Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the House, cheated on his wives. The romance began with his high school teacher; they married, she got cancer, then he ran to his mistress. His mistress developed multiple sclerosis while he begged for an open marriage, but she was the wiser, so he fled to wife number three.
News of a politician’s sexual exploits has become a yearly norm like the Super Bowl, Valentine’s Day and tax day. We even have tokens of nostalgia to remember these past indiscretions from Marilyn Monroe singing “Happy Birthday Mr. President” to Bill Clinton’s famous “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.”
Oh, how we wish such lecherous practices would have remained in the crude 20th century, but here we are, thrown once again into the gossip of sexual deviancy. And yet one cannot help but believe that current politicians are competing for the title: Dumbass of the Decade.
We had Gov. Elliot Spitzer, or Client 9, caught with a prostitute. Sen. John Edwards, who fathered a love child, while his wife died of cancer. Gov. Schwarzenegger kept his love child secret for over ten years. Rep. Anthony Weiner posted his groin on twitter while cyber-cheating. And Sen. Mark Sanford spent tax payers money to visit his mistress in Argentina.
Unfortunately, these examples only perpetuate the stigma that men are lustful miscreants humping every pair of slender legs. It is not surprising then, to hear women shouting “Men are dogs!” while enviously applauding lesbians for their bestowed fortune.
But such metaphors are obviously offensive since everyone knows that dogs are notorious for their loyalty, only joking. It is irrational to characterize the entire male population as feral mongrels, but it is equally irrational to subject politicians to grandiose ideals.
Infidelity has risen according the National Science Foundation and Chicago University. Men and women are either more comfortable sliding into the beds of their lovers or confessing to adultery has become less taboo.
I believe it is the latter, but despite that knowledge we continue to be shocked when our politicians fail to be chivalrous characters.
Perhaps we took the notion of representative government to the extreme. Yes, Congress and the president represent our voice, but is it reasonable to expect them to be the representatives of our values?
Granted, no one wants a cowardly scoundrel for a leader, but there are issues in beholding our politicians as emblems of American values.
Historically we have had an interesting group of presidents. J Edgar Hoover was known to have occasionally zipped himself up in a little black dress. John Q. Adams enjoyed skinny dipping in the Potomac River. Andrew Jackson had a tattoo of a tomahawk on his inner thigh. And James Buchanan had tattooed on his chest a nearly naked woman with the acronym B.F.L. (Bachelor For Life).
There were undoubtedly stories to accompany their actions and tattoos, to which their citizens would have either laughed or gasped at. It is understood that not everyone agrees with tattoos, transvestites or nudity. Yet we must also acknowledge that there are people who are content with all three. So whose values do politicians represent?
Perhaps it is time to sever this link between politicians and American values. I am not suggesting we elect brutes, but rather we should not expect Congress or the president to be the ideal American.
After all, we only agree to the notion that the president represents every American, when the president is Lincoln and not Nixon. It just seems reckless to step aside and allow a nation’s values to rest upon the shoulders of a few individuals because when they fall, so do those values.
Nidia Sandoval is a third-year history major. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.