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"I don't usually say this about scandal stories, but Alford's tale ought to occasion further reassessment of a president we already knew to be morally compromised."
Ok, so he should not have dared her. But why did she do it?
Oh, right, she was a victim.
While I've never thought of JFK as a "great" president (I reserve that label for just four presidents), this revelation, if true, would not make me reassess my opinion that he was a very good president. As a person? Sure. But not as a president.
If a person wants an example of how to live his life, he should follow a saint, not a political leader.
"If a person wants an example of how to live his life, he should follow a saint, not a political leader."
But you see, from the standpoint of certain perspectives those who have gained sufficient political power are saints. Constantine, for instance, was a saint, was he not?
JFK's real failing was, therefore, that he hadn't gained sufficient power that he could shut the mouths of those who said bad things about him and that he died before they did.
Real sainthood, however, is achieved only by those whose reputation is such that their "peccadilloes" don't matter e.g., http://www.infoplease.com/t/history/true-washington/women.html
If I had lived during the Kennedy election and heard about his infidelities, of which there were many, I never would have voted for him. One expects a person of high standards and moral character to run for president. Heck, I wouldn't want him as a neighbor.
I've read enough biographies about political leaders and people in positions of power to know that to expect them to be angels is to be disappointed, a lot. Few of the great political leaders in history have had spotless moral resumes.
While I do divide personal from public acts, there are some personal acts that would make me less likely to vote for a person. For example, if I found out that someone has a drug or alcohol problem, I would be much less inclined to vote for them because those types of personal acts have the possibility to greatly impact one's public duties.
When it comes to sexual indiscretions, though, I don't think that's the case. Does cheating on one's wife show that one is a bad husband? Yes. Does it show that one is a bad person? Maybe. Does it necessarily show that one is a bad leader? No. And even given what Kennedy was alleged to have done in this case, I don't see how that could have affected his political leadership of the country.
Does it display a character trait that reveals a propensity to act in certain bad ways in certain situations? Maybe. But I can't think of any connection between that given situation and those that a president would face in his official duties. Psychological research is more and more uncovering the extent to which situational pressures affect the way people act. A person can be a perfect angel in one situation and later turn into a jerk in another situation. Character isn't static and fixed; it not only changes over the course of one's life, but varies on a daily basis as people experience new situations.
Now, if you can uncover some evidence that it in fact did affect his duties as president (e.g., his sexual dalliances were like an addiction that kept him from giving his full attention to his duties while acting as President), then I'll be inclined to view it differently. But otherwise, a person's sexual life doesn't concern me in the least when I'm deciding on who to vote for.
Ought a man to be as good as his word? for example.
Note: I have said nothing about sainthood or moral perfection. I'm not looking for either. I am looking for moral character, of which there are degrees.
By the way, the qualification for sainthood isn't moral perfection. Saints have been a pretty squirrelly bunch.
Regardless, there have been leaders who have not cheated on their wives. I doubt Obama has. I doubt Bush did. Bush's alcoholism I consider a disease, not a moral flaw.
First, I'd have to know exactly was it meant by "cheat the country."
But regardless of what definition you give to it, my first instinct is to say that they are two separate issues. I don't think the first thing (marital infidelity) necessarily has anything to do with the second thing (cheating the country).
I can imagine a situation in which a man can't stand his wife and would have no scruples about cheating on her, but at the same time is very patriotic and would rather die first than cheat the country.
But if you know of any statistics that might link marital infidelity with immoral behavior in one's professional life, I'd be happy to peruse them.
Same with most policies and actions. Our guy/gal bombs a country, yeah. Your guy/gal bombs a country, boo.
10 -- No, you are falling into the traps of moral relativism and moral equivocation. First, bombing a country has nothing to do with the matter at hand. Second, nowhere have I suggested, nor would I suggest, that one man's cheating is acceptable while another man's is not. Who do you mean by "our?"
Let me explain. If the sexual left has taught us anything it's that rape, abuse and harassment are in large part about power, not sex. That Kennedy had a big libido isn't surprising. That he cheated on his wife isn't surprising. That he used his power to control and humiliate his far, far inferiors is.
I do think it matters. That a leader has a big libido doesn't matter much for his leadership for the simple reason that politics and international relations don't tempt a leader that way. That a leader can lie to some people and live a sort of double life may have some downsides, but it's also consonant with the political life itself. After all, a man who will cheat on his wife will, when pressed, cheat on the base of his party—great! But a man tempted toward sadism and manipulation is dangerous to have in power, because it is almost always a negative, and political power presents many opportunities for it.
"Now, if you can uncover some evidence that it in fact did affect his duties as president (e.g., his sexual dalliances were like an addiction that kept him from giving his full attention to his duties while acting as President), then I'll be inclined to view it differently. But otherwise, a person's sexual life doesn't concern me in the least when I'm deciding on who to vote for."
Without entering into the seemingly irrelevant question of whether JFK was a saint (probably not, given that he was a national politician), I am also curious why it would matter. My reasoning, however, would not be exactly as yours.
Believers in liberty use to believe that there was a difference between a "private sphere" and a "public sphere," and that what one did in the private sphere might make good scandal for rumor mongers, yellow sheets and the salaciously minded, but was not a matter of public concern. The Limits of State Action I have already mentioned George Washington. There was also the example of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemmings and Ben Franklin and numerous such candidates http://www.swarthmore.edu/SocSci/bdorsey1/41docs/51-fra.html
Then there is are the, ah, somewhat lesser known but more scandalous examples of sexual relationships by the holders of "high offices" that purportedly are of a substantially ethical character
I don't know what to make of an electorate that assumes infidelity is acceptable behavior and in no way related to one's job. In fact, I see this division occurring across the country at large: one man at work versus a different man at home.
Sammy the Bull Gravano: serial killer at work, loving father at home.
But there is that bad habit of playing with the armed forces to fight off the demons.
We are the girls from Norfolk, Norfolk
We don't smoke
We don't drink
I can only state that any man who cheats on his wife necessarily will extend that immoral behavior into other elements of his life.
There is a significant amount of evidence out there that refutes that line of reasoning. Psychologists are finding out more and more that the way people behave is driven as much by the situation and role in which someone finds himself as it is by something that we would call a moral compass or ethics. In other words, the guy who cheats on his wife is no more likely to behave immorally or unethically in his professional life as the guy who stays completely faithful to her.
I highly recommend a book by Philip Zimbardo called, The Lucifer Effect. The book is essentially about the Stanford prison experiment that Zimbardo ran back in 1971, but he does discuss other important research into situational behavior, like the Milgram experiment.
While Zimbardo's research is mainly about the power that groups have over the way people act, his insights are translatable to most any type of situational behavior. Kennedy might well have been a horrendous husband, but that was in the situation and role of being a husband. In the situation and role of being President of the United States, he might well have acted in an upright and completely studious manner. He might also have been a terrible person in both situations. The evidence that now exists says that both outcomes are equally possible.
Romney's a good example of what's wrong with your theory. He doesn't drink, smoke and so forth. I doubt we'll learn he cheats on his wife. But he's a deeply unprincipled and "flexible" guy. He may not have a will to screw someone, but he has a rather alarming will to power. Gingrich is a lout, but I'm convinced he really believes something. (If I liked what he believes that would be better!)
I'd also make a certain allowance for the times. Kennedy lived in a different one. Today his serial adultery would have new valences—like a reckless disregard for the future. Clinton gets the wrap for that I think. His dedication to his political ideas must be weighed against the crazy risks he took to satisfy himself. Ditto Edwards. I didn't like Edwards' politics in the least, but if I did, I'd hate him the more for almost winning the nomination when his changes of utterly wrecking his presidency in sexual scandal were very high indeed.
Anyway, I don't see a strong connection between being merely led astray by ones' sex drive and being a bad leader. I do think a love of cruelty cuts more naturally across ones character.
In the US, slander requires you knowingly lie about someone. That's a very high bar. There's a reason her Windsor biography wasn't published in the UK. And it depends upon "losing" not including an out-of-court financial settlement.
A quick glance at her Wikipedia page will disclose the major problems. I can't believe we're seriously discussing the veracity of Kitty Kelly.
I don't think Reagan was a very nice guy. Michael's story about his father introducing himself to him—in the American Experience—speaks volumes. Indeed, I think his rather casual approach to human relationships (except Nancy) told in his presidency, but not much. He was a weirdly disconnected man, with some strong principles.
While that expectation or aspiration is, of course, 180 degrees from historical experience (on which these self same "Conservatives" tell us to rely), that doesn't seem to have any effect. After all internal inconsistency in ones political philosophy is O.K., because internal consistency in political views is equated with "ideology" - a really bad thing.
Yes, I know, it is confusing. But maybe that is because these sorts of political ideologues are, ah, confused, at least when they get outside the areas of literature in which they are usually specialists?
"In the US, slander requires you knowingly lie about someone. That's a very high bar. There's a reason her Windsor biography wasn't published in the UK."
I believe that you are confusing the standard for libeling a "public figure" (which is virtually impossible to do) with libeling an "ordinary person." Politicians generally can't be libeled. In the case of other public figures you have to show malice, which requires, of course, knowledge of the falseness of the derogatory statement (albeit some early case allow "reckless disregard of the truth or falsity of a statement" to suffice for a showing of malice).
For other persons you have to show (1) a communication (2) that is harmful to the reputation of the plaintiff, (3) that is false, (4) with resulting damages to the plaintiff. (Damages need not be shown in a case of "per se libel.") While the truth of a derogatory communication is an absolute defense in the U.S., in the U.K. truth of the derogatory communication is an aggravating circumstance. That may be what you have in mind.
There is a gap between the most powerful person on the planet and his 19 year-old employee.
Yeah, but in Alford's story, it doesn't sound like she was under any particular duress, although she experienced embarrassment after the fact. But was her embarrassment due to what she was asked to do, or due to the fact that she accepted the challenge?
I'm on board with the basic supposition that large disparities of power matter. I presume you don't, so there's no point in getting into sexual harassment, bullying and so forth.
There's been a lot of water under the bridge since 1960. Attitudes have progressed, thank God, but it's rather silly to read this with the perspective of our own enlightened age.
And still, when we read a piece like this, we need to at least distinguish the scathing NR commentary and interpretation from what Alford actually says, at least in the excerpt cited. She doesn't characterize the incident as harrassment or bullying, but rather the issuance of a dare that she accepted, and felt embarrassed about later.
I'm not defending Kennedy's character, but we seem to be forgetting the sexual politics of the era in which the incident took place. Go rent "Mad Men": it's a soap opera, for sure, but it broadly reflects the attitudes of the time, at least in a certain segment of society. If this shows JFK, a flawed individual for sure, to be a "monster", he had a lot of company. He wasn't the only boss in 1960 who felt privileged enough to expect blowjobs from an underling.