Saturday, September 01, 2018

The Presidency…Testosterone Follies – Part III

As reported in the tabloids of the day, Calvin Coolidge and his wife, Grace, were being separately shown round a chicken farm. Learning that the farm’s rooster had sex dozens of times a day, the first lady said: “Tell that to the president.” On being told, the president asked: “Same hen every time?” “Oh, no, Mr. President, a different one each time.” Coolidge is supposed to have quipped: “Tell that to the first lady.” There had been rumors that Grace Coolidge had intimate liaisons with secret service agents.

In the early part of this year, a survey was conducted by an organization titled the “American Political Science Association” (APSA), which is the foremost organization of social science experts in presidential politics. The APSA had conducted the same poll in 2015 and the respondents were current and recent members of the Presidents & Executive Politics Section of this illustrious organization.

The primary purpose of this survey was to create a ranking of presidential “greatness” that covered all presidents from George Washington to Donald Trump. To accomplish this, the survey first asked respondents to rate each president on a scale of 0-100 for their overall greatness, with 0=failure, 50=average, and 100=great. It then averaged the ratings for each president and ranked them from highest average to lowest.

(In the form of full disclosure I must inform you of the following: A majority of the 170 respondents — roughly 57% — identified as Democrats. Just 13% were Republicans, while 27% said they were independents, and 3% selected other. The skewed sampling plus the fact that President Donald Trump is in the middle of his second year in office make it difficult to accurately compare him to previous presidents. But even among Republicans, Trump was ranked quite unfavorably. Respondents who identified as Republicans or conservatives ranked Trump 40th out of 44 presidents. Self-described Democrats and liberals both ranked him last at 44.)

Going to Wikipedia and typing in “Historical Rankings of Presidents of the United States” can access the results of this survey.  Anyone interested in this type of information will be fascinated by the quality of this website and the colorful manner in which it is organized.  There are 19 surveys listed, going back to 1948 and this survey is the latest one.

In viewing the results of the survey, and considering the subject of this article, I detected a correlation, one that I found noted in several psychology oriented research papers. Here is one example from none other than Harvard University:

“Are hormone levels associated with the attainment of social status? Although endogenous testosterone predicts status-seeking social behaviors, research suggests that the stress hormone cortisol may inhibit testosterone’s effects. Thus, individuals with both high testosterone and low cortisol may be especially likely to occupy high-status positions in social hierarchies while individuals with high testosterone and high cortisol may not. We tested this hypothesis by recruiting a sample of real executives and examining testosterone, cortisol, and a concrete indicator of attained status: the number of subordinates over which the executive has authority. Despite the myriad non-hormonal factors that determine organizational promotion, the executives’ endogenous testosterone and cortisol interacted to significantly predict hierarchical position: Testosterone positively predicted executives’ number of subordinates, but only among low-cortisol executives.”

A more succinct explanation of that study appeared in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. It stated: “The study follows other intriguing research on leaders’ hormone levels and on leadership and empathy. In the latest study, researchers evaluated the hormone levels of male executives in an executive education program at Harvard. They found that managers who had greater leadership responsibility had higher levels of the hormone testosterone, which stimulates the development of male sex organs and has been shown in numerous studies to be associated with leadership qualities like aggressiveness and risk-taking.

What is the relationship of this study to the rankings of presidential greatness?  At the outset of this article I mentioned that at least one third (34%) of our 44 elected presidents have been accused of some sort of sexual improprieties.  Research seems to confirm that this aberrant behavior was the result of conspicuously high levels of testosterone.

If we assume that statement (and the research cited above) is credible, consider the following: of the ten presidents ranked highest in the poll referenced above, seven of this group, or 70% have been cited with some form of sexual transgression.  Could disproportionately high levels of testosterone contribute to the fact that these seven are considered amongst the “greatest” presidents? Perhaps a closer look at the coronated seven will provide some clues.

But first, let’s see who the survey designated as the ten “greatest“ presidents.  The rankings below will display two numbers.  The first is the ranking result of the 2018 survey mentioned above. The second is the result of aggregating (averaging) the applicable period of the 19 surveys conducted since 1948.

1/1 Abraham Lincoln; 2/3 George Washington; 3/2 Franklin D. Roosevelt; 4/4 Theodore Roosevelt; 5/5 Thomas Jefferson; 6/6 Harry S. Truman; 7/8 Dwight D. Eisenhower; 8/11  Barack  Obama;  9/16  Ronald Reagan;  10/13 Lyndon Johnson. There have been allegations made that those listed in bold were involved in sexual indiscretions.  Starting with number 10, Lyndon Johnson, we’ll work our way up.

#10 Lyndon Johnson :  In his book Years of Lyndon Johnson: Master of the Senate, Robert A. Caro, the famed historian wrote: “Lyndon Johnson was indeed, as has become almost commonplace by now, a being of Shakespearean dimensions—a hulking, bush-country colossus, gargantuan of ego and energy, of self-delusions and glooms and paranoias, crass cruelties and rampant vulgarities, but gargantuan also in his benevolent ambitions. All he wanted was to be the greatest president in the history of the Republic, by abolishing with his Great Society benefactions all poverty, hunger, and racial wrong from the land.”  Except for the Viet Nam tragedy, he might have attained his goal.

He did achieve at least a master’s degree, more probably a PhD, in sexual indiscretions. He once bragged that he’d “had more women by accident than Kennedy ever had on purpose.”   Caro’s book also stated that “He boasted of his sexual prowess [as well as what he called his JUMBO], and had long affairs with at least two women, as well as casual flings with members of his staff. Among his reported conquests were Madeline Brown, who claims that they had an affair that lasted more than two decades and that LBJ fathered her son. Brown insists that their affair was purely physical and remained hidden from Lady Bird Johnson.

In his biography of LBJ, Robert Caro revealed that he also had a thirty-year affair with Alice Glass. Their friendship began in 1937 when she was living with her common-law husband, Charles Marsh, and their two children. Marsh was a newspaper mogul and one of his papers, “Austin American-Statesman,” was an influential LBJ supporter. It is rumored that Glass ended her affair with LBJ in 1967 over her opposition to the Vietnam War. She is reported to have burned their love letters.

#09 Ronald Reagan;  In a book titled “Love Triangle: Ronald Reagan, Jane Wyman And Nancy Davis,” Reagan was portrayed as a “B” level actor, but he was also certainly well known as an “A” level lover, involved over the years with some 50 Hollywood actresses. This is how the book introduces him: “Reagan arrived in Hollywood aged 26 in 1937, and immediately became embroiled with no fewer than three actresses simultaneously. According to an old friend, singer Joy Hodges, Betty Grable, Susan Hayward and Jane Wyman were all fighting over him long before he gained any real screen status.

Even in his own memoirs, Ronnie admitted to suffering from what he called ‘leading ladyitis’. It was a disease, he said. Fiery Hayward was especially serious about him, threatening to emasculate the future president if he ended their romance. He did so anyway. As it was, he made about 70 movies over three decades, so the number of leading ladies available to feed his ‘disease’ was considerable.”

The curvaceous Lana Turner, one of Hollywood’s favorite sex symbols, was another actress with whom he got involved after Warners made him accompany her to a film premiere. “Lana is just as oversexed as I am,” he told a friend on the golf course the following day. One of Love Triangle’s co-authors claims the late Turner told him that Reagan liked to take his time in bed. He was a ‘40-minute man’, she said, unlike another future President, John F. Kennedy, who was a ‘four-minute man.’ Indeed, Reagan reportedly cut such a swathe through the ranks of Warner’s starlets that it was said he was a ‘greater swordsman’ at the studio than the notoriously amorous Errol Flynn.

Next month we’ll examine the love lives of the four not yet covered, (Jefferson has already been reviewed) and we will reexamine George Washington.  In addition, assuming there is room, several other lesser “great” philandering presidents will be explored.


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