Thursday, February 12, 2009

Political Scandals

Almost daily, the media serves up another political scandal. Are politicians of our time more corrupt than those of the past?

There seem to be four possible answers:

1. Yes, they are.
2. The media, which must bring us news 24-7, sensationalizes trivia.
3. We have changed the ethical standards under which we judge our politicians.
4. The infighting between the two parties and between the far left and far right radical groups uses this trivia to further taint those whom they oppose and wish out of office.

I am inclined toward the third, maybe the fourth. It seems we, through the media, often see and revel in the titillating trivial ethical lapses of our political leaders. Lapses such as sexual dalliances, that are not pertinent to their political duties. Are we expecting too much of those humans who become our political leaders? I suspect so.

Of course, I have no respect or sympathy for those who are corrupt in the performance of their elected duties - they should be punished. I am addressing such scandals as the Monica Lewinsky case, Obama attending the church of a radical minister, politicians who hire undocumented housekeepers and so on.

Historians frequently bring to light the weaknesses of our past leaders so they were not as pure as we seem to expect of our present leaders. Their minor foibles did not prevent them from doing their duties and being outstanding leaders; nor has our respect for their leadership diminished, as they become known. I am sure, at the time, reporters were aware of such inconsequential weaknesses, they just did not consider them pertinent.

What do you think?

1 comment:

Ira Glickstein said...

JohnS, I think today's crop of politicians are less corrupt than those of the past. The infighting between the major parties and the left/right is not more significant - just more personal!

So, why so much reporting on personal scandal? It is due, IMHO, to your items #2 and #3: I think we've changed the ethical standards to extend beyond political duties into personal morality and I think this trend is driven by the 24/7 cable-TV news and Internet blogging cycle.

When we were kids, all the news was controlled by a few daily papers in our city and by three or four radio networks and three TV networks. The newspapers were local and they got all (or almost all) their national and international news from AP, UP, and INS.

By "gentleman's agreement" reporters did not reveal the "clay feet" of our leaders. Photographers did not show FDR very often in his wheelchair nor did they show him being proped up to a standing position to give his speeches. They knew but did not report that JFK told "Rastus" jokes and had extracurricular sex in the White House.

Then came cable-TV with CNN and another 24/7 news channel they bought out and closed down. Up to that point, the major media were mildly liberal and did not sensationalize personal morality.

Then came talk radio! That was what broke the back of the "ethical standards" that protected the personal foibles of politicos. It turned out that truck drivers and commuters and others tended to prefer conservative talkers over liberal talkers, and the radio station owners flocked to them to get ratings.

Then the Internet Drudge Report broke the Lewinsky story. The radio talkers had a ball and the main stream media had to report it. (I love Larry David's comment on that scandal: "How could Clinton think he could get a BJ from a Jewish woman without consequences?" I hasten to add Larry David, co-creator of "Seinfeld", is Jewish and a flaming liberal.)

Now we have hundreds of TV stations including three major 24-hr cable-TV news networks. There are hundreds of talk radio programs including dozens syndicated nationally. I've got satellite-radio with a dozen national and international news/talk/info channels with diverse left/right/black/gay/whatever opinions. There are hundreds of thousands of Internet news/info/opinion/blog sites.

With all these sources, nothing about politicians or other public personalities (as well as private folks) goes unreported.

Ira Glickstein