What Do We Expect from Our Politicians?

My friends who hated Clinton thought he should have been impeached for lying to Congress. My friends and colleagues who liked him thought the whole investigation into his sexual misconduct was a symptom of what is wrong with America.

The governor of New York had a weakness for high priced prostitutes. The discovery of his indiscretions - which put him out of office - was supposed to have been accidental. Now we find that it was planned by a political opponent.

The Mayor of Detroit, Kwame M. Kilpatrick, has been charged with eight felony accounts - which sounds like he must have been running a cocaine operation. In fact, he is being charged eight times in different ways (perjury, obstruction of justice, conspiracy to obstruct justice, misconduct of office, etc.) for lying about an affair.

These are just three examples that spring to mind. In the past twenty years there have been dozens of high-ranking politicians who have lost their positions because of sex scandals. Most of them were forced out of office not because of the sex itself, but because they lied about it.

Or that's what their accusers would have us believe. "It's not the blow job that bothered me," one colleague said about Clinton at the time. "It's that he lied to the American people about it."

I thought, "Are you kidding?"

What do we Americans want from our politicians? Leadership? Intelligence? Wisdom and good decisions?

Or do we want chastity and truthfulness?

In the old days - and by that I mean the days of my childhood - politicians could expect to keep their private lives private so long as they didn't flaunt their affairs. And even when they did - as John Kennedy did, God bless him - the public took a healthy view of it: You can't expect a guy like him to say no to Marylyn Monroe, could you?

Those were the good old days, it seems to me. The days when politicians vilified their opponents by pointing out weaknesses in their political philosophies. The days when politicians argued about big, scary issues like communism and the end of the world. Those were the days when ideas were important in politics and personal conduct was left to the gossip magazines.

At least that's how it seems to me now, looking back. It seems, too, that the trend toward mudslinging in political debate has paralleled the trend toward muckraking in journalism. With more frequency every decade, reasonably good public servants have been done away by this new process. It is lots of fun to read about… but it makes you wonder if we are a better or a weaker nation because of it.

When it comes to secret sex and lying about it, it doesn't seem to make any difference what faith or party you belong too. Republicans rank right up there with Democrats and Libertarians. Born-again Christians probably top the religious charts, but who's counting?

We live in an America where our President is allowed to lie to us about why we should start a war but can't lie to us about who he's diddling in the oval office.

Does that make sense?

If the American political system has proven anything in the past 50 years it is that Americans are perfectly happy to select their leaders based on their ability to attack their opponents personally and reject those same leaders later on based on their former opponents' discoveries of their own flawed personal lives.

I don't get it. I never have. That's probably why I've always stayed about as far away from politics as I could get. I've voted only once in a national election.

Imagine if America ran its businesses that way. Imagine if we chose and deposed our business leaders according to what they did in the bedroom instead of the board room. How successful would our businesses be then?

I guess that's the point: the difference between business and politics. In politics we choose our leaders. In business, people who are natural leaders choose us.

posted by M. Masterson @ 5:08 PM,


At 5:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr. Masterson,
I've been a reader of your ezine for about 5 years now, and while I agree with your overall comment, I think you're missing the big picture here. All of the scandals you just mentioned were a result of the media picking and choosing which politician to protect, which to crucify. If the mass media didn't push the Clinton affair morning till night, all day every day, would it really have been as big as it was? I don't think so. The main question is who did the named politician offend to warrant a media blitz, because I'm pretty sure they all have skeletons in their closets. Seems to me, the average person, its just a diversion, just like the huge amount of air time spent on Brittney Spear's emotional status or some overpriced jock using performance enhancing drugs. Anything to keep your attention from what's really going on. Check out Alex Jone's documentary "End Game" to see what I mean.

At 12:21 AM, Blogger Dalyce said...

Truthfulness is not necessarily confession. It is who one is in private as well as in public. One cannot make good decisions with wisdom if one is not truthful. If politicians are unchaste and deceptive in their private lives, how can we expect better from them in their public lives? What kind of example are they trying to set for the public that watches them?


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