by: Anna Kate Baygents
When you hear the name Bill Clinton, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? For most people, it is not his foreign policies or economic decisions, but of his now infamous alleged affair with Monica Lewinsky. Even after adamant claims that he “did not have sexual relations with that woman,” Clinton’s legacy belongs more in US Weekly than Time. I fully believe that a public official’s personal life affects his or her professional life. However, the extent of the effects depends on the severity of the personal conflicts.
In Clinton’s scenario, I see it as this: If you’re willing to cheat on the one person you vowed “ ‘til death do us part” to, what else are you willing to cheat on? Americans want honest leaders, not ones whose integrity they have to question. When a President or other elected official loses credibility in his or her personal life, he or she undoubtedly loses it in his or her presidency or office. This can also be seen in John F. Kennedy’s years in office. JFK, who is by far the most attractive president, was seen more as a celebrity and hunk of the 1960s than as Commander-in-Chief of the world’s most powerful country. After his assassination, many women came forward claiming to have had affairs with him. Regardless of the truth, that is what he is remembered for. I want public leaders who are more concerned with running our government than their personal affairs.
There are, however, often debated personal issues that don’t affect one’s time in office. For example, many people criticize President Obama for smoking. That does not affect his decision making or question his morals and integrity. I would not condone smoking, but that is a personal freedom, and even elected officials should not have any of their personal freedoms infringed on. During the 2008 election, former Alaskan governor and Vice President nominee Sarah Palin was hounded by the media because of the pregnancy of her teenage daughter out of marriage. Many said it cast her as a hypocrite and questioned how she could help run a country if she couldn’t even handle her own daughter. Palin acknowledged the pregnancy as “wrong” but concluded that nothing could be done after the fact. That pregnancy was not her decision but was her daughter’s. Though that personal issue should not have played a role in the election, it unfortunately did. Citizens want politicians that represent them – their beliefs, values, and morals. If at any time during the elected’s term he or she begins to compromise on those, it may be time to re-elect. There are some decisions that can, and should, disqualify officials from office, but also those that that are private and should have no affect on professional duties.
by: Will Pipes
Today, the most effective way to know all you can about a person’s history all the way back to high school is very simple: make them run for an elected office. Elected officials are under constant scrutiny from the moment they begin a campaign to the day they leave office. The President of the United States is possibly the most closely examined. Whoever is the essential face of America must uphold the image we as the American people are looking for in a president, whatever that image may be. However, while the examination and critique of a president’s policy and administration are welcomed and encouraged aspects of American democracy, letting facts about a president’s private life color the public’s opinion of him, as a president at least, strikes me as illogical. At this point, I think it is important to make a distinction between the office and the person serving in it. In context, the president’s job is to execute the office of president of the United States, and to the best of their ability, “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States,” as specified in Article Two, Section One, Clause Eight of the Constitution of the United States. As long as they meet those goals and all that they imply with acting in the best interests of the people, then what they did in the past, as well as their private lives, should be kept private to keep even more in line with the ideals that America is founded on, namely our right to privacy. We elect a president not because they have led a life free from bad decisions or things they weren’t proud of, but because the majority of the people believe they can do the job they are assigned to do. If the former were the case, people like Andrew Jackson wouldn’t be elected because of their tempers, people like Theodore Roosevelt wouldn’t be elected because of their fighting spirits, and people like Franklin Delano Roosevelt wouldn’t be elected because they partied too much in college. Yet all three of these men were fine presidents in many people’s opinions, and their supposed faults in their private lives were irrelevant when it came to their job: leading the nation. Finally, imagine electing a president who made no mistakes in their private life. How would they relate to the rest of the nation? The United States was built on trial and error, as evidenced by our history. In a nation of wonderfully flawed citizens, why would we hold our president to the impossible standard of always being morally upright in his private life? If that were the case, we would never find someone to fill the position.