During the Monica Lewinsky scandal, the cultural left brayed that Bill Clinton's sex life was none of our business. The same crowd tried to make this argument about Anthony Weiner, but Weiner couldn't survive pornface. Lately, they seem to have changed their tune where David Petraeus is concerned. (The political calculus is different, and the left is nothing if not an utterly political animal.)
But what should the bedroom standard for politicians and high government officials be? Some might make an entirely moral argument that holds the political class to the highest standard. After all, as leaders, they should set an example for our children. Well, the upper West Side precincts don't particularly care for moral standards, so this argument won't impress them. But is there another, more practical reason to give a damn?
Allow me to suggest that there are reasons to hold most officials to a very high standard. First, there is national security to consider. If you are in a position where you have access to classified information, you shouldn't be fooling around for the obvious reason that you can be blackmailed. The honey trap is the oldest espionage trick in the book.
On this basis, it is fair to ask the president, his top advisors, the Joint Chiefs, members of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, and senior officials at the NSA and CIA to all keep it in their pants for the greater good.
But there are broader issues, and it's not just national security that we need to consider. Basically, if someone has the power to make important decisions or affect policy, they, too, can be compromised. What if someone on the Judiciary Committee was blackmailed into voting a certain way on a Supreme Court justice? Obamacare passed by a single vote - what if someone was quietly coerced?
Ponder, also, how much easier this is to pull off in today's digital world than it once was. Heck, the "honey" doesn't even need to have actual sex with the target if they can just get something damning in an email, a text, a tweet, or a Facebook post. Once the "send" button is hit, all control is lost.
I'll go one step further: there doesn't even need to be a "honey." It can be a creepy operative sitting at a computer. Here's how you'd do it:
- Find a picture of a random hot babe on the internet.
- Create a fake Facebook or Twitter account using the picture of the girl.
- Start friending or following politicians and flirting with them online.
- Steer the flirtation in a sexual direction (assuming the pol doesn't do it first).
- Inform the politician that he will vote a certain way on a crucial bill or he will be exposed and his career ended.
(Parenthetically, you would think Petraeus, as head of the CIA, would have some pretty cool covert techniques at his disposal to keep an affair quiet...or not, since he communicated with his paramour through GMAIL! Yikes.)
I would like to suggest, as I have before, that we have actually had a significant case of sexual blackmail in our country's history. How else to explain how this man...
...didn't fire this one...
The Kennedys hated J. Edgar Hoover. Bobby, in particular, had strong feelings, and running the Justice Department, he was forced to work closely with Hoover. Hoover had actively supported Nixon in 1960 and was arguably a tyrant, having run the FBI as his personal fiefdom since its founding. Why didn't JFK simply fire him?
The answer is one of two things. The first possibility is that Hoover, undoubtedly possessing evidence of JFK's and RFK's varied affairs, was blackmailing the administration. The second is that the Kennedys simply feared that Hoover had the goods. Either way, America had to live under an unchecked, tyrannical FBI director for longer than it should have, all because the Kennedys couldn't keep it in their pants.
There you have it, an actual real life example of why the personal behavior of politicians matters.
Don't get me wrong, I think character matters, too, and there are plenty of politicians who manage to keep to the straight and narrow. But those of a more libertine bent don't put much stock in this argument. Fine, that's their prerogative. But I can only assume that they don't think extortion is a desirable course of events. Extortion is not a moral position that one is for or against, it's just a dangerous potential subversion of the democratic process.
Here's to hoping we can start holding our leaders to a higher standard.