It's the conceit of every age that it's uniquely entitled to all the superlatives: the best, the worst, the biggest, the smallest. Nothing before was anything like the present age, nor is it pos¬≠sible that anything in the future will surpass it.
We expected echoes of that in the Monday night debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. There was a lot of raw material. The Donald is big¬≠ger than life; nobody dominates a room, an arena or a debate platform quite like him. A record audience of a hundred million curious Americans waited im¬≠patiently for the show Monday night, and nobody can doubt that the Donald was the draw.
Hillary, if not bigger than life, is at least louder. Her shrill lies speak volumes yet to be written about. The cruel and unkind among us waited not so much to hear what she would say (we've heard it all before), but to see if she could say it without falling down.
The hype for Monday night called it "the debate of the century," and maybe it was if only because the century is only 16 years old. The closest we've seen to an interesting presidential debate so far in this century were Al Gore's "earth tones" and Mitt Romney's being taken down by moderator Candy Crowley to prevent Barack Obama losing the second debate after Mr. Romney crushed him in the first.
The Clinton campaign has tried to keep Bubba under wraps, lest he revive memories of his adventures between the sheets. But Hillary, who wasted a hundred opportuni¬≠ties to learn from a master how to be a politician, practically invited the Donald to trump her invita¬≠tion to a filthy-rich donor (does she have any other kind?) who had repeatedly needled the Donald to sit in the front row Monday night in hopes that he would be a fatal distraction.
When the Donald countered with a promise to invite Gennifer Flowers to sit on the front row as his guest, the joke was lost on Hillary's humorless press claque, but not on the other ladies in Bubba's past. They clamored for an invitation, too. When Kath¬≠leen Willey accepted Bubba's invitation to the White House to talk about a job, and instead got only a grope, observed that "if all the women Bill harassed show up for the debate there won't be room for any¬≠one else." The incident reminded everyone of what happened the last time the Clintons were tenants of the White House.
But however trashy the Clinton occupancy of the White House was, it was not unique. Presidents be¬≠fore them lived lives of unique scandal, unprincipled vulgarity and singular impropriety. There were no presidents before Barack Obama who aspired to be a messiah. Presidents, like kings, are human, too, and many if indeed not most who preceded him had a run of fun. Bubba was a piker.
John F. Kennedy was the lost leader; one historian observed that "he nailed everything that was not nailed down, and then some," bedding Hollywood stars (Marilyn was only the most famous), New Orleans strippers, Washington artists, Mafia molls, Pan Am stewardesses (recruited from the press plane), and two White House secretaries appropriately named "Fiddle" and "Faddle."
Scandal was ever thus. We've had a black president, Hillary wants to be the first woman president and certain ambitious pols in the LGBT chorus no doubt yearn to be first Nancy boy to make it to the Oval Office. They're too late. Presi¬≠dent James Buchanan, a bachelor, and Rufus King, a senator from Alabama, lived together for more than a decade known in Washington circles as "the Siamese twins," a common slang of the day for gay couples. President Andrew Jackson called the senator "Miss Nancy," and others called him, perhaps more kindly, "Aunt Fancy."
Grover Cleveland was accused of having fathered a child when he was a lawyer in Buffalo, and when he ran for president in 1884 his op¬≠ponents chanted, "Ma, ma, where's my pa?" and when he was elected his supporters replied, "Gone to the White House, ha, ha, ha." When Cleveland's defenders suggested the actual father was one of the other lawyers in the firm, the lady in question replied, "That's as good a guess as any."
Warren Harding, famous for his wandering eye, called his male member "Jerry" and wrote poems to it for his mistress. Lyndon Johnson called his "Jumbo," and invited foreign visitors to admire it. Jimmy Carter, a rare straight shooter in the boudoir, spoke only of what might have been. "I've looked at a lot of women with lust in my heart." he said, "I've committed adultery in my heart a lot of times."
Mr. Jimmy's heart was sometimes too big for his own good. It's the zipper that so many of our presidents had trouble with.