Thursday, June 22, 2006

Choose a Scandal, Any Scandal

It seems that every president has been touched by scandal in some way either through actions of their own, the action of their family members , or through the action of their associates. We’ve suffered through the sexual misconduct of Clinton, paid attention to the car wreck that was Jimmy Carter’s relatives (Who can forget Billy Beer?), watched Oliver North take the fall for Iran-Contra, and we listened as Deep Throat, Woodward, and Bernstein opened our eyes to Watergate.

President Eisenhower, war hero that he was, suffered through the loss of his chief-of-staff, Sherman Adams, because of an Oriental rug and vicuna coat. Adams was a very hands on, everything comes through me type of man. Eisenhower’s rivals, as well as anyone else who daily made contact with Adams, clucked with glee as Adams was brought down in the court of public opinion.

The problem began when one of Adams’ acquaintances, Bernard Goldfine, was being investigated by the Federal Trade Commission. In 1958, Adams improperly called to check on the investigation from the White House. Later Goldfine would not answer questions about his relationship with Adams. It was revealed that Adams was in the possession of an Oriental carpet and vicuna coat that Goldfine supposedly gave to him. Things simply did not look proper. Adams was forced to resign and he retired form political office.

Harry Truman’s critics have always cited his rise to political power at the hands of Missouri’s political machine, Tom Pendergast. This allegation would seem to be true by a simple examination of the evidence. However, there is just as much evidence to show Truman would defy Pendergast when he felt it was the right thing to do.

Truman was in the U.S. Sentate during Franklin D. Roosevelt’s attempt to increase the number of justices for the Supreme Court from nine to fifteen. Instead of calling Truman directly, FDR contacted Pendergast in order to have “his man” vote the way FDR wished. When Truman heard about FDR’s phone call he cast his vote against FDR’s plan.

Pendergast eventually served time for fraud and tax evasion. Suprisingly Truman boldly attended Pendergast’s funeral even though it had only been a few days since Truman had been sworn in as vice president.

Learn about other presidential scandals here and here.

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