When I was growing up in Puerto Rico I had a large number of aunts and uncles. On my mother’s side, they were quite old and most of them considered themselves Republican – I suspect that those who didn’t, kept quiet about it. My uncle Antonio, a.k.a. Toño, was particularly intense in his political statements.
Uncle Toño was a capitalist through-and-through, a CPA by profession, and because of that he disliked the New Deal and all it represented, so he had a very jaundiced opinion of FDR. He also thoroughly disliked the Kennedys and considered FDR’s nomination of Joseph Kennedy to the Securities and Exchange Commission as “putting the fox in charge of the henhouse”. Toño had an excellent memory for trivia and knew that Joe’s dalliance with movie star Gloria Swanson (of Sunset Boulevard fame) left Gloria $1million poorer.
How he had stumbled upon that information we’ll never know.
Toño delighted in weaving disparaging comments about FDR and the Kennedys in one swift statement and one time when talking about Ted, then the lowest of the Kennedys because of Chappaquidick, Toño brought up FDR and Lucy Mercer, to whom Toño referred as FDR’s “amiguita”.
My aunt Vicenta, who was the image of propriety and decorum, jumped to FDR’s defense. “Toño”, she nearly-exclaimed (since actually exclaiming it would have disrupted decorum), “We are not friends of President Roosevelt, but we don’t need to insult his memory.”
Of course Toño responded with a most indecrous yet erudite retort well outside the bounds of propriety while not descending into foul language or obscenity. Toño was a Puerto Rican equivalent of Christopher Hitchens, with whom he would have shared a number of physical and intellectual traits had Hitchens and Toño been the same age. Come to think of it, maybe that’s why I enjoy Hitchens’s writing as much as I do. Even as a little kid I loved hearing Toño carry on.
As it turns out, both Toño and Vicenta were correct; in today’s Weekly Standard,
It is true that Franklin Roosevelt had an affair-possibly sexual, although no one really knows-with his wife’s social secretary, Lucy Mercer; but it took place in 1918, more than a dozen years before FDR was elected president. And far from behaving like lovesick adolescents, Roosevelt and Mercer (who married someone else shortly thereafter) quickly went their separate ways when Eleanor Roosevelt offered FDR a divorce and Roosevelt’s mother threatened to disinherit him. Roosevelt chose his responsibilities to his wife and five children over the pursuit of happiness with Lucy Mercer.
Before we continue with the Weekly Standard article, let’s ponder this statement for a moment: “Roosevelt chose his responsibilities to his wife and five children over the pursuit of happiness with Lucy Mercer”. How times have changed. Nowadays the story would have been either The Brady Bunch or Sayonara, Eleanor.
But I digress.
It is true that, as president, the paraplegic FDR invited Lucy Mercer to the White House on several occasions during World War II (always when Eleanor was out of town) but such visits were entirely chaste, in the presence of his daughter Anna and innumerable friends over cocktails and dinner-and, in spirit and practice, could not have been more different from Bill Clinton’s furtive encounters with Monica Lewinsky, or Eliot Spitzer’s transactions with Ashley Alexandra Dupré, alias “Kristen.”
And I suspect neither Eleanor nor Franklin would have agreed to the “wee wifey standing by her man” act on the podium when apologizing to himself, either.