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Marty Linsky
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Marty Linsky

Co-founder of the leadership-focused consulting firm, Cambridge Leadership Associates, Marty Linsky teaches at the Harvard Kennedy School, co-authors the advice column, Leadership House Call and blogs at Linsky on Leadership .

The Adulation of Thousands

The issue is not sexual probity. The issues are hypocrisy, public lies, and breaking the laws he -- and it's always a "he" -- was sworn to uphold.

Politicians from Gary Hart to Eliot Spitzer to Mark Sanford get derailed because of their public deceptions and the exposure the phoniness of their self-righteous sanctimony. Bill Clinton survived the Lewinsky affair because in his 1992 campaign he had told us himself not to expect any better.

Besides, we judge politicians under a cloud as much by how they handle the mess as by the underlying realities. It was the cover-up that brought Richard Nixon down, not the Watergate break-in.

And none of this has much to do with leadership. For every talented or less talented philanderer who gets caught, there are plenty of talented - and not so talented - would-be successors waiting in the wings.

Saying all that, it is probably true that Mark Sanford, Eliot Spitzer, and John Edwards are not just bad apples. Think more systemically. Why are there never any women caught up in sexual infidelity? Why do so many of those who fall seem to be the ones who put themselves, with our collusion, on such an unrealistic moralistic pedestal in the first place? What is created when a man's normal sexual appetites are fed by the adulation of thousands of anonymous people? Why do so many of the politicians who get caught come from parts of the country where so-called family values are front and center at election time?

By Marty Linsky

 |  June 30, 2009; 10:42 AM ET
Category:  Ethics Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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I guess that means if a person holds an position of power and responsibility that it will make them very horny and its okay to act. Hmmm.... I wonder how long the rest of us would last if we acted like that. Its not that the marriage vow is hypocritical -- its a commitment of character. A character that says that for s-e-x I'll go to this partner only, and of course, that partner ''should'' be available to accommodate. I mean, we all have the same equipment and it works just about in the same way, we just don't need to use it on every 'unit' we happen to be near while our tank registers: "Hungry for more..." So it kind of leads a person to think, not so much religiously or politically, that if this person's character doesn't hold up on the most basic of desires, how will it hold up in bank world, or giving contracts to certain people worlds, or trading of countries and yada yada yada onward and downward the spiral goes. So I guess it is important and can't be swept under the carpet. If you can cheat your spouse, then you can cheat the people. So we should probably only let SINGLE people run for office, duh.

Posted by: izziart | July 1, 2009 1:44 PM
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I think the two previous posts are mostly accurate. I remember going to workshops on how to handle negatively charged situations involving the media. The answer was always the first thing you do is tell the truth and all the truth there is. Don't allow the specifics of the situation to dribble out over a matter of days or weeks.

Look at Sanders--makes these stupid blunders the biggest one the trip to the tryst with his lover. Then when he has to make a statement he not only doesn't tell it all, he tells it like a teen age kid and expresses nothing but confusing comments. "I'm going to reconcile with my wife, but my true love lives south of the border".

Isn't there anyone in S.C. who is close to him to tell him to shut up and quit seeing these quirky religious nuts who all have a system to keep you moral? I have a friend who is a non-using addict. He says you want to quit? Just say no every day all day, and then don't. And tomorrow you do the same thing again. You get the picture.

Sanders is really sad and when you put all the sadness together you get picture of his character and it surely isn't one of leadership.

Posted by: rick10 | July 1, 2009 12:27 AM
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Basically if the candidate wraps themselves in the flag and bible they are a lying hypocrite about to be exposed as such.

Vitter - Jesus politician who hires prostitutes to diaper and change him.

Gingrich - Delivered divorce papers to his wife on her cancer ward bed.

Hyde - Stole the wife of another man for a mistress, then tried to impeach Clinton.

Delay - Sold the services of his office to the highest bidder, keeping a tally book on his desk which he opened when constituents would ask for representative assistance with the question "How much have you given us?"

Cheney - Outed a covert CIA officer working to stop Iranian WMD programs.

The list goes on and on and on of NEOCONS and Fundamentalists who claimed to be holy and righteous only to prove themselves as unethical hypocrites undeserving of office or leadership positions.

There is a mental pathology among these fundamentalists that allows them to behave as they do: "Church on Sunday, Argentina on monday!" Psychopaths share the same behavior - there is no "wrong" for them when they want something.

Posted by: onestring | June 30, 2009 7:36 PM
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Not just parts of the country, but walks of life - evangelical preachers, Catholic priests, bombastic conservative TV and radio personalities, hyper-religious, family-values spouting politicians.

It's always the ones who preach at the rest of us and are "holier than thou."

What brings them down is not the act, but the hypocrisy. Witness Clinton, who is still well thought of among Democrats.

Posted by: Pamsm | June 30, 2009 6:12 PM
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