The tale of two U.S. Presidents

Published 4:27 pm Tuesday, June 25, 2024

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To the Editor:

Some political pundits question whether former President Donald Trump, who was found guilt of 34 felony counts of falsifying business records to cover up a hush money scheme involving Stormy Daniels, porn star, in New York on May 30, 2024, will be elected to another term as President of the United States.

If Trump wins, he would be the second US President to be elected to a split term (non-consecutive) since Grover Cleveland in 1892. By the way, Cleveland was initially elected President in 1884. Though he won the popular vote in 1884, 1888, and 1892, he lost in the Electoral College in 1888 and therefore lost the election to Benjamin Harrison. Although there are a few similarities between Trump and Cleveland, there are stark differences also.

Grover Cleveland, affectionately known as “Grover the Good,” was once sheriff of Erie County, NY and mayor of Buffalo, before becoming governor of New York. He had a distinguished record of public service, though he personally hanged two murderers as sheriff.

As President, Cleveland answered telephone calls from the public. Further, Cleveland became the first and the only US President to be married in the White House (Blue Room). The marriage ceremony took place on June 2, 1886. Forty-nine years old at the time, Cleveland married First Lady Frances Folsom, who was only 21.

Both Cleveland and Trump fathered five children. Trump allegedly had a reputation of groping and harassing women and engaging in shady real estate practices. Cleveland reportedly had an illegitimate child, which threatened to sink his presidential aspirations in1884.

According to the Buffalo Evening Telegraph, a Maria Halpin gave birth to a child with the surname “Cleveland” in 1873. Though Cleveland denied having sex with Maria, he eventually claimed paternity and accepted the responsibility of taking care of the child. Cleveland addressed the illegitimacy allegation, saying that Maria Halpin was affectionate with several of his Buffalo business associates, and that, since he was the only bachelor among the group, he claimed paternity.

The 1884 Presidential contest devolved into an ugly side show with mudslinging from both campaigns.

On September 27, 1884, there was an infamous oppositional campaign chant designed to vilify Cleveland: “Ma, Ma, where’s my Pa?” The Cleveland campaign responded, “Gone to the White House, Ha! Ha! Ha!” This was in reference to the Halpin controversy, and was supported by Senator James G. Blaine, Cleveland’s Republican opponent. Blaine was notorious for trading Congressional favors for cash.

Cleveland almost lost the 1884 race. He won New York by only 1,149 votes and the concomitant Electoral College votes. New York determined the outcome that year.

Similarly, Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton by razor-thin margins in some states.

Finally, Trump uses inflammatory language to refer to marginalized communities. Contrariwise, Cleveland was known for honesty and integrity. He often said, “I have tried so hard to do right.”

Keith W. Cooper

Greenville, NC