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Tuesday, May 17, 2011


The Schwarzenegger story is an old one. Personal scandal has been part of American politics since the Founding. Benjamin Franklin was himself born out of wedlock and had a son out of wedlock. William Franklin was close to his father in his youth but sided with the British during the Revolution. Alexander Hamilton had an adulterous affair, as PBS explains:
Maria Reynolds' abusive husband James made his living by swindling. He was quick to realize the potential offered by his wife's illicit involvement with Hamilton, a wealthy member of the political and cultural elite. In the America of the 1700's, many men who discovered their wives involved in adulterous affairs sought redress on the dueling ground. James Reynolds demanded financial compensation instead.

Hamilton eventually paid Reynolds more than $1,000 to continue the affair without interference. But then Mr. Reynolds began to tell others that Hamilton was providing him with inside tips about government securities. When a group of congressman accused Hamilton of corruption, he revealed the truth of the romantic affair by sharing his love letters with his accusers.

In 1797 Hamilton's letters were published in a pamphlet by newspaperman James Thomson Callender. In the pages of the pamphlet, he reiterated corruption charges against Hamilton. Hamilton responded with a pamphlet of his own, in which he asserted that no financial improprieties occurred. With candor seldom shown by politicians of his day, or of any other since, Hamilton confessed his affair with Maria Reynolds and apologized.
At USA Today, David Jackson writes of another case:

Around the White House, the former California governor's admission that he fathered a child with a member of his household staff a decade ago -- prompting the split with wife Maria -- is reviving memories of President Grover Cleveland.

During the election of 1884, Republican opponents accused Cleveland of fathering an out-of-wedlock child, prompting one of history's most memorable campaign slogans: "Ma, Ma, Where's My Pa?"

Cleveland acknowledged paying child support, but, given the lack of DNA sampling in the late 19th century, there's no way to know for sure if he was the father.

And Cleveland won the 1884 election anyway, prompting one of the great campaign retorts:

"Ma, My, Where's My Pa?/Gone to the White House/Ha, Ha, Ha."