On Leadership
Video | PostLeadership | FedCoach | | Books | About |
Exploring Leadership in the News with Steven Pearlstein and Raju Narisetti

Slade Gorton
Political leader

Slade Gorton

A former U.S. Senator and Washington State Attorney General, Slade Gorton served on the 9/11 Commission.

A Clinton Exception?

It's difficult, in the light of the Clinton presidency, to assert the proposition that Americans "disqualify from top leadership positions people who haven't lived by the highest moral standards." It may well be that conservatives who have run on family-values issues are held to higher standards, but that may be more a comment on hypocrisy than on sexual straying.

In any event, appropriate standards may well differ with respect to business, where sexual straying would seem to be irrelevant unless it amounts to sexual harassment in the workplace, and in religion, where it is intolerable, as it is impossible to preach what one does not practice.

By Slade Gorton

 |  June 29, 2009; 2:21 PM ET
Category:  Ethics Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: Leaders We Can Live Without | Next: Getting Away With It

Comments

Please report offensive comments below.



Slade, your comments are ridiculous.

Well, y'know, I don't know if we can talk about moral standards in high office, what with the Garfield illegitimate child and all.

Yes, of course this is about hypocrisy, and of the highest order.

I don't care what Sanford does in the bedroom, and I never cared about Clinton's activities.

But you Republicans made as much political hay of it as possible, spending millions of tax payer dollars to track down a lie about a sex act, all the while claiming the high moral ground.

Sanford was as self righteous as they come. Now he's caught in the same net. Of course he should have his head handed to him.

The point is that Republicans have gotten themselves elected by touting themselves as keepers of the public morality when they are anything but. Sanford dished it out, and prospered politically. Now he can get it back in full, and rightfully so.

Oh and there are the issues of illegal use of state funds, misleading his staff, failing to hand over executive authority before disappearing, that show disregard for the law and serious lapses in judgment.

Posted by: SeattlePete | July 1, 2009 12:33 PM
Report Offensive Comment

Are we fated to all caps?

Actually, I think the standard on ethical behavior in politicians is pretty simple, and not particularly high - did you do something that would get you fired from the average workplace, leader or no? These aren't just leaders but also employees; they report to the public.

Clinton had sex with a subordinate in the workplace and lied about it. (I'm not saying he should have been impeached, necessarily, but I don't consider this acceptable behavior in an employee - witness the Seinfeld episode.) Sanford was absent from office and unreachable for five days with no explanation and lied about it. (Are we sensing a trend?) Larry Craig and David Vitter's behavior was not just plainly illegal but they had public legal action taken against them. (Mark Foley needs no explanation.) These are all firing offenses in the private sector.

John Edwards, meanwhile, I could care less about. He may not be the world's nicest guy, but not only is he not a public employee anymore, what he does in private is absolutely none of my business. Ditto for John Ensign, unless someone can prove he acted inappropriately in dealing with other public employees.

Curious how people make these things more complicated than they need to be. We'll consider that part of the hangover the nation has from the ridiculous Republican "family values" talking point.

Posted by: kszimmerman | July 1, 2009 11:31 AM
Report Offensive Comment

I think marital infidelity is a fatal character flaw revealing a very worrisome trait of personal dishonesty that is likely to extend into other areas. Whether it should immediately disqualify a political leader from completing his/her term in office may depend on the circumstances of the offense. But in any event, it causes a great loss in the credibility of the offender and seriously hinders their ability to effectively lead all their constituents for the remainder of their term.

Posted by: jjj33 | July 1, 2009 10:18 AM
Report Offensive Comment

I would add to the title the 'Gringrich Exception' too. I guess if you marry the tart you are forgiven and all is forgotten.

It is most evidently settled law and settled politics that we do not care about a politician's philandering. Did you know that adultery is actually against the law in Washington, DC? It is also against the law in Michigan as well. The Michigan Attorney General, a Republican and the probably the leading GOP candidate for Governor, has admitted to having had an affair. In the recent scandal involving the Mayor of Detroit, he was not charged with adultery. Charges were never filed against Spitzer or against Vitter.

The problem here is that conservatives have tended to bring personal piety and personal moral behavior into our politics, which isn't all bad of course. But in too many cases it was all a facade, and importantly they disparaged people not sharing their politics, as being God-less, having poor moral character, not having 'family values', or not being a 'real American'. I remember President Bush 41 criticizing the Democratic Party platform in 1992 as not containing and reference to God. I am not sure why it would or should.

So as a defense, the Left, for lack of a better word, took to pointing out the hypocrisy in the parsons of this kind of politics.

All of this is probably ultimately all against our American values, and taken to its extreme with respect to government action is unconstitutional. Religion and morality is probably necessary for a civil society. But the Founding Fathers did not mean for them to be used as political tools, obviously.

Had they used religion and morality in their work there is no way they would have set up an entire economy and social order built upon the evils of racism and slavery, and they would have never codified racism into the US Constitution (the 3/5th clause).

Posted by: detman | July 1, 2009 5:55 AM
Report Offensive Comment

I find the comments from Mr. Gorton absolutely astounding. Mr. Clinton was held to the higher standard. If you recall, he was impeached and conservatives would have dearly loved to see him forced from office.

Conservatives are held only to the standards they have set. That seems fair to me. Live by the moral hypocrisy, die by it.

If most liberals are like me, we would prefer to ignore who slept with whom and get on with governing but as long as conservatives insist that they have the duty to determine that people can't marry whom they love and women can't be trusted to make their own decisions about their own bodies, then they will reap what they sow.

Posted by: arancia12 | June 30, 2009 11:17 PM
Report Offensive Comment

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company