Perhaps we can blame it on the formation of political parties. Only George Washington, the first United States president, was elected unanimously. And even Washington had to dodge the barbs of political foes seeking to pin scandal on his administration.
In Washington’s case it was controversy over the Jay Treaty. His successor, John Adams, became embroiled in the XYZ Affair. And Jefferson was saddled with the Burr conspiracy.
The Wilkinson corruption plagued James Madison, and James Monroe was caught in the crosshairs over the Missouri Compromise.
The circumstances of John Quincy Adams’ election, the Corrupt Bargain Election, would come back to haunt him. Then he had the audacity to put a billiard table in the White House.
Martin Van Buren was caught up in the Mormon extermination controversy. William Henry Harrison wasn’t in office long, but it was because of his two-hour inauguration speech without a hat in a rainstorm, which led to his fatal illness.
James K. Polk was criticized over handling of the Mexican War and the Oregon border dispute. Zachary Taylor faced the Crawford scandal, and Millard Fillmore, often considered the least effective president, was criticized over the Compromise of 1850 involving slavery expansion.
The Ostend Manifesto involving Cuba was Franklin Pierce’s albatross, and the influence of the Dred Scott case plagued James Buchanan. Into this came Abraham Lincoln, not only saddled with the Civil War but the corruption surrounding Secretary of War Simon Cameron. Lincoln then was the first president to be assassinated.
Ulysses S. Grant, the famous Civil War general, was less spectacular as president, his administration embroiled in the Credit Mobilier scandal and the gold scandal. Rutherford B. Hayes survived a disputed election only to be castigated over the Stanley Matthews Supreme Court nomination.
James A. Garfield was involved in the Star Route mail scandal, and the spoils system led to his assassination. Benjamin Harrison raised ire over high tariffs and spending down the budgetary surplus. The Philippines crisis was a headache for William McKinley.