Even President Trump’s staunchest supporters wince at times over some of his tweets. But in deciding whether to vote for him in 2020, those who ignore his success with the economy and defeat of the ISIS caliphate and instead focus on his comments might keep in mind what many of our presidents have really been like.
Mr. Trump’s comments that — intentionally or not — occasionally provoke outrage do not compare with the recklessness of John F. Kennedy, the criminal cover-up known as Watergate that Richard Nixon engaged in, the bizarre behavior of Lyndon Johnson, or the repugnant conduct of Bill Clinton.
As revealed in my book “The First Family Detail,” Secret Service agents assigned to protect Kennedy soon learned that he led a double life. He was the charismatic leader of the free world. But in his other life, he was the cheating, reckless husband whose aides snuck women into the White House to appease his sexual appetite.
Besides one-night stands, Kennedy had several consorts within the White House. One was Pamela Turnure, who had been his secretary when he was a senator, then became Jackie’s press secretary in the White House. Two others, Priscilla Wear and Jill Cowen, were secretaries who were known as Fiddle and Faddle, respectively.
“Neither did much work,” says former agent Larry Newman, who was on the Kennedy detail.
They would have threesomes with Kennedy.
If Secret Service agents found Kennedy to be reckless, Lyndon B. Johnson was uncouth, nasty and often drunk.
While president, Johnson had affairs with several of his young, fetching secretaries. At one point, Lady Bird Johnson caught him having sex on a sofa in the Oval Office with one of his secretaries. Johnson became furious at the Secret Service for not warning him.
Air Force One crew members say Johnson often closed the door to his stateroom and spent hours locked in with a pretty secretary, even when his wife was on board.
“Johnson would come on the plane [Air Force One], and the minute he got out of sight of the crowds, he would stand in the doorway and grin from ear to ear, and say, ‘You dumb sons of bitches. I piss on all of you,’” recalls Robert M. MacMillan, an Air Force One steward. Then he would strip naked even in front of his daughters.
Often inebriated, Johnson stashed bottles of whiskey in his car at the ranch. One evening when he was president, he came back to the White House drunk, screaming that the lights were on, a waste of electricity.
“He is the only [president] I have seen who was drunk,” says Frederick H. Walzel, a former chief of the White House branch of the Secret Service Uniformed Division.
Out of sheer arrogance, Johnson would sit on a toilet in the White House residence and defecate while being briefed by aides. At a press conference at his ranch, Johnson “whips his thing out and takes a leak, facing them [reporters] sideways,” says D. Patrick O’Donnell, an Air Force one flight engineer. “You could see the stream. It was embarrassing. I couldn’t believe it. Here was a man who is the president of the U.S., and he is taking a whiz out on the front lawn in front of a bunch of people.”
“If Johnson weren’t president, he’d be in an insane asylum,” says former Secret Service agent Richard Roth, who was occasionally on Johnson’s detail.
Johnson marshaled support from Southern Democrats for his civil rights legislation. But his hypocrisy extended to regularly referring to blacks with the n-word. On Air Force One, Johnson was discussing his proposed civil rights bill with two governors. Explaining why it was so important to him, Mr. MacMillan remembers that Johnson said it was simple: “I’ll have them niggers voting Democratic for 200 years.”
In contrast to Nixon, Mr. Trump never actually interfered with an FBI investigation of him and did not corruptly cover up, order evidence destroyed, fire a prosecutor investigating him, or make false statements to mislead investigators, all of which happened during Watergate when Nixon clearly obstructed justice.
When it comes to egregious personal conduct, Mr. Clinton’s nine sexual encounters with intern Monica Lewinsky, then 22 years old, in the Oval Office stand apart.
In years past, the media would not report on the private lives of presidents and what they were really like. Today, the media continue to filter the news. Because of the liberal bias of the mainstream media, many of Trump’s achievements are either underplayed or not reported at all.
The fact that black, Hispanic, and women’s unemployment rates have plunged to historic lows and the stock market is booming are directly traceable to Mr. Trump’s policies of deregulation and tax cuts. Those who want to vote him out of office would do so to their own detriment.
• Ronald Kessler, a former Washington Post and Wall Street Journal investigative reporter, is the author of “The Trump White House: Changing the Rules of the Game” and “The First Family Detail: Secret Service Agents Reveal the Hidden Lives of the Presidents.”
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