This article was originally published on Medium.com.
Alexander Hamilton was America's first pundit. He was never elected president, but he molded the office from Day One, advising George Washington on how to speak, how to act, and how to mingle with visitors. (Sample advice: Avoid showing "extensive disgust.") Long before he was the most coveted ticket on Broadway, Hamilton unleashed countless thoughts on politics — 27 volumes! He opined on every election, even if it killed him. (It did.) So let's imagine that he dodged a bullet and could somehow watch our 2016 election. What would he think of this mess?
For starters, he might chuckle at our collective despair. True, the Federalist Papers do not contain the phrase "grab them by the genitals." And "locker room talk" cannot be defended. Yet we have a nostalgic sense that the Founders were these marble statues who wore powdered wigs and said high-minded things about government.
But they were also human, flawed, and sometimes petty. While serving as Secretary of State, Thomas Jefferson secretly paid tabloids to write scathing take-downs of Hamilton; some slandered him as a "cowardly assassin," a monarchist, or even in bed with the British — the original Birther movement.
Hamilton counter-punched, scribbling essay after essay under pseudonyms like "Anti-Defamer" and "A Plain Honest Man," which made him the nation's first Anonymous Commenter. And you think the insults in 2016 are nasty? John Adams thought Hamilton had "a super-abundance of secretions which he could not find whores enough to draw off." (It's a shame they didn't have Twitter.)
Hamilton would likely be puzzled, if not horrified, by how Trump and Clinton handle the concept of "disclosure." Tax returns, Medical records, charitable donations, emails? Hamilton faced those kinds of inquiries. In 1792, a skeptical Congress pressed Hamilton, then Treasury Secretary, for a detailed reconciliation of his financial programs.
Hamilton did not obfuscate. He did not delay. He did not say he would "wait until after the audit." He worked day and night and through the Christmas holidays, then unleashed a 21,000-word report that came with detailed, anal-retentive tables and the 18th century version of spreadsheets. He hid nothing. "It is certain," he patiently explains, "that I have made every exertion in my power, at the hazard of my health, to comply with the requisitions of the House as early as possible." (Imagine Trump taking this tack.)