30 Jul '16     home | previous

Candidates, Character and Slander

At the Democratic convention, Bill, Hillary and Chelsea came across very human in the best sense of that word. Donald Trump also appeared a little more human on the night of his speech at the Republican convention. And by Friday there was the question whether it was Hillary or was Donald who had the best qualities for the job of president.

Friday there were still with us those who talked about the depravity of the Clintons. Bill was described as a rapist, a "lifetime womanizer and abuser." Someone wrote that "Bill loves himself, and she loves herself and together they love power." Someone else described "Slick Willy" as having "a legacy that is "disgusting." One wrote of Hillary opening doors for Bill, "doors for women she wants to have relations with :-)".

One is reminded of the attacks made on Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. Most of us have gotten over President Kennedy having chased women while he was married and president, including his affair with Judith Cambell Exner.

Some people have had an attitude toward marriage that differs from subservience to traditional cultural correctness. Britain's aristocracy was known to play around. So too were monarchs, whose wives were thought of as instruments for procreation. Today open marriages are more common in our society than before 1960. And we are more relaxed about bisexual experimentation. Some of us focus more on the non-sexual aspects of people's humanity. Sex occupies a tiny fraction of our time. We have other things to tend to. Hillary Clinton in her speech at the convention was focusing her humanity on bettering the lives of others.

The Democratic Party's Senator Barbara Boxer complains that the anti-Hillary people have thrown everything at her: the kitchen sink, the stove, the refrigerator and toaster. Eleanor Roosevelt wrote in This I Remember:

A man who chooses to hold public office must learn to accept slander as part of the job and to trust that the majority of the people will judge him by his accomplishments in public service.

Slander was perhaps not the right word. Kennedy's messing around was real. So too was Franklin Roosevelt' affair with Lucy Mercer (his mother scolding him for leaving a letter in his jacket pocket that Eleanor found). Those who spoke of Eleanor's alleged lesbian affair with Lorena Hickok were not necessarily slandering her. Messing around among young educated women from wealthy families was common when Eleanor was young. Eleanor's granddaughter, Nina Gibson, in her book Restless Spirit wrote:

I have no idea whether Lorena Hickok had a homosexual relationship with my grandmother or not. And my feeling about that is kind of: Who cares?

Winston Churchill described Eleanor Roosevelt as having "a spirit of steel and a heart of gold." As I see it, those who described Eleanor in demeaning terms were a crabby minority of people with little minds that were erroneous in their focus.

Donald Trump is also under attack, but it is of a different spirit. At the Democratic convention, Michael Bloomberg described Trump as a "con man" and a "dangerous demagogue." Bloomberg is more wealthy and successful in business than Trump has been. He is the former mayor of New York and is not a Democrat. Bloomberg was not posturing superior morals or describing Trump's moral depravity. He was onto something that is pertinent.

Bloomberg is an able man dismayed by Trump, and he supporting Hillary. He has the awareness to put her emails and Benghazi into a perspective different from the falsehoods and demonizing efforts of her detractors.

Trump's responded by calling Bloomberg "little Michael" and described him as never having had "the guts to run for president." Trump added that he wanted "to hit this guy so hard his head would spin." Now, Trump says, he is "going to take the gloves off ... no more Mr. Nice Guy."

Trump has on his side those who see Hillary as self-interested, greedy and corrupt – what Bill Clinton sees as a cartoon image of his wife. Between now and November it is they against those who will be putting aside rumors and exaggerations to see what Hillary has to offer as president that Trump does not, those of us who see Hillary Clinton as more measured than Trump and has more experience in the real world political conflict and what is best for humanity.

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Copyright © 2016 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.