In Re Wikileaks: the widespread expressions of shock at the muckraking pettiness displayed in the recent diplomatic data released by Wikileaks is a bit comical, since it demonstrates how disconnected from reality we want our political leaders to be. Most diplomats are merely very high-level gossips and everyone spies on the other side to one degree or another.
There is nothing shocking about characterizing Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi as “feckless” behind his back, because he is a feckless fascist lout. We should be glad that we have ambassadors who will point this out about Berlusconi instead of woodenly kowtowing to him, yet I’ve read several major publications today saying this was one of the most shocking immoral acts cataloged by Wikileaks.
Even if there are some truly evil activities revealed, the conversation is trivialized by the pretense that we expect our leaders to be better, or better behaved, than us.
Ministers, priests and, maybe, psychoanalysts may be expected to be better than rest of us, because they are paid to heal our spirits. Politicians are responsible to deliver results, not perform morality plays for the edification of the masses. Besides, look at what miserable wretches are numbered among our great spiritual leaders–there’s no one with a monopoly on virtue.
We elect these people, and we can expect them to be greedy, venal, lecherous and bad sports in roughly the same proportion as we the people are. That is unless you want a god-king, which seems to be the standard against which democratically elected leaders are measured. I think this betrays a deeply fascistic desire to submit to a leader morally, politically and spiritually among a large minority of the electorate. People get leaders who disappoint them morally because they ask so little of candidates at election time besides a clean police record, then turn over the governing of the country to those impossibly pristine images and leave them to govern in virtual isolation until the next election.
We the people tend to judge pols by whether or not they do anything that hurts us financially, beyond that we fret a bit about freedom and debt, but only to the degree that the consequences of eroded freedom or debt elimination impact us personally. We ought, instead, to demand our leaders level with us, even when approaching the third-rail issues like taxes, and cut them more slack about their moral shortcomings. I personally don’t care who or how Jack Kennedy shagged during his term in office, he was a great president for a variety of reasons, not the least among them that he prevented my death and those of hundreds of millions of other people in an argument over Cuba. Nixon, had he won in 1960, would have gone to war and screwed the global pooch in a showdown with the Soviets… over Cuba.
What should a successful politician do? They invest to make the world better for our children first and foremost, but too many voters count only whether the pols have done anything to hurt them in the current term. If the success of a politician is judged by the the perceived pain inflicted by their votes or policies not being felt by many voters, that’s an awfully low bar to set for our elected leaders. I’d much rather see politicians who are willing to take some chances and make mistakes as they learn than endure a do-nothing Congress that never tries to address the public’s problems. But to get that Congress we’d have to accept that politicians can’t be celibate monks who have taken vows of poverty in order to let them off the absurd moral hook on which we hang them today.