When I turned to Drudge Report for the latest on the Hillary versus Trump debacle, I saw the headlines about Trump laying bare the sordid sexual goings on of the first Clinton President. I was immediately reminded of that astonishing piece of scandalous history: Suetonius’ The Twelve Caesars.
Suetonius wrote the definitive report on the political, familial and sexual goings-on of the first twelve Caesars, the men who held near absolute power over the Empire. Names like Trajan, Nero, and Caligula ought to remind you of the scale of the depravity. One of the early emperors retired to the Isle of Capri, to which he had imported flocks of young children skilled in the arts of satisfying the sexual appetites of a man who had no limits on the capacity to indulge his tastes. Nero organized a gay marriage to one of his hunky German bodyguards, after murdering his mother – and she probably deserved it. The wife of the Emperor Claudius held orgies at the palace while hubby was busy administering the Empire, and all Rome knew of it for years before she was caught and executed with her paramours. Caligula was a very sick puppy. And so forth.
It ought not to surprize us then that the first Clinton president was and is a satyr, that, in his words, his wife has eaten more pussy than he has, or that, according to some reports, Obama is an active bisexual. John F. Kennedy shagged bimbos every day while Jacqueline Kennedy looked the other way, and he also took a large amount of painkillers and other medicines for back pain, thyroid problems, and hidden decrepitude. Lyndon Johnson boasted of his huge penis and shagged his way through Washington. About the only Presidents who behaved themselves while in office were the two Bushes and Jimmy Carter. The elder Bush was the soul of decency and the younger Bush achieved stability only after giving up alcohol and cocaine and taking to Jesus. Nixon was paranoid, alcoholic and possibly tormented by the repression of his homosexual impulses. Conrad Black’s excellent biography of Nixon relates that the chief functions of Haldemann and Kissinger at times were to protect the American civil service from the drunken ravings of the President, who had holed himself up in the Executive Office with the blinds of his windows closed and stayed there drunk and unshaven for days. And we all know what a ghastly smarmy hypocrite Jimmy Carter was, parading about with his empty suitcase while pretending he carried his own baggage.
With the exception of the Bushes I would not invite any of them for dinner.
And so what?
Would any of our lives pass muster before a full disclosure of our sexual activities on the front pages of the newspaper?
In any age of digital cameras the ability to hide one’s sex life rests entirely on not taking pictures, and not being around digital cameras, which is nearly impossible. After all, when the session with your lover is over, you have to call a taxi to get back to your spouse, and a camera is now a telephone, and keeps track of where you have been.
Perhaps more importantly, the time it takes for sexual innuendo and scandal to be confirmed and written about is getting shorter. Thus the kind of private or tightly held information that used to be spoken about among the political cognoscenti – such as who is gay or not – can now reach the tabloids and their Internet equivalents (Drudge report) within weeks or months, or days.
If Suetonius is to be relied upon, and I think he is, there is nothing new in scandalous behaviour. It is that, as America declines, its Presidents are behaving more and more like ….Caesars.