A guest editorial by John Johnson retired publisher, editorial page editor, and runner up for a Pulitzer Prize.
Bill Clinton’s personal behavior while President was disgusting — but no more so than other Presidents who were fortunate enough to have served when there was no media spotlight. Or, as in the case of John F. Kennedy, when out of respect for the office itself the media ignored Kennedy’s many, many indiscretions.
As well — and despite persons who hero worship either man — 20th-century presidents Democrat Franklin Roosevelt and Republican Dwight Eisenhower both had mistresses.
The 43 percent of the American people who elected Bill Clinton knew he was Slick Willie, a personally flawed human being. All the rest — that is those who didn’t bother to vote — can now sit down and shut up about Clinton, or any other politician’s alleged improprieties. Absent being in the process, you have absolutely no right — save for the First Amendment bleating reserved even for the ignorant — to utter a word.
Be that as it may, the so-called Clinton scandal serves to illustrate quite clearly that sifting through the political minutia finds that the differences between the major political parties are negligible. However, that’s true only because both sides are trying to tell you what you want to hear, often ending up sounding alike. So whose fault is that — the liars doing the talking or the ears which seek and hear only the lie?
The reality is that a major reason for the GOP pursuit of Clinton was the belief that it was necessary to do anything and everything to keep Clinton (read Hillary) focused upon something other than a left-wing political agenda, i.e., gays in the military and health care reform during Clinton’s first term.
A love or hate relationship with Presidents has been true throughout this nation’s history. It started with Thomas Jefferson who, in 1802 was accused by the press of a sexual relationship with one of his slaves.
• Jefferson was reelected two years later.
In 1824, John Quincy Adams was accused of bigotry and adultery.
• He was elected.
Four years later, Andrew Jackson was accused of having a mother who was a prostitute, and he himself of adultery.
• He was elected.
In 1884 Grover Cleveland was accused of fathering an illegitimate child.
• He was elected.
Maybe Clinton was right. Maybe voters are interested in more than the sex lives of politicians.
Consider the words of John Steinbeck in his book, Cannery Row:
”The things we admire most in men, kindness and generosity,, openness, honesty, understanding, and feeling are the concomitants of failure in our system. And those traits we detest, sharpness, greed, acquisitiveness, meanness, egotism, and self-interest are the traits of success. And while men admire the quality of the first, they love the produce of the second.”
We teach by word and deed that striving for success is worthy, and then denigrate the very qualities that within our system achieve success
.At the same time, it is assumed by everyone that there is a set of moral rules which governs the behavior of public officials. We should also consider what it is we ask our public officials to do, and then ask ourselves what sorts of people are necessary to do it.
The United States faces an intense crisis on all sides, from both within and without. Individuals who can lead the nation in dealing with and confronting such challenges need to be:
• Highly ambitious.
• Utterly ruthless.
• Thoroughly aggressive.
• Arrogantly self-confident
• Full of vitality.
And individuals who possess these qualities are different from the rest of us.
It follows then that leaders different than the rest of us in the public life will also be different than the rest of us in the private life. That is not an endorsement; rather, it accepts the reality of being human in an altogether and often inhuman world.
Guest editorials are welcome. Your choice of subject; my choice to print or not.
Comments are welcome.