Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Personal scandal in a political world


It's everywhere. Athletes, movie stars, politicians.  Heck, there's even a TV show now called "Scandal."

So I wasn't totally shocked when news recently broke about General Petreaus' affair, leading to him stepping down from his role as the Director of the CIA.  That resignation was accepted by President Obama.

Yes, I have already done a blog post about scandal, asking if we are too quick to judge.  But in the wake of recent events, I would like to amend my question.  I stand by my first post, but now I want to know... does it all even matter?

So let me break this down.  When it comes to scandal in politics, it absolutely matters.  I wrote an entire research paper about scandals in Congress since 2000, complete with statistical analysis.  It was actually very depressing spending months looking at horrible things people have done.

So when it comes to political scandal - embezzling tax payer money, buying votes, whatever - those are obviously fire-able offenses.  Those are times when people should step down from office because it directly impacts their professional responsibilities.

But here's the crux of it - should personal scandal (like an affair) cause professional ruin?

Now I know there are bigger issues at play here - i.e. was Petreaus giving up confidential information? (If you're not up-to-date on the scandal, I think the Global Grind gives a fabulous break down.)   But let's put that aside for just a moment.

When politicians do something morally, but personally, reprehensible, should it cost them their jobs?

For example, President Bill Clinton kept his position, but was impeached following the Monica Lewinsky trial.  He was impeached for lying about the scandal under oath. But why was he under oath in the first place?  Who gives a crap?  Did we literally just put the President under oath to ask him whether he had a totally inappropriate personal affair?  And then slap him with a pretty hefty professional impeachment when he lied about it?  Seems like a disconnect here...

Then think about Anthony Weiner.  Who posts pictures of naked online?  Totally stupid.  But again, personal.  He had the right to make that dumb mistake.  Then he was forced out of office.

So back to Petreaus.  If he was having an extramarital affair that did not impact the body of his work, no matter how morally reprehensible, should he be expected to step down from his professional role?

I honestly have no answers to these questions - I simply wonder... when do politicians have to give up their right to be human?

What do you think?  Should public officials have to step down from their jobs in the wake of a scandal?  Should professional and personal life remain separate?  Let me know your thoughts in the comment section below!


  1. I think that as long as teachers are losing their jobs for stripping part time at night to pay their bills, so too should politicians.

    1. Great point Christine! Thanks for chiming in :)