Does the character of a politician matter as long as he gets the job done?

Berlusconi“There are a lot of pretty girls about. I’m no saint, but you know that”

Days after tapes emerged of Silvio Berlusconi allegedly telling an escort girl to “wait by the big bed”, he has finally broken his silence.

The Italian Prime Minister told a group of business leaders in Northern Italy what most of them probably do already know to be fair. The question is, does it matter?

The Italian press is roundly quoting this piece from Times columnist Daniel Finkelstein. He argues that character does matter very much in a politician, and that’s why all of us should be concerned about Berlusconi’s antics.

(He also gives a very long example of Mao Zedong’s character flaws which is what most Italian press has picked up on.)

Finkelstein argues that the allegations of escort girls attending parties at Berlusconi’s villa, his tendency to put pretty, inexperienced women forward for political positions, and his ex-wife’s allegations that he ‘consorts with minors’ are all very serious distractions for someone entrusted with not only his state secrets, but also privileged security information of his allies.

How much does character, personality traits like arrogance, humour, a fondness for partners other than your spouse, matter in a politician?

Bill Clinton argued during his primary season that allegations of an affair were a matter for he and Hillary only. But if politicians are prepared to take risks that most people would consider unacceptable in their private lives, could that impact on their public lives too?

When South Africa’s now-president Jacob Zuma admitted to having unprotected sex with a woman he knew to be HIV positive, critics said it showed he could not be trusted to run the country. That same country elected him president not long afterwards, ignoring also the corruption allegations that he was charged with.

It’s only this week that Silvio Berlusconi’s personal approval ratings have slipped below 50% in Italy, despite months of lurid allegations.

Are we more likely to forgive character flaws in a politician if they’re a viewed as a charming rogue? Is it only male politicians who get that privilege?

86 Responses to “Does the character of a politician matter as long as he gets the job done?”

  1. 1 Manuela La Gamma
    July 23, 2009 at 08:42

    There’s too much talking about what Berlusconi does and about is private life. For sure, part of it must be true, but the rest is fried air. He’s a great communicator, and he’s just exploiting his role of Italian playboy, charming and active even if he’s…72 and looks 40 (miracles???).
    The question being: how much is the bib Berlisconi bubble distracting Italians (and foreigners, for instance) from the REAL problems?
    We have a high unemployment rate, there’s a big economic crisis, the South of Italy is totally left aside. Youngsters do not believe in politics anymore, because there are not values that can support the left or right faction.
    From my point of view, a PM has a great task: the task to represent his/her people, and not to let them down.
    I remember very clearly one scene: when Berlusconi won the last election, a tiny, old lady was quieing, waiting for him, walking and boasting across Milan. She asked him to sign a football for his grandon, a big supporter of Milan football team. He’s letting her down.
    He’s letting all of us down.

    • July 23, 2009 at 15:28

      I think there is no differnt of being ordinary man or woman and politicians as long as they are all human being.
      therefore any can behave and act as human act whether enjoying or annoying.

      Juba Southern Sudan

      • July 27, 2009 at 10:52

        While it is true that politicians are humans, leaders are direction providers and so they must be exemplar and role models for our children. They have private lives that must be in reasonable human weakness that does not bring the image of the country they serve in disrepute.

  2. 4 Ann
    July 23, 2009 at 09:49

    Everyone has character flaws and if we only chose politicians that were ‘perfect’ there wouldn’t be a politician on the planet! (maybe not a bad idea in itself).

    However if it becomes obvious that a politician deliberately seeks and laps up the public notoriety, then one has to question whether his/her motives are for the public good or for self-aggrandizement. Power is a dangerous thing in the hands of a person with an inflated ego and its corresponding inferiority complex.

  3. July 23, 2009 at 10:11

    As long as a politician is a public figure and has children and the youth looking up to him or her as a role model, then their characters matter irrespective of whether they get the job done or not.

  4. 6 deryck/trinidad
    July 23, 2009 at 10:23

    Of course character matters. In cases where politicians repeatedly LIE when faced with the truth or an accuser the issue of trust arises.

    Trust is a politicians greatest asset and the unveiling of the truth after they consistently lie erodes that trust. Therefore who can trust a politician who has character flaws but lies about them. What else does he lie about pertaining to the country’s affairs?

  5. 7 Jim Newman
    July 23, 2009 at 12:05

    Hello again
    Don’t you think that all this concern about Berlusconi is getting a bit obsessive?

  6. 8 Nigel
    July 23, 2009 at 12:22

    What ever happened to leading by example?

  7. July 23, 2009 at 12:43

    Its absolutely preposterous for a political leader to indulge him or herself in a despicable scum of extra-marital affairs whatsoever.These are taken in society as epitomes of moral elites,they are regarded as indefatigable defenders of moral values and principles of ethics.They are the fathers and mothers of nations; whatever they do is more likely to be emulated by the nationals.South Africans voted Jacob Zuma cause of his manifesto and charisma exhibited prior to elections in comparison with his arch rivals who scored less from this angle. This,however, should not be taken as a green light for cruising on the horizon of domestic infidelity! Leader are vested with top secrets of their nations they ought to be exemplary for admiration.Character traits shapes vision and respect;its out of respect that leaders get things done, The ones who fail on this test tend to be autocrats in their pursuit of loyalty and admiration…I know innumerable names in Africa which i can not disclose!This lack of moral character and personality traits has cost us dearly in Africa.With time,the Italian leader will go an extra mile and prove disastrous,i am not a prophet of doom,though,Time will tell. Respect…VKELVIN of Makerere University Kampala Uganda.

  8. 11 Linda from Italy
    July 23, 2009 at 13:07

    I’m writing this hoping the Carabinieri won’t show up on my doorstep. While he hasn’t actually been accused of any illegal sexual misconduct (yet), these shenanigans do seem to be hitting his pole ratings, so may eventually do for him after all. Rather like Al Capone (nice Italian name that) being done as a tax-evader rather than a gangster, most informed Italians are fairly positive he has been up to all sorts of no-good in the past, but has always managed to get re-elected just in time to tweak the laws on parliamentary immunity and the statute of limitations. That is without his numerous gaffes that, as his country’s representative, make him and thus his country a laughing stock.
    I think Finkelstein in the Times is being a little holier than thou, politicians are human and squeaky-cleanliness is not necessarily the main qualification for the job, but they should also be fair game for the media, not allowed to hide their grubby little secrets and hypocritical “family values” preachers are just asking for it. So far Mr B’s media control (particularly over the broadcast media) has partially kept the lid on the latest scandals and his blithe denials, up to the latest “no saint” concession seem to have worked.
    In order for a democracy to work, the media must be free to report on politicians’ characters, as demonstrated by what they get up to, leaving the public to decide at the next election. In the US it is broadly acknowledged that to get anywhere politicians have to have “faith”, atheism is a no-no I gather, while in much of Southern Europe marital infidelity is OK, but being gay isn’t. Different cultures demand different standards of their politicians, and we get the politicians we deserve – provided the media are free enough to show us what they’re really made of, not necessarily the case in Italy.

  9. 12 patti in cape coral
    July 23, 2009 at 13:42

    As I said before, the most disturbing aspect of his character to me was that he called an obviously grieving father a murderer for ending his daughter’s life support. In general, I agree with Ann. I also remember hearing a newstory where he gave some of his “girlfriends” government jobs. If that is the case, his character in his private life is affecting his public office.

    • 13 Linda from Italy
      July 23, 2009 at 14:09

      I absolutely agree Patti, that particular publicity stunt was unforgiveable – but while he seems to have got away with all the rest, although finding your “friends” jobs is par for the course here, maybe, just maybe this is the last straw and bye-bye camel, or in this case, old goat!.

  10. 14 steve
    July 23, 2009 at 13:51

    “he”? There are female politicians as well. However, let’s stop ignoring the true nature of politicians. They are self serving people, with the self serving interest being to fufill their ambitions. They aren’t there to serve the public, they are there because they think they are important, they think they are entitled to power, and they crave power. These people are narcissists at minimum. Even John Edwards admitted he was a narcissist, he cares about nothing but himself, so he cheated on his sick with cancer wife while running for President. We deserve what we get when we vote for these people. The people we need to be in office don’t want to be in office, hence why a direct democracy would be a better form of government so we aren’t “lead” by self serving, mentally ill people.

  11. 15 Roy, Washington DC
    July 23, 2009 at 14:39

    Yes, their characters matter. They are representatives of their country, and if they act poorly, it will reflect on the country as a whole.

  12. 16 Tom
    July 23, 2009 at 14:58

    In essence a politcian is an employee of the voting citizens. If he or she cannot respectably manage their own private life while serving, then how can we expect them to be an honest hard working employee? The media no longer allows public figures to have a private life, so their private lives must match what is expected from them in their public lives.

  13. 17 Jennifer
    July 23, 2009 at 14:58

    Re: Are we more likely to forgive character flaws in a politician if they’re a viewed as a charming rogue? Is it only male politicians who get that privilege?

    I think the key here is that the majority of politicians are not in politics for the right reasons. They are only concerned about themselves and what they want. When people support them from soundbites; they let the power give them a big head. That’s when they are useless as public servants but that’s when they take it further like Berlusconi did and really start living like a rockstar. 🙂 What a perv.

  14. 18 John inGermany
    July 23, 2009 at 15:03

    Hey no excuses for the man.
    Surely anyone at the top must set a good example, talk about Promi Bonus.

    Why should people at the top be given a free ride as far as morals are concerned, or anything else for the matter?. Law must apply the same to all, beggar or king. Or do we live on another planet, where there is no law?.

    John in Germany

  15. July 23, 2009 at 15:07

    A person character absolutely matters, You can not seperate a persons private life from public for ever. They will eventually cross. If a person is a low life in their private life, they will eventually show it in their proffessional life. The REAL you will always come out.

  16. 20 Ramesh, India
    July 23, 2009 at 15:09

    Clinton cheated on his wife secretly. Berlusconi is cheating his country publicly!! It is upto the Italian public to judge him.

  17. 21 John in Salem
    July 23, 2009 at 15:26

    If politicians are caught doing something morally questionable in their private lives I want them to be up front about it. Being a flawed human being is forgiveable – having the hubris to deny the obvious is not.
    Apart from that I could care less. No group of voters outside of the Vatican has ever elected a saint.

  18. 23 Tom K in Mpls
    July 23, 2009 at 15:52

    The only aspect of a politicians private life I care about is their legality. And that is only because they can’t serve from prison. Actually I doubt there is a single ‘honest’ politician that is responsible to more than about 20k people, it is not their personal life or even their honesty that counts, but the ability to function within the corruption that counts. Since ‘Burlesqueoni’ seems to be making his people happy and is not being chased by police, I call him a success.

  19. 24 Anthony
    July 23, 2009 at 15:55

    If the head of the neo nazi party could keep his beliefs out of politics, treated everyone egual, and could fix our economy, THEN I’M ALL FOR IT!!!

    -Anthony, LA, CA

  20. 25 Michelle from Jamaica
    July 23, 2009 at 16:13

    Regrettably Politicians are a reflection of the society in which they live. We live in a world full of imorality, where the marriage is no longer sacred. It looks worse on them because they are public figures. But for that fact of being public figures they should try to live exemplary lives.

  21. July 23, 2009 at 16:21

    The character of a politician is important in accordance with the established views of the society in which they hold responsibility.

    However, any politician should have a degree of respectability and not a appear as a fun figure, worthy of gossip like a character in a comdey. Although politicians presumably have a private life, it becomes of importance to the public as his/her private life becomes a public property.

    Apparently, the public can be forgiving towards a male politician with numerous liaisons and affairs. But there is still to debate if a female politician with a lewd behaviour can have a sympathetic public. Or how will the public react if two key politicians from different countries are known to be engaging in an intimate relationship?

    In general, political figures should minimise the risk of being exposed as lusty characters and not to establish the norm that to be a successful politician one should be more sensually than politically adept.

  22. 27 Peter in Jamaica
    July 23, 2009 at 16:52

    It is of paramount importance. His position is that of a leader therefore his character should depicts that of a leader as well. These men are in positions of great influence and how they present and carry themselves must be indicative of the positive values required of the countries citizens.

    If I was to hear a advertisement from Jacob Zuma on the use of a condom to prevent Aids i would kneel over with laughter. If Mr. Berlusconi was to come out and tell the men of Italy to be faithful to their wives and not to sleep with escorts, he would be ridiculed and laughed at. If he was to come out publicly to express his disdain towards pedifiers he would be looked at as a hypocrite.

    To put it bluntly anything he would say with respect to morality would not be taken seriously and to be a leader moral respectability is a must, if a leader wishes to achieve his goals for his country.

    People would say that they have a privet life so let them live it. Unfortunately whenever you enter into certain professions you forfeit that portion of your life because your actions are a reflection of the people that you represent.

  23. 28 Stephen in Portland/Oregon
    July 23, 2009 at 16:52

    Does it Matter? George W Bush made it look like all Americans where intolerant religious nuts with no regard for anything but money and Oil who don’t understand anything about other cultures.

    And that’s not right! at least 10% or not like that.

  24. 29 Stephen in Portland/Oregon
    July 23, 2009 at 16:57

    the head of the neo nazi party could keep his beliefs out of politics, treated everyone egual, and could fix our economy, THEN I’M ALL FOR IT!!!

    -Anthony, LA, CA

    I hust looked at “Her” Antthony entry.

    I would like to amend my last entry to 7%
    Sorry and thanks.

  25. 30 Venessa
    July 23, 2009 at 17:19

    Well said John in Salem!

    I know plenty of people who are awesome at their jobs but have personal lives that may be considered unsavory to others. As long as they aren’t breaking the law and they DO THEIR JOB RIGHT I could care less.

  26. July 23, 2009 at 17:19

    See, it was wrong for a camera or recorder to have been in his room in the first place and listening to the recording is the same as eavesdropping: so all who read Mr. Sergio’s suggestion or instruction to a certain young lady are guilty of eavesdropping.
    Haven said that, I think a politician’s character is important, but you see the saint in one society could be a dirty politician in another society. So what is acceptable or otherwise of a politician depends on the society he is in/from. However, politicians are expected to be open and transparent, say the truth about who they are and if they end being voted, then that is it. If we elected a perpetual drunk for example and are raising eyebrows when he appears at a meeting a little bit drunk, then we are to blame, not the drunk politician.

  27. July 23, 2009 at 17:29

    A politician’s character is a true reflection of wha he or she represents and stands for. If it is doubt, he becomes distracted and may not be able to meet hispeople’s needs. His performance on the job most often that not would be tied to his character.

  28. 33 Shaun in Halifax
    July 23, 2009 at 17:35

    Hasn’t WHYS done this topic within the last 4 months or so? I seem to recall something similar to this during the last scandal.

    But anyways, I’m not convinced that the character of the politician matters, as long as he gets the job done. To wit:

    Imagine there were 3 names on a ballot:

    candidate a: associates with crooked politicians, and consults with astrologists. had two mistresses. he also chain smokes and drinks 8 to 10 martinis a day.

    candidate b: kicked out of office twice, rises from bed at 11am, used opium in college and drinks champagne, brandy, and whiskey to excess every day.

    candidate c: a decorated war hero. vegetarian, doesn’t smoke or drink, and hasn’t had any extramarital affairs.

    Who would you pick? I’ll tell who’s who later on in the show.

  29. 38 Abram
    July 23, 2009 at 17:46

    For a better result, leaders in every segment of a society should be happy and content with/in their lives.

  30. 39 Mike in Seattle
    July 23, 2009 at 17:48

    There’s an old story about President Lincoln appointing General Grant to lead the union forces against the confederacy. Many complained that he was a drunkard yet after several decisive victories Lincoln was said to have made a strange order – he asked what Grant’s drink of choice was and made sure a barrel of it was sent too all of his other generals.

    This may be nothing more than an old tale, but if all we ever did was worry about the personal vices of every politician elected to office, we’d never get anything done. So long as the job is done effectively, it doesn’t matter.

  31. July 23, 2009 at 17:50

    Silvio Berlusconi is an extremely colourful, flamboyant politician. However as leader of a great country, one would expect him to have exemplary, impeccable qualities. The fact that he is prepared to parade his affairs in public leaves a sour taste in the mouth. In fact he is becoming a public embarrassment as more and more juicy stories hit the press. Valuable time which is meant to be utilised for important affairs of state is lost lost in tittle-tattle.

  32. 41 parth guragain,Nepal
    July 23, 2009 at 18:07

    politician are expected to be perfect all the time but r corrupt must of the time.

  33. 42 Eric in Salem Or
    July 23, 2009 at 18:09

    private life is just that private. As long as they can do their jobs I don’t care if he likes to have sex with random women?

  34. 43 Kelly, from Chicago, IL, USA
    July 23, 2009 at 18:11

    It is very unsavory, but as long as it is legal I don’t find anything wrong with it when I try to look at the situation objectively. However, the idea that a head of state would have that sort of character and then invite OTHER heads of state to those sorts of parties then it becomes even more distasteful, has the potential of embarrassing the country in question. We are all aware that powerful people take advantage of their positions and very often use sex to exercise their power…this is so gross. Why is it so acceptable? If it bothers people enough that it gets into the news then why is this behavior suffered by voters? Ultimately, they don’t care enough to do anything differently, or perhaps they just wish they had that same power for themselves, and accept that powerful people get to do what they want.

  35. 44 Denise in Chicago
    July 23, 2009 at 18:16

    Berlusconi’s behavior is a slap in the face to Italians. Good lord, he needs to stop acting like a pervy little maggot and more like an elected official representing his country. If he is unable to behave in a dignified manner, he should step down.

  36. 45 Anthony
    July 23, 2009 at 18:20

    @ Stephen in Portland/Oregon

    Yes, but what if Bush was able to keep his personal beliefs out of politics, made his judgments on solid facts and logic, and fixed our economy. You’d still have a problem with him? That doesn’t make much sense to me.

    -Anthony, LA, CA

  37. 46 Amber from Indianapolis, IN USA
    July 23, 2009 at 18:21

    Leaders in this state and country are voted for a number of reasons. Most are for thier political ideals,but also for thier morals and character. Our democrat leaders are suppose to represent us as a people, if that is true, then thier moral character is a factor in being a leader.

  38. 47 Jaen Enfer
    July 23, 2009 at 18:26

    If the Pope is doing a good job running the Church, should he be allowed to visit prostitutes?

    • 48 Shaun in Halifax
      July 23, 2009 at 18:34

      @ Jaen Enfer

      I’d sooner have members of the clergy (Pope included) visiting prostitutes for their earthly desires than touching the altar boys. Besides, the Pope is an octogenarian. I don’t think the church approves of Viagra.

      Remember, Mary Magdalene was a prostitute, and Jesus hung out with her.

      • 49 Tom K in Mpls
        July 23, 2009 at 19:23

        Generally, only hard line Catholics believed Mary Magdalene was a prostitute. Most believe she was simply an outspoken woman, very remarkable in her day and society . And yes, the belief that she was a prostitute strengthens your point.

  39. 50 Bert
    July 23, 2009 at 18:28

    Sorry, but this does seem like yet another media circus. Ideally, of course, it would be better if Berlusconi would “behave” himself. But at the same time, none of these allegations are about criminal behavior.

    Unlike many previous PMs, Berlusconi does get things done. His hosting of numerous global conferences recently, his handling of the earthquake in l’Aquila, his tackiling of immigrant issues (whether you approve or not), shows that he is a doer and not just a talker.

    Italian politics tend to be acrimonous and very partisan. If the best the opposition can do is obsess about his playboy lifestyle, they don’t have much to complain about, perhaps?

  40. 51 Keith
    July 23, 2009 at 18:28

    The foremost thing is for the politician to fulfill their campaign promises and run their office to the best of their ability. If they achieve this, then I am generally satisfied. However, indulging in deviant and immoral behavior certainly calls their character into question.

    I prefer to think that I live in a country (America) where the majority, I hope to God, does not indulge in this sort of behavior. Therefore, I’d hope that out of all the qualified, educated candidates available, we could elect someone who isn’t a pathetic lecher to the highest office in the country. It’s a pity that this sort of thing seems to happen so often.

  41. 52 steve
    July 23, 2009 at 18:35

    If prostitution is legal in Italy, I don’t even see how this would make the news. Is it? It would be like Obama being a smoker, it’s not a socially popular thing, but it’s legal, hence it’s not really a controversy.

  42. 53 fabio ricci
    July 23, 2009 at 18:35

    We had years and years complaining that our politicians only talk, talk, blablabla, and do nothing .
    During Berlusconi government, the 15 yrs old rubbish problem in Napoli has been resolved, two of the most wanted mafia criminals have been arrested, the L’aquila earthquake management has been perfect, and in the economic crisis as well. New roads have been opened, the national airline carrier has been boldly saved.
    These are facts. I am not absolutely interested in personal behaviour of a politician until, of course, this behaviour becomes a crime.
    I prefer a strong and corageous prime minister with a “happy” behaviour, rather than a dull and “moral” politician good to nothing: and we had so many of them !

  43. July 23, 2009 at 18:39

    The character of a politician DOES NOT matter! Nobody’s perfect. I think we like to have an unrealistic image of famous people across the board (i.e. movie/music stars, athletes, foreign leader). No matter how much we look up to people, no matter how much prssure we put on them to look a certin way, act a certain way, etc their TRUE selves will eventually come through.

    As long as the job gets done, and the person’s personal life/decisions don’t get in the way more power to him/her!

  44. July 23, 2009 at 18:40

    The issue for me is not that Berlusconi had an affair, it is the obsessive nature of his sexual adventures. It is not that he had an extramarital affair but that he seems so addicted to sex. Multpile partners, paying for prostitutes etc is more a sign of psychological issues more then anything else.

    And at his age it is a sign of instability. That should freak out the Italians. Why doesn’t it?


  45. 56 fabio ricci
    July 23, 2009 at 18:42

    We must also observe that, in Italy, the laws on privacy forbid to publish taped phone calls and so on: but, strangely, no one underlined that the behaviour of msr D’addario in the Berlusconi case was not only immoral, but also a crime !
    Why no one said that mrs D’addario commited a crime ? Simple: a crime against Berlusconi is not considered a crime from a certain political side.

  46. 57 Keith
    July 23, 2009 at 18:43

    On another note: It’s funny how my point of view changed with my relationship status. When I was single, I was very forgiving of acts of cheating by politicians (Clinton). Now that I am in a relationship, I am absolutely appalled by it. Politicians need to understand how much their urge to “have a little fun” can reflect poorly on their party and country. Disregarding this fact shows a lack of integrity, and this could certainly be reflected in their duties as a politician.

  47. 58 Johnny from San Francisco
    July 23, 2009 at 18:45

    A little while ago here in America there was a scuffle about a former presidential candidate, John Edwards, who was caught cheating on his wife, a woman who was slowly dying from cancer. Now while I find Edward’s work and stances concerning poverty admirable as a politician, I’m not entirely sure I would be able to trust someone as a leader, given that he’s shown the willingness to betray his own wife and family in a moment of darkness like that.

    That being said, nobody’s perfect, every situation is different, the whole circus around Clinton in the 90’s was just absolutely ridiculous. But it’s silly, perhaps even delusional to think that the a leader partakes in in their public and private lives come from different sources; they both spring from one’s character and personal values.

  48. 59 Ali
    July 23, 2009 at 18:48

    One hopes if the allegations are true, that he practises safe sex!

    No, seriously, I am more concerned about his chauvanistic attitudes towards women rather than what he gets up to in his private life. One can’t believe this type of dinasour still exists in this day and age in Europe – perhaps it’s a
    generational thing. I believe the rest of Europe view his antics at best ,comical but at worse, sordid and pathetic. Really, he should be pitied. Even a sadder state of affairs for the Italian public, for whom he represents.

    Perhaps sex addiction therapy might help?

  49. 60 Ashley
    July 23, 2009 at 18:49

    Everyone is saying that if the law if the law is not being broken and he is doing his job, then everyone should leave his private matters alone. I agree with this but, I’m wondering really how private a public figure’s life is now a days? Is it private because it is their personal life or private because no one knows about it. As far as I’m concerned if personal matters becomes public knowledge, then can the politicians really expect that their political lives will not be affected?

  50. 61 lucie
    July 23, 2009 at 18:50

    I would say that politicians character matters. But I do not consider having a relationship outside of wedlock as neccessarily making politicians character bad. I do not know much about berlusconi. i can talk only about czech perspective. czech people are very tolerant. but recently our politicians were intensively entertaining us with their affairs and they do not get their job done! thats the point. for several months we were fed with news about Mr. Topolaneks affair, birth of his son outside of wedlock, him being during the giving birth and so on….and government was not doing much. it piss of to make citizens feel that your politician does the job in order to be seen on the screen with pretty women instead taking care of citizens.

    and i think here it was simply went to far. i am embarrased for topolanek, that michelle obama did not ahve a female counterpart to be her host in prague simply because topolanek does not live with his wife.

  51. 62 Adam
    July 23, 2009 at 18:52

    I think we’re forgetting one point. a politician with power has a lot to lose when being promiscuous in their personal lives. They have secrets and in the world of politics secrets = power. They are much more susceptible to blackmail, which means they are very, very vulnerable leaders.

  52. 63 Melissa from Indianapolis
    July 23, 2009 at 18:59

    Politics is not the only profession in which people are held to a higher moral standard because they are leading others. Teachers, religious leaders, law enforcement officials… the public is quick to deride these people for committing immoral acts, when they might not bother with a corporate executive, postal worker or taxi driver.

    The difference is that these people are supposed to be providing an example which is to be followed. Teachers provide information that students are to assimilate, and the reality is that if a teacher is seen frequently going out to bars, drinking heavily or having affairs (with other adults), it doesn’t matter to people if he or she is a fantastic teacher. They will assume that one’s lifestyle impresses itself on the students as much as the lessons, and perhaps more so.

    Is it fair that certain professions are targeted for this extra scrutiny? Perhaps not. But I’m tired of hearing politicians and celebrities complain about being held to a higher moral standard than the average person as if this treatment was reserved for them. There are lots of regular people who are under constant moral scrutiny and no one asks the question that has been proposed by this blog.

  53. 64 Angie J
    July 23, 2009 at 19:09

    If it didn’t matter, then this would not have made an interesting debate, would it?

  54. 65 Janelle Graham
    July 23, 2009 at 19:10

    Though national culture plays a part in how a people view the private indiscretions of a politician, the basic premise for me is that if he/she will lie to the family who were (once) most important to him, will he lie to his country or even withhold truth? If he/she will have an “affair,” isn’t that a betrayal of the spouse he swore to never betray? In an “if A = B situation, then doesn’t it follow that his character is such that he will betray his people whom he swore to represent and defend? Though I agreed with Bill Clinton’s politics, I lost respect for him when he lost respect for vows he took with just one person (let alone a nation).

  55. 66 John LaGrua/New York
    July 23, 2009 at 19:26

    It is more a matter of taste and style.Tawdry displays of misconduct ultimately deminishes the acceptability of the person as undisciplined and untrustworthy.Politicians in the limelight should be neither saints or sinners.,achieved by discretion and sensitivity to those who are offended by untoward behavior.Berlesconi, ultimately. will be seen as an old fool straining at the last vestiges of youth .Time for him to take up bocci .

  56. 67 T
    July 23, 2009 at 19:30

    You’re missing one key point here.

    If a politician’s character really does matter, then why do hyprocrites (closeted gays, adulterers, and more) consistenty get re-elected? Is it because the public doesn’t care? Is it because they’re hypocrites as well? At this point, it’s actually become a joke. And what does THAT say about the state of politics?

  57. 68 Keith
    July 23, 2009 at 19:41

    I’m sick of hearing “He’s only human!” and “nobody’s perfect!” That may be true, but there’s a difference between being less than perfect and worse than average. In a democracy we cannot all participate directly in politics, so we elect a representative to represent a small portion of citizens. This representative should be the BEST of us. Go figure that we’re disappointed when it turns out that it isn’t so.

  58. 69 Dinka Aliap Chawul-Kampala,Uganda
    July 23, 2009 at 19:54

    It no doubt to me that Mr Berlusconi would become such a target for media & oppositions in Italy because only the thief caught is considered to be dangerous in every family.

  59. 70 kpellyhezekiah
    July 23, 2009 at 20:23

    Every head of state(at least in the democratic ones) take their oath of office to adhere to the tenents of their constitution and using it to advance the cause of the people. So if a head of state is not behaving contrary to his country’s constitution(laws) and is advancing the welfare of its people to better standards of living, I don’t see the reason why we should be bringing the private life of the person into public and judging him/her on moral(be it religious or cultural) grounds. That would be very unfair on our part. If we think morals are necessary in governance, then let us write it explicitly in our various constitutions before we turn round to accuse such leaders who we think fall short of it.

  60. July 24, 2009 at 11:25

    You asking about a life style and your not asking if he is a stooge to higher powers which today is the military in each and every country and they do control the politics of todays governments, fear reality or not here the truth is. I don’t care what his personal life is as long as he isn’t harming people or babies at birth. In the United States that is happening the government are implanting communication systems in infants. They found unless it is at birth the victim chooses death other wise. That is the depravity of the US Pentagon. I live next door to the world’s largest infantry center incorporating every branch of every armed forces. I speak for the world ,no country is immune to another country’s endeavors blessed and that cursed. Lets have a “Let’s Free Lee Day.” Do everything possible to expose that I am a research subject in the United States that never had a choice. A individual a radio was placed in them at birth and has been tortured and disabled by the US Pentagon changing and adding on to the communication system hiding the event through horrific events detrimental to my existence. I am surviving and begging to be able to have all my faculties I today retain and be free to live my life as I see fit.

  61. 72 Alex
    July 24, 2009 at 12:47

    It matters! If a blind man leads a blind, both of them will fall into a pit. This is a common wisdom from the bible.

  62. July 24, 2009 at 14:20

    Those who don’t drink from their own well don’t know where it comes from. I read’ the bible and I don’t accept but the first couple of paragraphs. I like the part where it says. Behold man has become as one of Us knowing good and evil. Perhaps he will take from thee tree of life and live forever.

    Now whose God do you worship? I am my own. I am, whom I am, and I have no other GOD’S before me. Now grow up and think for yourself. Humanity created their GOD’S out of idolatry and that is what humanity has become like not living the life in them and knowing that, that is what is GOD.

    Foolish laws are used by those who don’t know how to use them. A society is made up to please someone else, than their self but again it is some idol thing that does nothing and keeps you from doing anything. The greatest love for life is to let all enjoy life to the fullest and to none ever that less.

    Nothing is impossible and there is nothing that is wanted that can’t happen. Life writes the principles of physics and not the other way around.

  63. July 24, 2009 at 14:46

    Yes the character of politicians matter the most because they are supposed to be role models not rogues.What do you make of someone with moral crisis putting himself forward to lead a Nation. They are somehow next to God and should show the light because national confidence has been entrusted on their shoulders. Anything shot of uprightness is unacceptable. When you assume position of leadership, you become the mirror through which the society is measured, it is undeserving not to be above board.

  64. July 24, 2009 at 15:28

    When humanity can see their self as they are. Found in them will be the benevolence to live and let live. Then and only then will there begin a evolution. In a instant they will become aware of the world they are told not to see with flaming swords they weld denying their self the happiness their life offers.

    Religion and Government have failed humanity. They have created impossibilities where there are no impossibilities. Idols are created for their people to give their hopes and fears to. Humanity have been trained to never use the life in them to make their fears go away and fulfill their hopes, wishes and wants. Humanity has been exploited from birth and generation after generation humanity has let their weapons and hate become greater than they are. That is what subservience has created, a foolish and weak human being instead of the God he has been told he isn’t when he is.

  65. July 24, 2009 at 15:59

    Here is a meaning to the saying.. “You can’t change the world but you can change yourself.”

    When humanity becomes aware of it’s self they will first deny it with everything they are. They have wasted their whole life thinking upon principles that aren’t real. They don’t know what life and the world really is.

    It is frightening to see the world you have been told doesn’t exist. You have no other recourse but to start thinking on your own and then you make sense of it.

    You use the same words but now you have a meaning for them. You are all that you know. Now benevolently watch it all by your alone will, unfold before you.

    Here is a meaning to the saying.. You can’t change the world but you can change yourself.

  66. 77 Elias
    July 24, 2009 at 16:18

    There are several men and women who are capable of great leadership should they be elected to head a govenment, but if any of them come forward to be elected, must realise their past may be revealed, will not try to be elected no matter how brilliant they may be, if it can be proved a serious wrong doing was done in the past by them, they will most certainly decline from proceeding to be elected.
    Every country has different acceptable standards, what is OK for one is not OK for another.
    It is common practice in Italy for men to further their sexual interests when ever and with who ever they inclined to have sex with, men there feel it is only natural, and do not consider Berlusconi to be a rogue. Whereas other countries would consider it taboo.
    If the affair of President Clinton was revealed before he was elected, he would not have become President, in his case he was a briliant politician, and the people of the United States prefered to let “sleeping dogs lie”.

  67. July 24, 2009 at 16:35

    To me the issue of character in politicians depends on how his / her choices impact on their public duties. Mr. Berlusconi seems to be reveling in the attention his antics are garnering him, which is fine if he were merely a celebrity, BUT he is not. He is the leader of a nation with severe economic, immigration and crime issues. The citizens of Italy would be better served by a leader who takes his job as seriously as he takes himself.

  68. 79 T
    July 24, 2009 at 17:51

    Now, a new sex tape is released.

    How much money is Berlusconi’s media empire making off “reporting” this? If he does sue, then either it’s a lie. Or, if it’s all true, will the voters throw him out? I’d be very surprised if they did.

  69. 80 T
    July 24, 2009 at 17:55

    Look at what happened with the Sanford affair in the States. The guy clearly wasn’t doing his job. But, do the voters hold him accountable? No. At least in Europe people are way more open about sex that in the States.

  70. 81 RightPaddock
    July 25, 2009 at 01:37

    I find Berlusconi’s antics and attitudes distasteful and his ethics appalling.

    But is he worse than the droves of Democrats and a Republican who’ve trodden the well worn path from the office of Governor of Illinois to the Illinois State prison.

    Or is he worse than the Mayors and other Hoboken officials who were frog marched into court on Thursday on corruption charges by the FBI.

    Unlike the electors of South Carolina who put Mark Sanford into the Governors mansion, Italians know exactly what they’re getting when the elect Berlusconi.

  71. July 25, 2009 at 11:20

    A politician is elected by the people be he or she ingenue, intellectual or idiot.

  72. July 26, 2009 at 19:24

    I think that there is more about the creation of this debated topic than is being presented. The Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi must not be playing ball with Great Britain and their Allies. It won’t be the first or the last time that a government uses their publics mass media to trash someone. Shame, shame, shame on those that think they don’t live in glass houses. Ivory houses are very translucent.. Prince Charles won’t be king. Let’s not worry about that .. Let the the Queen reign.

  73. 84 scmehta
    July 28, 2009 at 07:27

    The word “character” can mean so many things in so many ways. If you mean moral character, then ‘yes’; any politician or leader ought to have a good ethical character which constitutes honesty, integrity and general behaviour. Absolutely nobody, especially no politician, is indispensable; any persons holding a responsible position or politicians or leaders have to be discreet in their conduct, and must be held accountable to the people they represent. Otherwise, they must be ousted. There is no dearth of talent; somebody else will do the job, and do it better. The tragedy with our prevalent political systems is, that, we have only politicians; we do not have many good leaders amongst them worthy of showing or proving any examplary conduct/character.

  74. 85 P.R. Deltoid
    July 28, 2009 at 19:01

    The character of politicians does matter because if they act improperly or unethicaly in their private life why should they be trusted with our public life.

    A politician should live in a perfect world and their integrity should not waver because his penis wants to do something else.

  75. July 29, 2009 at 03:53

    Who is Perfect? Is God perfect to the martyr? Are you perfect and whose God are you? Now you have made your image. Now even with that, you can’t be satisfied with it.

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