Political Ethics & Sex Scandals

Topics: Ethics, Scandal, Lewinsky scandal Pages: 7 (2540 words) Published: March 9, 2014

TO: Professor Herness, Facilitator Hatch
DATE: November 30, 2013
SUBJECT: Assignment 6.1: Candidates, the Code, and Consulting Over the course of history sexual scandals have always been a part of the political arena. There exists a body of social science and psychological study specifically related to power and the effects it has on men and women, particularly in the political field. Power and influence can lead to a “bubble effect” for some politicians where they become insular. The formation of a double standard and hypocritical behavior emerges. A 2010 The Economist magazine article explains this political phenomenon. “Politicians who have extramarital affairs while complaining about the death of family values, or who use public funding for private gain despite condemning government waste, have become so common in recent years that they hardly seem surprising anymore…To investigate this Lammers at Tilburg University and Galinsky at Northwestern University have conducted a series of experiments which attempted to elicit states of powerfulness and powerlessness in the minds of volunteers. Having done so, as they report in Psychological Science, they tested those volunteers' moral pliability.” The team concludes, “They argue, therefore, that people with power that they think is justified break rules not only because they can get away with it, but also because they feel at some intuitive level that they are entitled to take what they want. This sense of entitlement is crucial to understanding why people misbehave in high office. In its absence, abuses will be less likely. The word “privilege” translates as “private law”.1 The understanding of the psychology behind behavior is what is critical in evaluating how political consultants and the public at large evaluate our official’s conduct and whether we deem it acceptable or not. Human behavior is human behavior whether a priest, a judge, a businessman or a politician. What is critical for my role as a political consultant is the intention of the act and how it relates to the constituents. Fallibility, understood. Remorse, expected. Hypocrisy, never. As far back as ancient Rome with Publius Clodius Pulcher and his Bona Dea scandal where he dressed as a woman to intrude on an all female ritual and seduce Caesar’s wife2, every culture has and will continue to experience politicians’ impropriety. Behaviors similar to those exhibited by Sanford, McGreevey, Spitzer, Weiner, and Filner, one Republican and four Democrats, which should be noted as examples in the assignment, affect both parties. No one party has a monopoly on virtue. A search of all US Federal political sex scandals from 1776 until 2013 came up with a total of 74. While this number is not intended to be used as a scholarly reference, the source is Wikipedia, it shows a rather large number of scandals throughout our history. Not all of these led to the demise of politicians career, as was the case of Gary Hart. In the time of Jefferson, it was widely know after the death of his wife he was the father of Sally Heming’s children, yet this was never reported. During the Harding Administration, rumors were spread of the President’s illicit affairs with two women, chronicled in a 1927 book3, yet it did not topple his Presidency. The behavior is as old as the republic. What is new is the standard by which we judge those in elected office and how political opponents take information and use it with the sole purpose of personal destruction. This is where the American Association of Political Consultants Code of Ethics is a meaningful guide, albeit imprecise, to gauge my behavior in situations of comprised ethics. An ethical political consultant can work for a candidate for public office who has engaged in behaviors such as Senator Larry Craig, Senator David Vitter, or Congressman Weiner as long as one recognizes and admits the behaviors are a lapse of good character and judgment. One’s professional...

References: 1. The Economist Science Column, (Jan 21, 2010), The Psychology of Power – Absolutely, The Economist, http://www.economist.com/node/15328544
2. David F. Epstein, "Cicero 's Testimony at the Bona dea Trial", Classical Philology, Vol. 81, No. 3, Jul., 1986, pp. 239 - 235.
3. Robenalt, James D. The Harding Affair, Love and Espionage During the Great War. Plagrave Macmillian (2009)
4. Towner, Emil, (September 3, 2009) What is Apologia? A Description and History of the Term, St. Cloud State University, http://emiltowner.com/2009/09/03/what-is-apologia
5. Condon, Stephanie, (March 28, 2011), CBS Evening News, http://www.cbsnews.com/news/newt-gingrich-leading-clinton-impeachment-wasnt-hypocritical/
6. Brown, Lara Dr., Legislative Studies Section, It’s Good to Be an Incumbent: Scandals, Corruption, and the 2006 Midterm Election, American Political Science Association (January 2007, Vol. 30, No. 1)
7. Harris, Margeaux Thea, Sex and Politics: The Genre of Apologia in Political Sex Scandals, (June, 2012) California Polytechnic State University - San Luis Obispo, http://digitalcommons.calpoly.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1110&context=comssp
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