By Chris Talamo, Contributing Columnist
Published on Tuesday, January 15, 2008
Just when you thought we were safe from politically driven marriages and hemophiliac children, out comes Nicholas Sarkozy, President of France. Three months past the divorce of his second wife, he can be found in fun locales like Egypt and Jordan sporting his new supermodel-turned-singer fiancÃ©e, Carla Bruni.
Two divorces? Supermodel girlfriend? Marriage while in office? Surely this is the source of some major political scandal, perhaps to be followed by the French equivalent of impeachment (punctuated, of course, by riots in Paris and the declaration of the Sixth Republic). Polls indeed indicate a decline in voter confidence, yet many analysts report that the most significant complaint is a continued decline in purchasing power; Sarkozy's scandalous relationship proves to be a relatively light encumbrance on the minds of Frenchmen.
It would seem as though personal affairs are of less importance to the French electorate than governing ability -- something they definitely do not share with their American counterparts. This sort of promiscuous behavior is outside the realm of possibility for American politicians, who are expected to demonstrate their electability by expounding Puritan "family values." Extremist political platforms may hurt a candidate, but few political attacks can destroy a campaign like an extramarital affair.
Is this to say that appearance is more important than substance? Of course. The current primaries feature the following paradox: Giuliani has two divorces, Romney is a Mormon and yet the media are still speculating if Americans can elect a woman, African-American or Hispanic president.
This sort of speculation must stop with this election. With each candidate exhibiting their own brand of "likeability," there must be another standard by which to judge them.
How about platforms, credentials, experience or past successes? Surely our leaders need charisma and presence behind the podium perhaps now more than ever, but they also need to be able to make decisions. John Kennedy didn't resolve the Cuban Missile Crisis by kissing babies.
Then again, let's not completely discount a candidate's personal life. To return to Mitt Romney's case, it is fair for liberal voters to be concerned about Romney's faith since many Mormons lean toward conservatism on social issues.
If you're not convinced that proper "presidential behavior" can make or break elections, look no farther back than 2004. If I do recall correctly, the presidential campaign of a Vermont governor was destroyed by his valiant battle-cry of "Yeeaarrah" after outlining how to win an election. Now, unless there is a secret code to which I'm not privy, there was no statement of policy in that cry. What I did hear, however, was a man excited to be president, which I fail to see as a vice.
Every candidate warrants, even deserves, honest research. Make all the quips you want about Mormons and New Yorkers (race and gender may get you in trouble), but the presidential election is not some recurring joke that rolls around every four years.
Well, right now it may be a joke, but it shouldn't be.
Voting on policies does require that Americans everywhere invest time in resarching the candidates before elections, which is where we all run into trouble. I frequently hear pithy excuses about work, classes and alcohol consumption taking up too much time in the day; there are so many "I would care more if only" statements that it's no wonder people take every opportunity to blame the lobbyists and special interest groups in order to remove blame from themselves for America's present condition.
To those people, here's what I have to say. Passing Chem 5 is important, but what happens when tuition goes up another ten thousand dollars? Your business is important, but what happens when poor economic planning leads to a recession? Alcohol and inebriation are great, but those "sin taxes" just keep growing.
All of those things are too important to depend on a person's looks or personal choices. Sarkozy or any leader can be as lusty or nymphomaniacal as he or she decides; but come election day, what I care about is skill in leading a nation.