The scenario is becoming all too familiar in this country. A politician is accused of infidelity. He denies the charges and faces pressure to leave. Sometimes he does, sometimes he doesn't, but inevitably, he is weakened. With a few notable exceptions (
But there is a more basic question than that, and it is the one voiced by Mr. Cain's attorney in an early and unsuccessful attempt to defuse the situation: Should politicians' private lives be anybody's business?
There are a couple of simple answers to that question. One is that Mr. Cain and some others who have been caught up in scandal have presented themselves as family values candidates, and it is important to know whether their deeds match their words. The other is that voters clearly care, and many subscribe to the notion that a politician's character as a leader and as a private individual cannot be separated. For
Still, there is good reason to wonder whether this kind of moral standard, and the scrutiny that goes along with it, disqualifies or discourages otherwise stellar candidates.
That may not be the case with Mr. Cain. His his made-for-
But it is certainly pertinent in relation to the decision by Indiana Gov.
Furthermore, we know now that several presidents, including some great ones, had private lives that might now threaten their ability to win and hold office. Would we now conclude that the nation would be better off if
That's not to say that private conduct is irrelevant or that we should go back to the days when politicians' indiscretions were ignored or covered up. The question is moot anyway; information today is simply too hard to control. But it does suggest that the public, the media and political leaders could be more honest and thoughtful about the connection between private and public conduct.