Thursday, September 26, 2013

“Ma, ma, where's my pa?”  As any reader of U.S. history knows, sex scandals amongst politicians are nothing new. A particularly famous case became an issue in Democrat Grover Cleveland's campaign for president in 1884.  More is known now than was public contemporaneously, and it doesn't make Cleveland look good.

This scandal played a small role in my early interest in history.  In our U.S. history textbook in sixth grade, there was a brief mention of a scandal that dogged the Cleveland presidential campaign – but no other details.  I was already a frequent library user at that point (though mostly as a source for the science fiction I avidly read), so I went there to see if I could find out some more. 

Within a short time I found several pages on the scandal – and I was well and truly shocked.  My previous exposure to U.S. Presidents was all through the lens of fawning historians, whether on the legendary Washington and Lincoln, or on the Presidents I grew up with: Truman, Eisenhower, and Kennedy.  Lyndon Johnson had recently become President, after the assassination of Kennedy in 1963.  Reading about the Cleveland scandal was the first time it became clear to me that Presidents were people, too – not the flat, whitewashed figures of then-current textbooks.  This realization that historical figures were interesting, three-dimensional people became one of the reasons I started reading history...

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