We have a president who is — how to put this — occasionally unpresidential. Still, he is our president, and all the anti-Trump hoopla is only solidifying his support to the utter consternation of marchers and rioters.
It’s all very well to have qualms — I have plenty myself — but I can still take consolation in the fact that Hillary didn’t win.
Trump-haters complain about his character, and they are not crazy. But at least he wears his flaws on his sleeve. That may be offensive and problematical, but it is certainly obvious.
Ms. Clinton, on the other hand, was much less forthcoming. Consider the Clinton World Initiative, due to close shop on April 15. Why, you may ask, would it end its worldwide charitable efforts? Simple: It ran out of money. When it became apparent that there would be no favors to dispense, donations dried up. “No quid, no quo,” as a friend succinctly put it at dinner the other night.
Then there is Chelsea’s husband, Marc Mezvinsky, forced to close his hedge fund after investors dried up. Of course, the fund had lost 80 percent of its value, which was also unhelpful.
Nobody is ever going to be investigated, let alone prosecuted, over any of this — which, while unfortunate, reflects the short attention spans of politicians, the media and the public. Besides, the current president offers too many entertaining distractions for anyone to remember how the Clintons went from broke (really?) to an admitted net worth of $100 million or so.
It has been a long time since Harry Truman hopped into his old Chrysler and drove himself and Bess home to Independence, Missouri, after Ike’s inauguration. Truman may well have been the poorest, as well as one of the least likely, men to occupy the White House. Most people would agree that he rose to the occasion, and on leaving office, had no sense of continuing entitlement or expectation of accumulating wealth.
Things have changed. Most presidents since Truman have been wealthy when elected. Kennedy, Johnson and the Bushes were all rich men, and, of course, Trump has raised the bar even higher. Ike was no pauper. Nixon had his sycophants. Even Jimmy Carter was comfortable. Only the Clintons and Barack Obama mysteriously turned nothing into great wealth. Such are the modern benefits of fame and the presidency.
Most earlier presidents were well off. The Virginia Dynasty was a land-rich crowd, though actual money was often a problem, and Jefferson died essentially penniless. Lincoln was a successful corporate lawyer. The Roosevelts were rich. Whatever their reasons for seeking office, personal gain was not among them.
Only recently has the post-presidency offered the opportunity to accumulate money. Ex-presidents conventionally faded into a quiet retirement, leaving the current occupant of the White House to make his own mistakes without comment.
Now, fame is its own reward, and so far, only the Clintons have made retirement a profit center. Six-figure speeches and globetrotting to raise money from influence-seeking foreigners became routine, only enhanced by Hillary’s stint as secretary of state.
Past presidents have understood the obligation to be dignified in retirement, if not always in office. The presidency carries, or should carry, a lifetime burden of support for the office. There is no excuse for cheapening it.
Voters last year were presented with the worst choice for president in American history. The only possible rival was Harding-Cox in 1920. You do not need to be a Trump fan to appreciate that the presidency ought not to be an asset used to create a personal fortune.
Thankfully, we will never know to what extent Hillary might have peddled influence, but the evidence lies in the prelude. She and Bill will have to be satisfied with that hundred million.