A Healthy Debate

A regular commenter here, who I like to call “Perpetually Offended Tom” (although he uses the pseudonym, Tom Sawyer) was most recently offended because some other commenters gave him heck for being a tool. He thinks everyone was mad at him because he was trying to generate a “healthy debate”.

So, I’m going to make it a little easier for him to engage in a healthy debate by presenting a healthy, debatable topic:

Politicians and Sex Scandals

Britain was the world leader in political sex scandals for a long time (John Porfumo, Christine Keeler, Mandy Rice-Davies). America, is however, way ahead these days. Mark Sanford is the latest. Before him there were Clinton, Gary Hart, Newt Gingrich, Larry Craig, Wayne Hays, etc., etc., etc.

Most of these people lost their political office because of their dalliances.

Oddly, in many other countries in the world, including Canada, nobody cares too much about their politicians sex life. (A side debate to this one could of course be whether or not Canadian politicians even have a sex life). Still I find it hard to believe that politicians in Canada are any snowier than American politicians. Yet, we never hear much about whatever it is they do or don’t do after work.

The odd thing catches the media’s fancy. Pierre Trudeau was quite the ladies man before he was married and after his divorce. He was reported out and about with a variety of hot celebrities (also once with Barbra Streisand). But those stories were written with a point of view of pride rather than shock.

And there are a few openly gay Parliamentarians. When they get married it makes the papers and a few people gasp and write letters when there’s a big photo of on the front page of their morning Sun of their MP kissing his new husband.

And once a couple of Parliamentarians dated each other and then broke up and one of the called the other one names and we had a bit of a field day with that. But other than that we don’t hear much of anything about our politicians’ personal lives – no “scandals”. And certainly none of these things have cost any of them a career. (In fact, I think, like France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy, a little sexy stuff actually increases their popularity).

So the debate question is: Can someone with a mess of a personal life, which features betrayal, dishonesty, weakness, hypocrisy, lies and maybe even some weirdness – can such a person be trusted with a public office?

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36 responses to “A Healthy Debate

  1. Maybe not. But we on Elgin Street rely on that kinda thing being a constant, for some of our choicer blog posts…

  2. I personally fail to see how someone’s sex life can affect their competence at their job – unless they’re a sex worker, but that’s a whole other thing.

    Take Clinton (cause it was huge). How on earth does the fact that he’s boffing interns make him less competent at his office? The whole story was completely ridiculous. Who cares who a politician (or anyone else for that matter) is having sex with – it’s no one’s business – except their spouse’s.

    But, as you pointed out, do Canadian politicians even HAVE sex? I have lots of trouble imagining Harper or Dion or Iggy getting it up, much less getting a BJ at the office!

    This being said, it’s usually those holier than thou types who are the worst.

    Karma, she is a bitch.

  3. I say yes. Betrayal, dishonesty, weakness, hypocrisy and lies are the foundational qualities of a successful politician.

  4. Depends on the circumstance. I hate when people say someone’s sexual misconduct doesn’t matter in public office. If they steal in private, does that not matter publicly either? I don’t say that a sex scandal (or a theft scandal for that matter) means that a person should be condemned and thrown out of office. I say that it all factors into my consideration, the positive and the negative, as it does in all my choices.

  5. I think politicians are human and sometimes make bad decisions in their personal lives, but that shouldn’t affect their ability to do their job.

    It is funny though how these louts usually go on self righteous rants towards other people and their choices. LOL

  6. It is not so much what they do, but what they say prior to being caught for what they do while condemning others if they got caught for doing the same. Wait, there is a word for that hypocrisy…I hate them for their hypocrisy not for their screwing around. For that I just feel badly for their families.

    The U.S. likes to set itself up as some great moral and pure democracy to the world, shoving it down the throats of other nations and then go about being real fuck-ups (Or human, same thing) and when called on it say: God wants me to lead, or God forgives me and wants me to carry on. Personally if there is a god he is probably saying, say my name one more time and I am going to make your dick fall off. I hear he can be all vengeful and wrathful like that.

    Can these pinheads be good at their jobs? Sure jerks and dirtbags run very profitable companies everyday. Would you want one to marry your daughter? Probably not.

  7. I’m with LoLa above. If someone demonstrates dishonesty and immoral behaviour in one way, they may tend to be dishonest and immoral in other ways, which may be in the work that they do. Dishonesty is cheating on your spouse. However, the definition of “immoral” is a little more up for grabs. I don’t think it is immoral for someone to be gay, although there are people who think that. So a lot depends on the circumstances.

    Weakness and weirdness are also relative and depend a lot on the observer’s perspective. For example, my mother and I have very different scales by which we judge these things. And there are even people who don’t think things should be judged at all. So there is no one easy answer to any of this.

  8. It’s not that their sex lives are so fascinating, or relevant to their jobs. It’s all the gay-hating and hypocrisy that’s unpalatable. If a guy wants to lobby to take away the civil rights of any other group, I’m going to be extremely critical of his lifestyle. Definitely the bigotry first, but especially when, ala Larry Craig, his only motivation for denial of gay civil rights is that he can’t stand to see anyone else be happily Out when he’s too cowardly to come out of the closet himself.

    It seems obvious that Craig (and Ted Haggard, and half a dozen others in recent news) are obsessed with gay sex because they feel they can’t have any themselves. As long as they’re actively on their campaign trail of bigotry, hell yes I’m going to point and laugh every time they’re caught in an airport bathroom making anonymous bids for the big gay sex they claim to hate. Hypocrites deserve nothing more than frequent, open mockery.

    On the other hand, we have Sam Adams (the mayor of Portland) who was exposed as having had sex with an 18 year old. Because it was an 18 year old *guy*, this was big news (to some). I had a big moment of, ‘Ick, the age difference, but who the fuck cares?’ – just like I would if a 40 year old guy was after an 18 year old woman – and then went on with my life. There were people who lit torches and wanted him to resign, but most of those were just your average gay-haters who wanted a fresh target. That, to me, is totally ridiculous. 18 is an adult in our culture, and anything between consenting adults is A-ok with me. And it didn’t seem relevant to his job at all; I’ve never heard Sam actively campaigning against the rights of gays, or heteros, or anyone else.

    So you have irrelevant, right wingnut-driven ‘scandals’ – which usually aren’t scandals at all (ala Clinton and Mr. Adams) and then you have GOP bigots who fuck men on the side while campaigning for all homos to be sent away to a distant island. The conservative asshats are driving all the ‘scandal’ talk, they’re just not covering their own asses well. In any sense of the words.

  9. But don’t you think that when a politician, I’ll use a man as an example, chooses to betray his wife and sleep with someone else, it shows that he is choosing what profits himself over what profits other people? Do you want someone who chooses his own best interests over those of others as your representative in government?

    And I would also question the judgment of someone having a fling with an aide or college girl or hooker when likely as not, they’re going to get caught with their pants down. Would they be applying that same ‘good’ judgment to fiscal matters or legislation in their day job?

  10. Speaking of sex scandals today, it seems important to bring up Italy. It’s amazing what their prime minister has been able to get away with. Most any other country (and certainly the US) would probably have turfed him out by now.

  11. I agree with Zoom. I think it’s ridiculous to think that politicians are supposed to be our moral standard.

    We don’t choose politicians for their ability to put the best interests of the world first, the people that vote them in want THEIR interests to be front and centre. So selfish, self serving, behaviour in their personal lives speaks of their ability to serve their constituents in the same selfish way.

    And that’s one of the reasons my faith discourages us from being involved in partisan politics. The most moral person on the planet will be chewed up and spit out of the political machine if they really maintain their moral ground. To survive and “represent” your constituents you’ll have to play the game which is immoral, dishonest, and full of hypocrisy.

  12. I was a municipal politician for a spell and even ran for Parliament once…

    On both occasions, I had to sign forms vowing absolute celibacy. So, the answer to “do politicians have sex” is no. They’re not allowed.

    Seriously, as Julia points out “the definition of “immoral” is a little more up for grabs”. I don’t at all think that gay sex is immoral, improper or anything negative. Whatever. Live and let live.

    Dishonesty? While I personally despise it, I don’t necessarily think that cheating on your spouse (for example) indicates that you would be a dishonest politician. There are always reasons for infidelity. I’m NOT condoning it, but one never knows what goes on behind closed doors and relationships can be complicated.

    Now, if they are caught with a hooker or call girl (is there a difference between the two?) – well, that is just plain stupid!

  13. @ Mudmama – the point I was making was that someone like that would be tempted to put their own interests *before* those of their constituents, not that his veniality would *benefit* his constituents.

  14. One thing to add though about Canada…..

    Other than a bit of news – the dalliance would not do much…

    BUT!!!!

    Do it on the public dime – then watch the lid blow off 😉

    Spend out tax payer bucks & baby the whole thing turns around

  15. See there is the problem. You posted this at 10:27 am and within 12 minutes you have 15 responses. If all these people would just go and get laid they wouldn’t have to wait around to salivate over someone else’s sex life.
    I don”t care what the time stamps say I’ve made up my mind and that’s final. Unless I change it.

  16. Coyote – Too bad our politicians are more stupid than sexy.

    Jazz – I tend to agree with this viewpoint. But I’ll betcha anything most of our politicians are just as human as the as American politicians – just no one can bring themselves to make a fuss over it? Or maybe they’re more discrete.

    Zoom – Yes, I see what you’re saying. It’s not like their priests or anything (oops, bad example)… I mean where is it written that they have to have unimpeachable personal morals.

    Sky Girl – I agree. There is so much other shit going on that they could be scrutinizing — but sex sells more papers.

    LoLa – I think there’s a big difference between them doing something illegal and doing something immoral. Immoral is a subjective term for the most part. A politician is just a representative of his constituents, not a god. And if, 80% of his constituents are having extra-marital affairs, why can’t he?

    Hannah – Probably you’re right..in most circumstances. The ones who rave on about other people’s sex lives are a whole other ball of wax, though — they’re just nasty hypocrites .. as several people have pointed out.

    Cedar – Ya, that’s a whole different case. Their crime is being big fat hypocrites and condemning other people for stuff that a) there’s nothing really wrong with and b) that they’re secretly doing themselves.

    Julia -I was thinking mostly of Clinton-like stuff or this last guy with his South American mistress. I don’t see how stuff like that should get someone kicked out of office. They’re still human beings with all the groin-led foibles of other human beings. The Catholic church demands their priests be celibate in order to avoid anything distracting them from their work. I think we know that doesn’t work out well. Likewise, I don’t think we should expect our politicians to be saints.

    Hallie – Yes, as I said before, the hypocrisy y is one thing. The debate I was thinking of centered more around guys like your Sam Adams, Clinton, Mark Sanford.

    Alison – I don’t know. People can be very clever and very good at their jobs and still have a very messy personal life. Intelligence, skill and professional commitment aren’t necessarily related to good personal judgment when it comes to their wienies.

    Milan – Or France! Look at that photo recently where they thought Obama was staring at that woman’s ass. The US went crazy until it turned out he was, in fact being chivalrous. Phew! Meantime, Sarkozy was there openly gawking at the woman’s ass and the French just nudged each other knowingly; proud of their President.

    Mudmamma – I agree. We’re crazy if we elect them because we think they’re better than us.

    Trashee – Ha ha. I don’t know that getting caught with a hooker is all that much different than getting caught in a fling with your secretary. But I agree that what goes on in relationships is complicated. Sex is complicated.

    Alison -“veniality”??? Just where do you think you are?

    Elliot -Hmm – You mean if we found out Harper had been buying hookers on his expense account? Ya, that would probably be a black mark against him…once we all picked our jaws up off the floor in amazement that he was actually human enough to go prowling for sex.

    Bandobras – I think it just signifies that Tom was right and everyone really is itching for a good healthy debate. Speaking of which… where the hell IS Tom??

  17. I have no pity for politicians.

    Too bad. It comes with the job description.

    Like it or not, part of the reason they get voted in, is due to their integrity and values. (Or at least, their percieved integrity and values) Many people trust them, and trust that they’ll do the right thing when representing their constituents.

    If they screw up their integrity, that trust is broken, and their employers (i.e. voters) have the option of firing them.

    Well, not really firing them just yet. Their job is guaranteed for at least four years, until next election.

    Unlike other professions. For example, what if you’re a registered Professional Engineer? Say you drink and drive (on your own time, after work). And you get criminally charged.

    Even though this has nothing to do with your engineering skills, chances are you’ll get fired.

    And rigth away, too. (Not just four years later).

  18. I imagine Tom Sawyer’s personal life is filled with betrayal, dishonesty, weakness, hypocrisy, lies and maybe even some weirdness and no, I do not believe he should hold public office. That would not be a good idea at all. Not at all.

  19. Anyone who goes into political life knows – or should know – the scrutiny they will be under. It is more the lying and disappearing that goes on to cover their activities that could make them less able to what they were elected, or appointed, to do. Obviously some can handle it better than others. The French and Italians seem to have had lots of practice.

  20. well, Sanford was spending public money to meet his crush in Venezuela. I reserve the right to get het up about misuse of public funds, especially when the same guy who’s working hard to turn his idea of ‘Christian values’ into the law of the land apparently doesn’t hew to them himself.

    I don’t care what a guy gets up to, frankly, as long as (1) he doesn’t try to pass laws preventing me from enjoying the same freedoms he exploits, and (2) he appreciates that he was put in office to represent MY interests, and the interests of his other constituents – not to further whatever twisted homophobic agenda he’s cooking up in his deeply closeted mind. He ran on a platform of ‘Family Values’ which translated is ‘More of the Same Misogynistic Bullshit’ when you read his actions into it.

    I don’t give a hang about these Christian values he claims to adhere to, because the only people I know who spout how holy they are that loudly are accomplished liars. But if I had shared these ideas, and voted for him because of them, you bet I’d be pissed. I’m just as upset with Obama, talking gay rights in his campaign and shitting on them when in office. Don’t tell me what you stand for and change your mind later. Be upfront about what a reptile you are so I can choose the reptile I want when I go to the polls, geez.

  21. I really hate to disappoint all my fans, family, and friends here, but I must agree with Elaine: My life is filled with betrayal, dishonesty, weakness, hypocrisy, lies–and LOTS of weirdness. So no, I will not seek public office.

    I cannot be trusted. And if I am a tool, I am a sharp one.

  22. On the one hand, maybe we could compare this to those brilliant scientists that have no social skills. They are still great scientists. On the other hand, my brain is tired and I can’t argue the other side. Or maybe we weren’t supposed to debate with our own selves?

  23. Friar – Really? You vote for politicians because you think they have integrity and values? Come on…Like Zoom said, no one with integrity and values could survive as a politician Maybe I’m just cynical but I don’t believe anyone goes into politics to help people and change the world. I think they go into politics because it comes with power and privilege and because it’s great for networking to build up your private career, So, unless they do something illegal how can we give them hell for doing something a good percentage of private citizens are doing too? They’re not our moral leaders. We just elect them to run the business of the country/province/city. As long as they’re doing that, what business is it of ours what they get up to in the bedroom? If the wife can forgive him, why should he lose his job over his fling? And who gets to decide what’s acceptable bedroom behaviour and what should cost a guy his job?

    Elaine – Um… welcome to the blog?? Do you know Tom personally?

    Violetsky – Perhaps. I keep thinking of Trudeau who was a brilliant man and probably one of our best PMs and yet he chose Margaret for a wife. She was years younger than him, a complete airhead and ended up causing him no end of embarassment. His judgement when choosing a wife was obviously seriously impaired; does that speak to his judgement in his professional life, too?

    Hallie – Ya, hypocrites with power are a whole other animal. I agree with what you’ve said. I think most people would agree that a guy who spends his professional life insisting that homosexuality is evil and that those practicing it should be second class citizens and then gets caught with his little mister in a glory hole — well, that guy is unstable and shouldn’t be representing constituents.

    Tom – Hi Tom.

    Linda – Clinton was and is pretty awesome. I don’t think people realized just how much he had on the ball until recently — after they tried to burn him at the stake for a bit of slap and tickle. The crazy thing is that I’ll bet you anything Hilary was well aware of what he was up to in his spare time and was probably glad that he was finding it somewhere else, so she wouldn’t have to do it!!

    Geewits – You can debate anyone you want here, including your own self. I think it’s almost expected that the more brilliant someone is in the fields of science and technology, the more of a social reject they are. So, ya, you have a point there — are people who are highly skilled in one area usually lacking in other areas? I think so. People who are very artistic or language oriented are often hopeless at math or anything like that. People who are really gifted athletes are often not so academically inclined and vice versa. So, why not assume that people who are good at public life are really crappy at personal life?

  24. That is so funny. I started a second comment on your last post about how Tom is a tool but didn’t finish it. And it seems the only healthy debate he ever wishes to start is whether or not you’re an unreasonable ass, which he seems to perpetually lose and then whine about it. Anywho, before Clinton, we held our leaders to a higher moral standard. Not that they had one, he just got caught as have many others. But 20 years ago a sex scandal would have ruined any politician’s career, now we’re okay with it. However, if a man can shit all over the person who trusts him most, do you really think he gives a shit about lying to you and I? Nope. These men spend their whole lives pandering, saying what people want to hear and carefully dissecting each thought before speaking (at least the ones good enough to fool us into voting for them.) These men have great personal ambitions and seek power. The last man that should have power is the one who seeks it. It’s all screwed and it will never be right. Puppies. Clouds.

  25. Mayopie – Before Clinton, there were plenty of presidents and other politicians who messed around (Kennedy, Roosevelt), but it was kept secret from the general public. All the insiders seemed to have known about it. It’s now that stuff like this keeps coming out and ruining people’s careers (and families). I don’t know, but I never expect anyone I elect to be celebate or to only have relations with a legal spouse on Saturday evenings in the missionary position. There are so many things about a person’s personal life that are up for subjective judgment, I don’t even want to start. for instance: so the guy has never cheated on his wife, but he’s been married 5 times, each time to progressively younger women. Is that okay? Or he’s been married to the same woman for 20 years but he’s made her life a living hell — nothing illegal – he’s just a shit. Is that okay? Should he be dismissed for that? How will we know? Or a guy is happily married and he and his wife are into threesomes and hang out in clubs picking up hot young men and/or women. Is that okay? Are any of these better than the guy who cheats on his wife? How do we know the wife isn’t okay with it as long as he does it on the qt? How do we know his wife hasn’t cut him off from sex for the last 20 years? So many things to consider

  26. I completely agree. As I said, Clinton just got caught. And the only reason anyone cares is because a person’s character does reflect on how they govern. We don’t hold our doctors, lawyers and business men to these same standards because they don’t make laws that we have to follow. Your point regarding a guy being a total shit to his wife is a perfect example. If I knew that about someone, I would be less likely to vote for them. The public persona that they maintain for our consumption is nothing but. If a guy is a sweetheart in public, yet kicks his wife when he gets home, we now know who the real man is.

  27. Pingback: Healthy debate versus just being an asshole « Life Begins at 41…or maybe 43

  28. I’m torn on this one. On one hand, I truly believe it is nobody’s business.

    On the other, I think a sex scandal can (in some instances) shed light on someone’s honesty, trust, values, etc.

    A sex scandal alone wouldn’t make me NOT vote for someone, but I’d have to at least consider it when in the voting booth.

  29. Mayopie – Ya, I wouldn’t want to vote for a guy with a nasty personal history (if I actually had another option which almost never happens). But if the guy has been in office for a while and has been doing a good job?? Should he lose his job???

    Kimberly – Probalby using the word “scandal” makes everything seem a lot worse than it actually is. A married guy messes around with someone other than his wife. Happens every day. Might break up a family, but hardly anyone ever loses his job over it. Even church leaders get away with it after apologizing and promising to mend their ways. And they actually are supposed to be moral leaders. So, why pick on polliticians?

  30. I am not certain about the “sexy” being reliable in office, but I do think that J.F.Kennedy had a good start on being excellent in office, and apparently in bed too. Either that or they slept with him for power????

    Our Illinois Governor Blagoiovich (sp?) was recently found to be one of the sleeziest politicians on earth, even trying to sell Barack Obama’s seat, because it as too good to give away. Of course, the money as going right I the Governor’s pocket.

    I’ve never heard that this sleezeball ever cheated.

  31. Gosh, I really need to start proofing my comments. It was Obama’s Senate Seat, not the one he uses at dinner and the money was going into the Governor’s pocket, not “me” going into the Governor’s pocket. Ick, Phlooey, creepie. Gotta go wash my mouth out now.