Scandals

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Scandals

Unread postby Talevarde » 31 July 2016, 18:44

Recently a documentary came out regarding the scandal of Anthony Weiner, a former congressman disgraced by a sexting scandal. He tried to reclaim public office by running for the mayor of NY, but was ultimately unable to satisfy the public's relentless inquiry into his personal life. It was a wonderful slice into the absurd and circus-like spectacle of American politics, and brings up a very interesting question about the soul of political campaigns:

How important is a candidate's personal character in relation to their ability to serve their constituents?

Politics in the USA had generally regarded the personal lives of politicians irrelevant to their ability to hold office, at least up until the late 80s, when the presidential campaign of Gary Hart fell into ruin due to the discovery of his adultery. A reporter had asked something along the lines of "Do you believe adultery is immoral? Have you committed adultery?" So it would appear that as soon as a politician has used his or her personal character to advocate for their campaign, then they have also opened up their personal character to scrutiny.

In politics, if something is not talked about, then it might as well not exist. A conversation should always be the essential starting point of any visceral change. Which is why if you want to keep the status quo, there is no easier way to derail the conversation than by turning it into a soap opera. It was the case of Hart, it was the case of Weiner, and countless other politicians: from the point that the scandal broke, all discourse regarding the actual issues essentially ceased. They can answer the question a million times and it would still be asked.

After the Watergate scandal, people began having a legitimate concerns regarding the personal integrity of individual public figures. If someone is personally corrupt, then they are more likely to be publicly corrupt. But at a certain point, I think the idea is taken to the extreme. We see this especially in the case of Trump's campaign. To satisfy the public's craving for political bloodshed, we see the discourse being filled with the fluff of caricaturization. It was about Trump's small hands, Rubio's thirst, etc. In my view, it ceased to be anything productive once it devolved into personality pageants. We saw this back during Obama's campaign too, when the birthers tried to overshadow the issues by bringing into question his birthplace. When you're losing an argument, resort to name-calling.

Do you think we needed to know about Monica Lewinsky? Should we elect a public official if they have an immoral personal life, but have a good track record of serving his or her people? If we are talking about issues, when are the personal lives of the participants relevant? Is this situation prevalent in other countries too, or is it a US condition?
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Re: Scandals

Unread postby homomorphism » 1 August 2016, 00:22

Do you think we needed to know about Monica Lewinsky?


Maybe, maybe not. It's nice to imagine we'd have dignified, professional politicians who know how to conduct themselves, both in their private lives and publicly. We're not merely electing these people to cast votes or put together an agenda. They're representatives of our nation, both to us and the world. Decorum is important. But the personal and professional lives of a politician aren't usually well-separated, as this example shows. Very quickly, the issue for Bill was less about Monica and more about the fact the he perjured himself in front of a grand jury and then proceeded to split hairs over the definition of "is".

It's what's so particularly distasteful about this event, and the implications to Bill's character go far beyond his ability to keep his dick in his pants.

Should we elect a public official if they have an immoral personal life, but have a good track record of serving his or her people? If we are talking about issues, when are the personal lives of the participants relevant?


I'm not sure I can really imagine what it would mean for me to find someone to be morally reprehensible but admire their political track record.
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Re: Scandals

Unread postby poolerboy0077 » 1 August 2016, 01:38

homomorphism wrote:
Do you think we needed to know about Monica Lewinsky?


Maybe, maybe not. It's nice to imagine we'd have dignified, professional politicians who know how to conduct themselves, both in their private lives and publicly. We're not merely electing these people to cast votes or put together an agenda. They're representatives of our nation, both to us and the world. Decorum is important. But the personal and professional lives of a politician aren't usually well-separated, as this example shows. Very quickly, the issue for Bill was less about Monica and more about the fact the he perjured himself in front of a grand jury and then proceeded to split hairs over the definition of "is".

It's what's so particularly distasteful about this event, and the implications to Bill's character go far beyond his ability to keep his dick in his pants.

He perjured himself in front of a grand jury in a proceeding that was pure theater. It would be one thing to take something like this into account when deciding on who should lead the party. But once a person is selected as the nominee, or once they're in office, these sex scandals should take a backseat to what the alternative is. Am I really to mull over my vote when the decision is between a guy like Clinton or Wiener and some neocon nutjob?
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Re: Scandals

Unread postby homomorphism » 1 August 2016, 08:45

poolerboy0077 wrote:
homomorphism wrote:
Do you think we needed to know about Monica Lewinsky?


Maybe, maybe not. It's nice to imagine we'd have dignified, professional politicians who know how to conduct themselves, both in their private lives and publicly. We're not merely electing these people to cast votes or put together an agenda. They're representatives of our nation, both to us and the world. Decorum is important. But the personal and professional lives of a politician aren't usually well-separated, as this example shows. Very quickly, the issue for Bill was less about Monica and more about the fact the he perjured himself in front of a grand jury and then proceeded to split hairs over the definition of "is".

It's what's so particularly distasteful about this event, and the implications to Bill's character go far beyond his ability to keep his dick in his pants.

He perjured himself in front of a grand jury in a proceeding that was pure theater.

Does that somehow make it less petty for him?


It would be one thing to take something like this into account when deciding on who should lead the party. But once a person is selected as the nominee, or once they're in office, these sex scandals should take a backseat to what the alternative is. Am I really to mull over my vote when the decision is between a guy like Clinton or Wiener and some neocon nutjob?


You can vote for whomever you want, really, and for whatever reason you want. Maybe you find Clinton's perjury less distasteful than some neocon nutjob. I think that speaks more to the sad state of American politics than how irrelevant Clinton's affair is though, or what perjury implies about his character.
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Re: Scandals

Unread postby Yeauxleaux » 1 August 2016, 09:36

Depends what the scandal is

If it's something like cheating or being promiscuous, I honestly wouldn't give a fuck as long as it doesn't get in the way of their running the country.

I'd be more concerned if it was bad habits like gambling though. Do you really want to put a habitual gambler in charge of the economy? Fuck no.
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Re: Scandals

Unread postby Talevarde » 3 August 2016, 02:45

It seems people would agree with me that in general, the scandals involving private lives should be irrelevant. If Clinton had not lied and immediately admitted to his affair, I wonder if it would have been such a big deal. "Yes, I did have sexual relations with that woman. My wife and I are working it out right now, but it is none of your business" would have been refreshing to hear, and I'd be very curious how that would have gone down.

There was a politician who, shortly after Weiner went down in flames, came out and preemptively revealed that he had multiple affairs, as a kind of "controlled burn". I wish I could remember his name, because I'm very curious if that worked for him.

I believe a person could be personally reprehensible, yet still make a good leader. We're often confronted with hypocrites who speak words of silk but act with a spider's fang. Those who "grieved" for the LGBT community after Orlando yet went ahead to enact legislation against the same community are one example of this. But could we also have someone who says terrible or irrelevant things, but actually act responsibly, because what they do for a living does not always have to reflect what they believe personally? We could have a baker who is very vocally against gay marriage, but could still bake a wedding cake for a gay wedding because that's her job. Part of me hopes that Trump is actually a knowledgeable and decent human being behind the circus he's running, and that his specific policies are being intentionally kept in the dark because they're too rational for his base to support. An unlikely scenario, but perhaps we'll see soon enough. To be clear, I think it was a shitty thing for Weiner to do, sexting all those women behind his wife's back. But he was a good politician in spite of that.

We're also often met with scandals outside the political arena. Take, for example, professional athletes who engage in domestic abuse. There are many people who believe that these people should lose their contracts, even though how they treat women is not related to their job. Or imagine if you got fired for sleeping around with too many people, when it had no impact on your job performance. It becomes a question of what the institution stands for, how that institution can choose what type of people can represent them, and if the institution had any responsibility to stand for anything at all. I remember speaking with someone who was terribly disappointed whenever a major celebrity declines to comment on a social issue, stating that people with influence have a moral obligation to use that influence for the greater good.
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Re: Scandals

Unread postby Saul » 3 August 2016, 03:39

This is an interesting question. I would have a difficult time supporting someone who has a particular moral failing. However, I am not perfect and would not expect any politician to be.
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Re: Scandals

Unread postby Archetype » 9 August 2016, 06:36

Talevarde wrote:It becomes a question of what the institution stands for, how that institution can choose what type of people can represent them, and if the institution had any responsibility to stand for anything at all. I remember speaking with someone who was terribly disappointed whenever a major celebrity declines to comment on a social issue, stating that people with influence have a moral obligation to use that influence for the greater good.


This is the main issue, in my opinion, that makes this discussion relevant. If society only cared about experience and abilities, personal life would be irrelevant. Those in a public position of power, such as a government employee or organization, do have a moral obligation to the people they chose to represent when they accepted said position. Musicians and other artists do not have an obligation to use their influence for the greater good, yet can and often do. I often struggle with the notion of responsibility to others, and which level must we hold ourselves responsible to as individuals. Should this level of responsibility change as we move up in society and gain more power and influence, or is it morally okay to remain silent on important matters? Personally, I would not vote for a politician that is not cerebral. Having the ability to pander to the public's ethos is a helpful trait, but I cannot vote for someone who would let emotions and feelings get in the way of statistics, research, and facts. Unfortunately, many vote with their feelings.
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