From Karen McDougal to Stormy Daniels, Donald Trump’s extramarital affairs are well known. But then, so are a whole host of his predecessors, writes TP O’Mahony.
The tape of the conversation between US President Donald Trump and his lawyer, Michael Cohen — made public last week by the cable news network CNN — in which the two men are talking about paying “hush” money over Trump’s alleged affair with former Playboy model Karen McDougal is yet further proof that a sexual predator now occupies the White House.
However, Trump has nothing much to worry about on that front.
History tends to show that corruption, financial skulduggery, or lying to parliament are much more likely to destroy a political career than sexual philandering.
So those who expect that Trump’s extramarital affairs with a porn star or a Playboy model will do him in are most likely going to be disappointed.
On the tape released by CNN the two men discussed how to buy the rights to McDougal’s story about her alleged affair with the president.
The rights to the ex-model’s story were acquired for $150,000 by the supermarket tabloid National Enquirer, which then decided not to publish her account in a practice known as “catch and kill”.
The tabloid’s parent company, American Media Inc, is headed by David Pecker, a close ally and friend of Trump.
But, thanks to Cohen and his lawyer Lanny Davis, and CNN, the story is now in the public domain.
In March, Stephanie Clifford, the porn actress known as Stormy Daniels, gave an interview on 60 Minutes — described by one commentator as “a bombshell interview” — about her sexual encounter with Trump and his attempts to keep her from speaking out about it.
That interview came just a few days after Karen McDougal first talked about her affair with Trump.
“The revelations on 60 Minutes are not out of the blue,” wrote Ben Jacobs in a background feature for The Guardian.
“Trump was accused of sexual misconduct by more than 20 women during his presidential campaign — he denies the claims — and was captured on tape bragging of grabbing women by their genitalia.”
However appalling Trump’s attitude towards and treatment of women may be — and his misogyny was well illustrated by his notorious “grab-’em-by-the-pussy” comment — they are not in and of themselves going to bring to a premature end his time in the White House.
For one thing, quite a few of those who occupied the Oval Office before Trump were unfaithful to their wives during their presidencies.
And in some cases the skirt-chasing and seductions were blatant and even blatantly irresponsible from a national security standpoint.
This was certainly true in the case of the first Catholic to be elected US president.
John F Kennedy was a serial philanderer, and seems to have had an insatiable sexual appetite.
He once told the British prime minister Harold Macmillan that if he didn’t have sex every day, he got headaches.
Among those he wooed were the Hollywood actresses Gene Tierney and Angie Dickinson, as well as the biggest Hollywood star of all, Marilyn Monroe.
Another actress, Shirley MacLaine, a JFK admirer, came up with a rather novel defence of his womanising: “Better,” she said, “to have a president who fucks women rather than one who fucks countries”.
Either way, the 35th president was fortunate in that the media landscape was very different in 1960, when he won a close contest with Richard Nixon.
The Washington press was complaisant back then, so a blind eye was turned on Kennedy’s extramarital activities.
Kennedy’s womanising went unreported, even when his behaviour was reckless.
This was certainly true of his involvement with a beautiful, dark-haired woman named Judith Exner.
She had been introduced to JFK by Frank Sinatra, but she also happened to be the mistress of notorious Mafia godfather Sam Giancana, thereby leaving Kennedy open to blackmail, something that FBI director J Edgar Hoover brought to the attention of the White House.
In his book Of Kennedy and Kings, Harris Wofford wrote: “If the president confessed to even one-tenth of the relationship with Judith Exner that she claimed, he had been bold and reckless in his private life”.
Much nearer home, the danger of blackmail came to the fore in the Profumo Affair, in which John Profumo, the secretary of state for war in Harold Macmillan’s cabinet, became sexually involved with a Soho showgirl named Christine Keeler.
Profumo was married, at the time, to the actress Valerie Hobson.
But what he didn’t know was that Keeler was also having an affair with Yevgeny Ivanov, a naval attache in the Soviet Embassy in London (a convenient cover for a KGB agent).
This was during the height of the Cold War and Moscow was desperate for any information about US and British intentions in Europe so there was concern in MI5 about any “pillow talk” between Keeler and Ivanov.
It was in lying to parliament about the affair that was to prove Profumo’s undoing.
In Henry Kissinger’s book The White House Years, there is one notable photograph.
It shows the then Soviet Union leader Leonid Brezhnev leering at the curvaceous Hollywood actress Jill St John at a 1973 reception in the East Room hosted by the then US president, Richard Nixon.
St John was there because at the time she was one of Kissinger’s girlfriends (he was secretary of state at the time), testifying to the accuracy of his claim (given that he was no Tom Cruise) that “power is the ultimate aphrodisiac”.
Power has its own sexual magnetism, a fact readily recognised by political leaders as diverse as David Lloyd George, Charles J Haughey, François Hollande, the former president of France, and William Jefferson Clinton.
The latter would certainly rival JFK and Trump for the title of “priapic president”.
It is true that when Clinton launched his campaign for the presidency in 1992, it came perilously close to being derailed following a claim by Gennifer Flowers, a nightclub singer, that she had had an affair with the man who was governor of Arkansas.
Clinton denied this liaison initially, but eventually admitted it. Flowers, who ran a cabaret called the Kelso Club in a former bordello in New Orleans until Hurricane Katrina, published a memoir in 1995 entitled Passion and Betrayal: Sleeping with the President.
In 1997, the US Supreme Court ruled that Clinton could not use executive privilege to avoid defending a sexual harassment suit brought by Paula Jones relating to events that occurred when Clinton was governor of Arkansas. Eventually, a financial settlement was arrived at.
Much worse was to follow.
In 1995, Monica Lewinsky, a 22-year-old White House intern, testified that she had her first sexual encounter with Clinton.
The salacious Starr Report (compiled by special prosecutor Kenneth Starr) was released in September 1998.
It suggested there were probable grounds for Clinton’s impeachment on the basis of “obstruction of justice”.
The report became an instant bestseller, and Lewinsky’s semen-stained blue dress became the most talked about item of the year.
After being impeached on foot of the Starr Report, Clinton’s presidency was saved by the senate, which voted against conviction.
Tales of extramarital sex have a long tradition among incumbents in the White House.
Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the US and author of the 1776 Declaration of Independence, fathered several children by a beautiful black slave named Sally Hemming.
In her book Wild Women in the White House, Autumn Stephens says: “According to some historians, the Declaration of Independence wasn’t all that founding father Thomas Jefferson helped conceive.”
Dwight Eisenhower’s affair with his army driver Kay Summersby was covered up for quite some time. “Kay Summersby liked Ike – a lot,” according to Autumn Stephens.
“For three never-to-be-forgotten years, the beautiful Irish-born Londoner and the five-star American general who was soon to be president carried on a passionate secret affair, while World War II raged across Europe — and Mamie Eisenhower waited at home.”
It was only in her biography, Past Forgetting: My Love Affair with Dwight D Eisenhower in 1976 that Summersby revealed the full details of the affair.
America’s wartime President, Franklin D Roosevelt, had a long extramarital affair with Lucy Page Mercer, after his wife Eleanor hired her as her social secretary.
Once Eleanor found out about it, Franklin promised to end it, but the affair later resumed, and when he died on April 12, 1945, of a cerebral haemorrhage, it was Lucy Mercer who was with him.
In an article entitled ‘Champagne Charlie’, my former Irish Press colleague Mary Kenny wrote in The Spectator in 1982 of Charlie Haughey’s “special appeal to women”, and added that Charlie’s reputation as a womaniser had done him no harm at all.
“Womanisers in Ireland are characterised as ‘a bit of a lad for the women’ or ‘a right boyo’.
Nobody in Dáil Éireann has ever fallen from grace for this reason; Parnell’s troubles were caused not by his love for Kitty O’Shea, but by his hounding by the British gutter press.”
The same is true of Washington DC: No president has ever fallen from grace because of sexual misconduct, though Clinton came close. Donald Trump knows this all too well.
Now if Michael Cohen’s subsequent claim — that Trump knew in advance of a meeting between his campaign team and Russian officials at which damaging information about his rival, Hillary Clinton, may have been handed over, with implications for the outcome of the presidential election — can ever be corroborated, then that would be a very different, and very damaging, matter than serial sexual misconduct. A different matter altogether.
Trump, of course, has already denied having advance knowledge of the 2016 meeting in New York, but that is his modus operandi.
On the other hand, if Cohen can produce something to back up his allegation, then, as political analyst Michael Genovese told CNN, Trump’s claim that there was “no collusion” between his campaign team and the Russians “is blown out of the water”.
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Misadventures in the White House: Extramarital affairs not uncommon at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue have 1925 words, post on www.irishexaminer.com at August 2, 2018. This is cached page on Game Breaking News. If you want remove this page, please contact us.