At this point, I've grown to expect powerful men in politics to lie and cheat -- and I'm just talking about their personal lives. Without fail, at some point in every campaign season, candidates' personal lives and professional pasts will be placed in the public eye. They can't escape those years when their moral choices were questionable -- or even deplorable -- no matter how much money they try to throw at the problem.
But is it fair to use a candidate's sexual escapades and marital misbehavior to try to gauge how well they'll be able to run our country? While I'm interested to find out what skeletons lie in politicians' closets, I certainly don't use a candidate's behavior within his or her own marriage to make my voting decisions. And this is coming from a person who cherishes the institution of marriage!
On the other hand, I can understand why some folks would use those personal histories to make their judgments on a candidate's integrity. Ultimately, we look for someone whom we can relate to -- which is why religion often plays a huge role in campaigns. If a candidate cheats or, say, poses nude in a Cosmopolitan spread like Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown did, many voters will lose interest because they'd never make those kinds of moral decisions.
If so many people are swayed one way or the other by these indiscretions, and politicians know this, why do so many of them engage in risky behavior? Is it a power trip, or do they simply not feel their personal lives affect their professional lives? At some point, there should be a line drawn. Take President Clinton, for example. He wasn't faithful to Hillary, but his presidency was hugely successful in terms of his politics. So how do his personal indiscretions leave a permanent shadow over the four years he spent in the Oval Office?
Recently, Newt Gingrich was put on the defense about his own personal past -- notably his two failed marriages -- and it's come to the point that he's pledged to remain faithful to his current wife. Good for him for making the effort to do his marriage right this time, but isn't that what his vows were for in the first place? If you ask me, whether he remains faithful to his wife doesn't govern his politics. Sure, it might play a role in his religion (he's committed himself to the church), which, in turn, affects his policies, but it's still a stretch to say his sexual infidelities should be grounds for debate about his ability to hold office. Ultimately, who are we to judge? No one's perfect, especially when your personal and work lives are put under the microscope.
So what's your take? Should we let our judgments of politicians' personal indiscretions seep into their electability? Does having an affair really make any difference in how well they'll be able to lead in office? Or am I giving them too much credit (after all, politicians are just like you and me -- they're not superhumans)?