Here there be monsters (socratic) wrote,
Here there be monsters
socratic

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The personal and the political

We all know how harmful the use of personal information in the political realm can be. Infidelity, substance use (not even necessarily abuse), embarrassing family members, and a thousand other aspects of a politician's personal life can be used against him in the court of public opinion. This keeps good people with embarrassing secrets from testing the water, and rewards deception and dishonesty in the public realm. Rare indeed is the man who has never done anything indiscreet. More common is the man who has done such things but has learned how to lie about and hide them.

There are a number of reasons why we shouldn't care too much about a person's political life when judging whether or not they belong in office. One of them is that the past is the past. When I think of the person I was even 4 years ago he is nearly unrecognizable in the person I am today. If you don't believe me, you can go back and look at some of my old entries. I was young and different. Therefore I find it remarkably easy to accept the premise that perhaps some of our political leaders were different people with different values 20 years ago. Now I know that it's somewhat unusual for people to change in profound ways during the course of their lives, but it's certainly not unheard of. There's the "born again" Christian movement and plenty of other examples of youthful cads who became responsible adults. I have no trouble accepting that there are politicians who made unwise choices, even really bad ones, in their youths but would not do so today if given the same opportunity. Yet politicians cannot admit their mistakes. They have to deny them at every turn, or make ludicrous claims like that they didn't inhale the marijuana. I don't even know how that's significant, the main issue with marijuana is that it's illegal, not that you may have, at some point, gotten high. I wonder if politicians who do not have children will admit to having sex if pressed upon the issue, even if they're married. It's a silly game.

George Bush is a guy who made a lot of mistakes in his youth. He clearly consumed his share of nose-candy, he drank like it was his job, and according to rpeate he may even have procured an abortion for a girl he got pregnant (not necessarily a moral failing in and of itself, but it was illegal and I doubt he was ever 'pro-choice.') So what? This was 15 years ago. I would accept it if he stood up and said "Look, I lived a life of sex drugs and rock and roll for 20 years. I made a lot of mistakes, and suffered greatly for them. That's why I support conservative legislation on these issues, I wish I'd never been able to obtain cocaine or that abortion and I will do my best to make sure that no young man placed in the position I was will be able to obtain them in the future." I wouldn't agree with him, but I would respect that as a legitimate argument. Just because you've done something wrong doesn't mean you don't have the moral authority to try and prevent other people from doing it. In some way sinners make the best saints, because they know what it is they're dealing with. George Bush knows how cocaine addiction can hold you in its thrall, or at least thinks he does. He is qualified to make an honest judgement about that drug and whether he thinks people who use it are capable of making rational decisions. He could still be wrong, despite his experiences, but the experiences are an asset in that arena. Please note that all this only matters if you don't think he's being disingenuous. I don't think he has an ingenuous bone in his body, but maybe I would believe he did if he would open up about his naughty past.

He can't though. It's not his fault, it's the ridiculous standards we hold our politicians to. Standards that only a lie could ever meet. We expect them to be shining paragons of virtue, even if we look upon them as human sewage when they don't prove to be a cross between Sir Gawain and Aristotle. Bill Clinton had oral sex with a young (legal) girl while he was married and she was at least partially under his care. Big deal. It's almost a cliche how many corporate big-wigs lay the good wood to their pretty young secretaries. Long hours and lots of power mean you have means motive and opportunity to score some young tail. Now granted Monica Lewinsky isn't exactly Grace Kelly, but that's a lapse in taste, not morality. What Clinton did was wrong, but it doesn't really relate to his being president. It wasn't criminal, (lying to the grand jury was, but that question was pure entrapment and I can't blame him for it) it didn't put the country at risk, and it's a common place event. One can be a good president and a mediocre man. Yet if Clinton had done that prior to election and it had been widely known (he was accused of lots of infidelity and even rape, but Slick Willy bobbed and weaved away from all that despite the fact that iconoclast claims that he knew Clinton was a rotten apple at the ripe old age of 4) his goose might have been cooked. After the Lewinsky affair several Republican leaders had to resign because of infidelity. Newt Gingrich committed and even more heinous act when he divorced his wife while she was suffering from cancer, but that didn't make him a bad politician. His politics made him a bad politician.

Character issues devastate that honesty of the American political process and are, in my mind, a big reason why everything's so fucked right now. John Kerry has to use 'Nam to prove he was brave and true even though he was brave and true in the pursuit of a horrific goal. George Bush has to lie about who he is. John Edwards can't admit he may have made a mistake when he was a trial lawyer and suing about Cerebal Palsy. Dick Cheney...okay Cheney's evil and that should disqualify him from office. I can't defend Dick. Politicians should be able to use their mistakes to their, and our, advantage. They should not be forced to lie and deny in order to burnish their images to a false shine. We, as Americans, have to be more willing to tolerate the flawed nature of man. We need to allow someone to be honest about their past, their mistakes, and what they meant to them. This would go a long way to improving the political climate and reminding us of what really matters. The issues.
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