When you realize how many political careers and reputations have been destroyed because of sex scandals over the past several years, it’s truly mind-boggling. David Petraeus is just the latest in a long line that goes back at least as far as John Kennedy and includes the likes of Gary Hart, Bob Packwood, Wilbur Mills, Ted Kennedy, Mark Sanford, Anthony Weiner, John Edwards and Bill Clinton. Frankly, it’s a wonder that any of these guys ever got any work done.
It’s probably not that much of a shock when you consider that most politicians were formerly lawyers. And if it’s true that the ranks of dentists and psychiatrists are filled with would-be doctors who found they couldn’t stand the sight of blood, it’s probably fair to assume that politicians were lawyers who couldn’t stand the thought of working for a living.
But I think the bigger message we can take away from the rise and fall of Mr. Petraeus is that we would all do well to stop making heroes out of people we don’t really know. It’s bad enough when teenagers glom onto entertainers and athletes, but at least one can hope they’ll eventually grow out of wanting to emulate the likes of Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, Michael Vick and Lance Armstrong.
There’s nothing wrong with admiring someone’s accomplishments, but if you’re looking for heroes, you should probably start looking closer to home. Find people whose honesty and character you’re actually in a position to vouch for. Maybe it’s your mom or dad, perhaps even a sibling. If you’re fortunate enough, you might even see one in your mirror.
Just keep in mind that just about everyone you see in the movies, on TV, in the stadium or arena or read about in newspapers and magazines, has a publicity person on salary whose job is to promote their image. Nobody ever hired a flack to make them look bad. Therefore, when you read about some famous person who finally gets caught misbehaving, it’s safe to assume you don’t know the half of it.
In the aftermath of the election, it has occurred to me that it is foolish to discuss the Catholic vote. When you realize that Obama received the bulk of Hispanic votes in spite of his endorsement of abortion and same-sex marriages, and his war on the Church over birth control pills for Church employees, it’s obvious that religion is a goofy basis upon which to base their identity. It’s just as foolish as believing that religion plays any role in the way that Jews vote. The fact of the matter is that the huge majority of orthodox Jews vote for conservatives. It’s secular Jews who overwhelmingly support liberal candidates. But pollsters continue to group them together and to then refer to the Jewish vote as if it’s monolithic and has anything to do with Judaism.
My jocular response to nutty people who have suggested that I should run for president is that I would except for the dress code. As one who has grown accustomed to running around in tennis shorts, sneakers and Hawaiian shirts, I wouldn’t even consider taking a job that required me to wear a suit and tie. Still and all, I’ll admit that I didn’t like seeing Obama or Romney, for that matter, campaigning in their shirtsleeves. If I had known that a suit and tie were now optional, I just might have thrown my baseball cap in the ring.
If I’m not mistaken, the slide in decorum began, not too surprisingly, with Bill Clinton. Before him, about the most embarrassing things that occurred during presidential campaigns, was seeing the candidates don Indian war bonnets, kissing babies and chowing down on such ethnic, vote-getting, delicacies as pizzas, strudel and knishes. While it’s true that Nixon, generally the stodgiest of politicians, went on Laugh-In and in a futile attempt to seem like a regular guy, said “Sock it to me!” it took Clinton going on MTV and telling the world whether he wore jockey shorts or boxers to place the presidential limbo pole at ground level. Monica Lewinsky was merely the inevitable result of electing the horny oaf to the highest office in the land.
Therefore, it was no big surprise to see Obama during the campaign popping up to chitchat with the tawdry likes of Barbara Walters, Joy Behar, Jay Leno, David Letterman and Lazaro Mendez, the radio host who bills himself as the Pimp with a Limp.
Speaking of he who should be back in Chicago, it’s not certain, as I sit here, whether Barack Obama will nominate U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice to replace Hillary Clinton as the Secretary of State. My question, though, is: How is it that Madeleine Albright, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, Mrs. Clinton and now, possibly, Ms. Rice, have all been deemed fit for the job?
Just when was it decided that a position that had been held by the likes of Thomas Jefferson, John Marshall, James Madison, James Monroe, John Quincy Adams, Henry Clay, Martin Van Buren, Daniel Webster, William Jennings Bryan, George Marshall and John Foster Dulles, would become nothing more than the final rung on the ladder of affirmative action?
In 20 short years, it’s gone from being a tough job for tough-minded people to being a really bad joke. Sort of like the presidency, itself, now that I think of it.