Leaders In The Spotlight

In an ideal world, we’d like to think that the people who are either elected or appointed to office are those with good morals and character. Those who would keep themselves in check, who wouldn’t dare to think of doing something that would cause citizens to question their values. Those who would learn from the mistakes of the people who were before them and do whatever they could not to make the same ones.

Unfortunately, we don’t live in an ideal world, where those who are in charge of the well-being of our nation do make irresponsible decisions that jeopardize both their careers and their reputations in the eyes of whom they’re meant to look out for. What’s worse is that we are no longer surprised by the unethical behavior of our elected officials.

It’s becoming increasingly difficult to judge politicians and others solely by their performance in office instead of on what decisions they make. Another senator found to have an extramarital affair? Eh. It was bound to happen anyway. The phrase “as crooked as a politician” is quite popular to use to describe something as faulty. We have accepted the fact that our leaders will go astray; corruption has become no surprise to us.

David Petraeus surely had to have known how much media attention the Director of the CIA would get if he toed the line. If you’re dumb enough to make the decision to have an affair with someone who works with you while holding a high profile position, then you should have to face the consequences for it. This standard doesn’t only hold for Gen. Petraeus; Paula Broadwell should be subject to just as much scrutiny. These actions make us, as citizens, question how much time these officials are actually devoting to their occupations and how well they are executing them.

It’s not as if history hasn’t shown what happens to government officials who commit improper behavior. Eliot Spitzer, Bill Clinton, Richard Nixon and John Edwards – to name a few – all faced both scrutinizing media coverage and the risk of losing their positions. It’s astonishing to see how little we learn from history.

Perhaps if these people acted in accordance with the prominence of their roles in government, the faith Americans have in both the federal and state systems of government would be significantly different. If these prominent figures provide the role model image they’re supposed to portray, people would be more inclined to take an interest in politics as a result of seeing a figure that has kept in line with what is expected of them. It’s hypocritical to expect those who have voted for an official to reelect them if they haven’t been as devoted to their constituents.

Government figures choose to be in a profession where the chances of being scrutinized for their actions – be it in relation to their work or not – are inevitable. If they were dedicated enough to put the time and effort necessary to get it, they should be just as committed when it comes to setting a good example.

Nashra Anwer is a first-year literary journalism major and can be reached at nanwer@uci.edu.