Presidential scandals are part of the fabric of American life. We have come to almost expect them. And while most Presidential scandals have to do with corruption or running guns or just flat out lying about things (*cough* yellowcake *cough*), occasionally these scandals head into the territory of the absurd, the hilarious and the outright embarrassing. It is to these wonderful scandals that this list is devoted. What better way to bring us together as a nation than to look back and laugh at our betters? It is what this country was built on and so, in that spirit, here are seven of the most embarrassing Presidential scandals of all time.
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The Scandal: Paid Journalists to Say Nice Things
I could take the easy route here and just say that his entire eight years was one big embarrassment but that would be mean, sort of like kicking the retarded kid after his pants already fell off and he pooped himself. So, instead let’s just focus on perhaps the most ridiculous of all the problems that Dubya faced while in the White House: the time cabinet officials used federal funds to pay three journalists hundreds of thousands of dollars to write nice things about Bush and his policies. It’s not so much the act itself as what it says. It points to a deeply insecure man and administration that understood, at least on some level, that he and it were laughingstocks. Just the fact that they felt the need to bribe journalists to not be mean to him is both kind of funny and incredibly pathetic, right? Wait… the check just cleared? Oh, uh… my bad. What I meant to say is that George W. Bush was the best president in American history and shame on all of you for making fun of him! He’s a good boy! That check better not bounce.
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The Scandal: Assorted Perversions
Of all the sex fiend Presidents we’ve had – and we’ve had more than a few – perhaps none flew under the radar more, or was as funny, as Lyndon B. Johnson. From all accounts the man was a goddamn degenerate. He was compared to a Turkish Sultan, complete with a harem, and he routinely exposed himself like some kind of serial flasher. The most ridiculous anecdote surrounding LBJ and his pseudo-rapey ways is probably the time he climbed into the bed of a woman visiting his ranch, startling her (naturally) and said “Move over honey, this is your President.” Now that’s a hell of a pickup line right there. Of course, there was also the time he reportedly whipped it out while on a trip to Asia and remarked that they probably weren’t used to seeing one so big. Yes, there can be no doubt that Lyndon Baines Johnson belongs on this list.
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The Scandal: Rampant, Almost Absurd Levels of Corruption
There have been a lot of corruption scandals in the White House over the years but Grant might as well have named Corruption his running mate because that shit just never stopped while he was in office. For starters, 110 different people were convicted for massive amounts of bribery, kickbacks and all sorts of scandalous shit for their involvement in what became known as the Whiskey Ring, which involved the siphoning off of millions of dollars in whiskey tax revenue directly into the pockets of Republican politicians. The best part is that one of the dudes busted was the head of the IRS, which meant that Grant’s taxman himself was stealing tax money. Then there was the time when Jay Gould and James Fisk tried to corner the gold market, which is like something some supervillain would try, by getting Grant to appoint one of their pals as the Assistant to the Secretary of the Treasury so they could pump him for insider information. That fiasco ended with Grant being forced to flood the market with gold to foil Gould and Fisk, thus tanking the economy. This event eventually became known as Black Friday. The whole country was basically one giant free-for-all, with dudes hustling gold bars in and out of the White House while Grant got shitfaced drunk and told old war stories. There are many more stories of corruption involving Grant’s administration but there’s only so much space and so much time in the day.
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The Scandal: Earl Butz
This didn’t involve Ford personally but it involved his Secretary of Agriculture Earl Butz so what the hell, I’ll allow it. It would seem that besides having an easily mockable last name Secretary Butz was sick of answering questions about why the Republican Party, the party that had freed the slaves, had so much trouble attracting black voters and so he responded with the following insane quote: “I'll tell you what the coloreds want. It's three things: first, a tight pussy; second, loose shoes; and third, a warm place to shit.” Well, then. To be fair, who doesn’t want those things? If someone around here ran for, like, State Senate with that as his platform, I’d vote for him. I hate tight shoes and don’t even get me started on cold toilet seats. But that old idiot Butz had to bring race into the mix and so, naturally, it wasn’t long before he was forced to resign.
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The Scandal: Aaron Burr’s Treason
Following the Louisiana Purchase, Jefferson was forced to deal with a ridiculous and embarrassing scandal involving his old friend and former Vice President, Aaron Burr aka the dude who capped Alexander Hamilton in a duel. (Jesus, and we think the political atmosphere is toxic these days. Those dudes were raw as hell.) It would seem that Burr, who had been dropped by Jefferson from the ticket during his 1804 reelection thanks to the aforementioned gangsta party with Hamilton, decided to seize a big chunk of the newly acquired land, gathering together a group of farmers and heading West to apparently carve out his own private fiefdom. Naturally, he was arrested and charged with treason, but was eventually acquitted since his accusers – which included Jefferson, who Burr was making an ass out of – couldn’t prove anything. Could you imagine something like this going down today?
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The Scandal: Watergate
How could I write an article like this and not include Watergate? It’s probably the most infamous political scandal in American history, but what makes it truly ridiculous and embarrassing is not the scope of the scandal but the inanity of it all. Let’s not forget that this whole scandal centered around a bunch of old white dudes breaking into a hotel to steal some secrets about a bunch of other old white dudes. Nobody was killed, no one was bribing anyone… it was just a bunch of jackasses acting like idiots and then freaking out and lying their asses off after they got caught. It was the Presidential equivalent of getting drunk with your buddies and breaking into the high school to steal the answers to an exam and then telling the principal that you were just looking for the bathroom after the janitor catches you and calls him down to deal with this shit at one in the morning. But this happened to the President!
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The Scandal: Monica Lewinsky
Come on, like anything else could be number one. Sure, there have been a lot of embarrassing scandals over the last 200 plus years but how many of them involved the President talking about his sex life on the evening news? And more than that, how many involved a blue jizz stained dress being waved around Congress? I mean, that shit happened! Think about how crazy that is. It speaks to how comfortable we became with Clinton and his hound dog ways that when all that went down we all just laughed, shook our heads and said “Oh, that Bill.” Every night it was something different: the blue dress, Linda Tripp recording details like she was taking notes for Hustler or something, Kenneth Starr reading details like an old letch, brow all sweaty, voice trembling, cigars ending up in dark and terrible places… it just never ended. We could have found out that he banged Buddy the dog and we probably would have just chanted “Four more years!” After all, how can you embarrass a man whose whole public image is built on embarrassing shit? And that’s why it’s number one on this list.
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(Previously published on October 12, 2012.)