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Michael Maccoby

Michael Maccoby

Michael Maccoby is an anthropologist and psychoanalyst globally recognized as an expert on leadership. He is the author of The Leaders We Need, And What Makes Us Follow.

Adultery Is Private, Politics Are Not

Unlike the French who seem to think it's not worth getting excited about infidelity, we Americans have historically had a somewhat Puritanical attitude toward adultery. However, we have sometimes ignored it in those leaders we value highly, like JFK and Martin Luther King.

When Grover Cleveland ran against James Blaine in 1884, his illegitimate child caused a scandal, but he still won the presidency. The voters considered Cleveland's sexual escapade less damaging than Blaine's crooked financial dealings.

I think that the public dislikes infidelity in its leaders but is willing to ignore it if the leader is seen as truly working for the common good. But if like Sanford and Ensign, politicians who have run on family values and denounced others for their sexual missteps, prove hypocritical, voters will inevitably doubt their honesty and authenticity. Hypocrisy, especially the holier-than-thou variety, is a stronger reason to distrust a politician than adultery, which I believe is a private affair.

By Michael Maccoby

 |  June 29, 2009; 1:44 PM ET
Category:  Ethics Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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With Sanford, the bigger issues were (1) his dissappearance for several days and (2) use of state funds for his latino booty call. This schmuck was pretty vocal about "accepting" federal funds for schools while at the same time screwing SC taxpayers. This makes him a dishonest scumbag

Posted by: cjanson | July 1, 2009 10:23 AM
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