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Columns Tom Baxter

A brief chat with AI about our presidents’ families and their scandals

Image by Jonathan Kemper via Unsplash.

By Tom Baxter

Because it’s so much easier and proves my point better than I could, most of today’s column has been generated on ChatGPT. Here goes, copied and pasted directly from the program:

Q: Before Hunter Biden, what children or siblings of American presidents have been associated with scandals?

A: There have been several children and siblings of American Presidents who have been associated with scandals throughout history, some examples include:
Neil Bush, brother of former President George W. Bush, was implicated in the savings and loan crisis of the late 1980s, where several savings and loan associations failed, leading to a huge taxpayer bailout.

Billy Carter, brother of former President Jimmy Carter, was involved in several controversies, including his association with Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and his alleged conflicts of interest.

Roger Clinton, half-brother of former President Bill Clinton, was convicted of drug-related charges and served time in prison.

Robert Kennedy, Attorney General and brother of former President John F. Kennedy, was the subject of scandal rumors, including alleged affairs and unethical business dealings.
These are just a few examples, and it’s important to note that the actions of a president’s family members do not reflect the actions or beliefs of the President themselves.

Q: Didn’t Nixon have a relation who had scandal problems?

A: Yes, that’s correct. President Richard Nixon had a brother, Donald Nixon, who was involved in several scandals. Donald was implicated in an influence-peddling scandal in the 1950s, where he was accused of attempting to use his connection to his brother, who was then Vice President, to secure loans for his struggling business ventures. This incident was mentioned during the Watergate hearings, which led to President Nixon’s resignation. Donald Nixon’s business dealings continued to be a source of controversy throughout his life.

Q: What about 19th century presidents. Did any of their relatives have scandals?

A: Yes, some relatives of 19th century Presidents were also associated with scandals. Here are a few examples:

William Henry Harrison, the 9th President of the United States, had a son named John Scott Harrison, who was implicated in a land scam involving the sale of public lands.
Martin Van Buren, the 8th President of the United States, had a son named Abraham Van Buren, who was involved in a financial scandal and resigned from his post as U.S. Minister to England.

Andrew Jackson, the 7th President of the United States, had a nephew named Andrew Jackson Donelson, who was involved in a land scandal and was eventually removed from his post as U.S. Minister to Prussia.

These are just a few examples, but it’s worth noting that scandals involving family members of Presidents were not as well documented or widely reported in the 19th century as they are today.

Q: Same question about 18th century presidents.

A: Scandals involving the relatives of Presidents were even less common in the 18th century, as the country was still in its early stages of development and many aspects of modern political reporting and investigation were not yet in place. However, there are a few examples of controversy surrounding family members of 18th century Presidents:

George Washington, the 1st President of the United States, had a step-grandson named George Washington Parke Custis, who was involved in a financial scandal and was sued for debt.

John Adams, the 2nd President of the United States, had a son named Charles Adams, who was involved in financial scandals and was eventually imprisoned for debt.
It’s important to note that these examples are relatively rare, and that many Presidents in the 18th century did not have close family members in positions of power or influence that could have led to scandals.

Q: Early 20th century through FDR?

A: An error occurred. If this issue persists please contact us through our help center at help.openai.com.

My point, if it isn’t obvious, is that the scandals of presidents’ relatives are such a timeworn subject that eventually even an artificial intelligence will get tired of talking about them. ChatGPT broke down before we could get to William Howard Taft, Woodrow Wilson or Warren G. Harding, but they all had scandals in their families.

This is why it won’t matter in the next election what was on Hunter Biden’s laptop, if we ever find out what that was.

By the way, none of those answers took longer than five seconds to generate. Since we wrote about ChatGPT a few weeks ago, Microsoft is reported to have raised its stake in the artificial intelligence app from a billion to $10 billion.

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Tom Baxter

Tom Baxter has written about politics and the South for more than four decades. He was national editor and chief political correspondent at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and later edited The Southern Political Report, an online publication, for four years. Tom was the consultant for the 2008 election night coverage sponsored jointly by Current TV, Digg and Twitter, and a 2011 fellow at the Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics at the University of Kansas. He has written about the impact of Georgia’s and Alabama's immigration laws in reports for the Center for American Progress. Tom and his wife, Lili, have three adult children and seven grandchildren.

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2 Comments

  1. RL Boger February 14, 2023 10:57 am

    The essence of Washington: (i) the opposition party superficially identifies the scandal; (ii) runs to the microphones to express its collective outrage; (iii) forms a special committee to investigate; (iv) holds public hearings to shame the culprit (to prep for the next election); (v) writes a scathing report on its findings; and (vi) buries the report never to be heard from again.

    All under the guise that: “people who live in glass houses should never throw stones”.

    These scandals are why, “mysteriously”, elected representatives come to Washington with minimal net worths and, after a very short time, parlay their positions into bloody fortunes (for themselves and their surrogates), all the while pontificating what righteous souls they are.Report

    Reply
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    Reply

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