There was a crooked man,
and he walked a crooked mile,
He found a crooked sixpence upon a crooked stile;
He bought a crooked cat, which caught a crooked mouse,
And they all lived together in a little crooked house.
And the name of the house was Congress,
And when the crooked little man got there, he found that there were a lot of other crooked little men there to keep him company.
Naturally, one would not suggest that all politicians are dishonest, but it is not exactly a shock when we hear about one who is.
One of the interesting discussions to emerge from the recent scandal surrounding Rep. Anthony Weiner is whether lying about personal matters damages a politician’s credibility.
This assumes, of course, that politicians are credible in the first place, and one might argue that this has by no means been clearly established.
Nonetheless, it seems that there are a lot of people who say they don’t care if an elected official lies about his personal life as long as he doesn’t lie about things related to his job.
These people are giving politicians a lot of credit. They are assuming that politicians are incredibly compartmentalized, and that it is possible for them to publicly lie about one subject, with no qualms or remorse, while at the same time, it is impossible for them to lie about another subject.
This seems a very rash assumption indeed.
We like to think our representatives in government are honest. There was a time when we even believed that fiction about George and his old man’s cherry tree.
Unfortunately, a long line of leaders have given us cause to doubt their veracity. Many have been so arrogant as to continue to deny their misdeeds, even after they have been brought into the light of day.
That brings up another strange phenomenon.
I have read many instances in which people are willing to overlook the indiscretions of their elected officials, on the grounds that “they took responsibility and admitted their mistakes.”
That is an extremely generous view, particularly in those cases in which the person in question has vigorously and publicly denied his infractions, even in the face of evidence to the contrary.
It is often overlooked that the politicians have, in many cases, not acknowledged their activities at all until they are uncovered by some other source.
Saying that they “took responsibility” seems a stretch. It might be more correct to say they were forced to take responsibility, and they did so reluctantly.
One also has difficulty in believing those public apologies that politicians who have had their tail caught in a wringer eventually issue. Their teary-eyed attempts at sincerity and remorse might have been more believable if they had made them before an outside investigation was required, and before the tide of public opinion began to turn against them.
One sometimes has a distinct impression, when observing these productions, that the only reason they are apologizing at all is to avoid more serious consequences in the future.
Politicians are human, most of them, and it is understandable that they will sometimes make mistakes.
It does not follow, however, that misconduct should somehow be viewed as a virtue.
Should politicians be held to a higher standard than they rest of the population? Absolutely. Elected officials are endowed with the public trust. We elect them to represent our interests, not their own.
Far too often, our fearless leaders forget that important point.
Politicians seek and accept this trust voluntarily. No one is required to run for public office. And, if they are elected, they take an oath to faithfully discharge the duties of their office.
It might be asking too much to expect our politicians to be wise, or compassionate, or creative, but we should at least expect them to be honest. And, “sincere” apologies notwithstanding, we should hold them accountable when they are not.