JFK, Bobby and Teddy, was a womanizer and all of his sons seemed to followed in the old man's footsteps. The full story on Clinton is not likely to come out until he is no longer president, at which time we will be deluged with biographies --accurate and otherwise.
The Mao story refers to The Chairman as "The Last Emperor". The tradition in many nations was, and is, that the ruler of a country is supposed to get the pick of the women. In some countries he could select as many women as he wanted and could acquire them without the consent of the women or their parents. There was a custom in Europe called le droit du seigneur, the right of the lord. It was the local lord's privilege to deflower a woman on her wedding night. As populations grew, this became increasingly more difficult for the monarch.
As any Hollywood gossip columnist could tell you, there are beautiful women who get their jollies out of bedding powerful and famous men. One of the most famous of these women was Marilyn Monroe.
I forget who said it, but an old adage is that only the middle class is concerned with marital fidelity; the lower classes don't know any better and the upper classes don't care.
In the British upper classes, marriages were sacred and divorce uncommon. Frequently both spouses had involvements outside the marriage. Once the master of the house knows that his first two sons are really his, he might not care about subsequent descendents. Birth control and relatively safe abortion changed the whole complexion of marital fidelity. The property rights of the master need not be jeopardized by his wife fooling around. Make no mistake about it, morality had nothing to do with marital fidelity among the wealthy. What a man wanted to be sure of was that the son who inherited all of his wealth was really his son. When a child is born, the only thing that you can be absolutely sure of is the identity of the mother. The identity of the father has to be taken on faith. New genetic techniques might change that.
This latest flap has to do with President Clinton, who apparently likes to fool around. One of his foolishnesses is that he hasn't been very discrete about it. Too many people knew about what should have been between him and the woman. His fooling around doesn't seem to bother his wife. She is really the only one who should be concerned, and she is more concerned about the unfavorable publicity than her husband's conduct.
I happen to believe that what a public employee does with his free time is none of anybody's business, as long as it isn't illegal. I am willing to give the president the benefit of the doubt. If I were absolutely sure that Bill Clinton didn't fool around, I would probably vote for him anyway.
One of the problems with TV news is that there has to be a picture to go with the words. As a consequence, we were continually bored with pictures of Presidents Eisenhower and Ford swinging a golf club, Truman walking, Nixon scowling, Reagan on horseback, Bush fishing, Clinton jogging and golfing.
Clinton's jogging seems more like work than play. I think that the public is entitled to an occasional glimpse of Clinton at play. As could be predicted, a president who works hard should be expected to play hard.
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