Karen Heller: Should fidelity matter?

Rick Santorum kisses his wife, Karen, during his 2006 concession speech. In the foreground is their daughter Sarah Maria, and their daughter Elizabeth is in the background.
Rick Santorum kisses his wife, Karen, during his 2006 concession speech. In the foreground is their daughter Sarah Maria, and their daughter Elizabeth is in the background. (ERIC MENCHER / Staff Photographer, file)
Posted: December 04, 2011

Get over it. Ambitious men have affairs. Not all, unless they're French, but many.

Maybe Herman Cain had an affair. Maybe he simply likes texting women before dawn. But he spent more time addressing the subject than clarifying his political agenda before suspending his campaign Saturday.

As the Los Angeles Times observed last week, recent developments have put "some of the Republican Party's most active voters in a distinctly uncomfortable position: deciding whether to abandon an accused adulterer to side with an admitted adulterer."

That would be Newt Gingrich, a serial admitted adulterer with a taste for Tiffany.

But adultery isn't reason enough to cast a candidate aside. Consider the remarkable ego required to make a man believe he's qualified to be leader of the free world.

That same ego, massive yet in constant need of feeding, much like the carnivorous plant in Little Shop of Horrors, makes such men prone to risk, welcoming the fawning of younger women.

Politicians often maintain a casual relationship with the truth, which is a prerequisite for affairs. They make more promises than they can keep while rewriting history to win debates. And a campaign is the perfect petri dish for adultery, with the long hours, months on the road, adoring women, and spouse-free hotel rooms.

Many lauded politicians, of both parties representing varied ideologies, have had zipper problems (Thomas Jefferson, in breeches, had a button problem): Franklin Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, Bill Clinton, Rudy Giuliani, Nelson Rockefeller, John McCain, and the Kennedys, the poster boys for infidelity.

Not that the mediocre, like Warren G. Harding and a gazillion members of Congress, are immune, either.

Adoring your spouse is an admirable quality, particularly in one's own partner. But fidelity shouldn't be the determining factor on which candidate gets your vote. Richard Nixon was faithful to Pat, just not to the Constitution.

Rick Santorum adores his wife. I'm fairly certain that if you look up uxorious in the dictionary, there's a picture of Rick gazing at his wife, Karen. That devotion wasn't enough for Pennsylvanians to reelect him to a third term in the U.S. Senate.

Most likely, we've all voted for candidates who have been unfaithful. Mitt Romney adores his wife, Ann. Yet serial admitted adulterer Gingrich bests him in most every poll.

The president is not your friend. Most likely, you will never meet the guy - unless you live in New Hampshire. Then he will wear out his welcome. He will bag your groceries, and may ask to spend the night.

We should stop voting for the guy with whom we would most like to share a beer. Not going to happen, unless you can deliver Texas. Romney doesn't even drink beer. Besides, you have friends for that.

Why do voters keep being shocked and morally indignant about lawmakers' questionable behavior, especially when some of us aren't paragons of virtue either? Politicians don't need to act better, only to be wiser and lead.

The candidate who best represents your views and interest may not even be the beer guy. He may be an utter dork who works all the time. Which might be preferable. Although, come to think of it, Nixon was a dork. Jimmy Carter, too.

The candidate who best supports your views may be a total hound dog, a charmer of epic proportions able to seduce women and world leaders.

Allegations of adultery were not the reason Cain shouldn't be president. He shouldn't be president because, like Sarah Palin, who may be as faithful to Todd as the Alaska night is long, he's completely unprepared, his policies unsound.

Continued disappointment and outrage at politicians' less-admirable behavior does demonstrate an attractive quality in the electorate: a persistent optimism that, despite all historical evidence to the contrary, we keep hoping for leaders who behave better than we do.

But that would be wrong.


 

Contact columnist Karen Heller at 215-854-2586, kheller@phillynews.com,

or @kheller on Twitter.

Read past columns at www.philly.com/KarenHeller.

 

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