Some years ago, I got a call from a friend who was serving in elective office. He’d decided to run for re-election and wanted to talk about his future plans.
I approached our coffee session with thoughts of what sort of fund raising would be needed, how to reactivate former volunteers, how to get him appearances in front of local groups and how many days were left for neighborhood walks and door-knocking. Typical election topics that must be discussed before announcing. Decisions that need making. I was prepared for what I thought the conversation was to be about. I was not prepared for what he had to say.
“My wife and I have decided to get a divorce,” he said. “Do you think we should do it before the election or after? What effect do you think it will have on voters? Will it make a difference?”
Needless to say, that morning’s pre-campaign discussion was about a subject that had not crossed my mind. But – at that time -it was central to his decision to run again. It could’ve been a killer.
Move the calendar up about 40 years. We have Senator david Vitter (R-LA) – re-elected though he’s a multiple adulterer with a string of prostitutes. We have Representative Mark Sanford (R-SC) – a long-term adulterer elected to Congress after his multiple intercontinental romps at taxpayer expense as South Carolina Governor while lying to his staff and constituents about it all. Ex-Congressman Anthony Weiner – forced out of office for sexual misbehavior on his smartphone – now running for mayor of New York City. Former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer is running for New York City Comptroller against a former madam he jailed when he was New York Attorney General before he was forced out of office for his own $80,000 prostitution activities. After which he had two national TV shows. And a best-selling book.
There are other multiple adulterers like Newt Gingrich, the ex-speaker of the House – but you get the point. It used to be politicians were deathly afraid of even a hint of scandal or family problems. Many stayed in unhappy marriages because of fear of a tarnished public image. Now, they seemingly thrive despite outright escapades with hookers, South American girlfriends, sexting, adultery and other sins of the flesh.
Now I’ll be among the first to admit cultural standards have changed. We are – for the most part – a more accepting nation than we used to be. In most respects, we’re a more forgiving people. But have we lowered the bar for morality to the point we would shun a friend for some of this behavior but elect strangers to determine national governmental policies while committing the same sins? (more…)