The Instigator
BeatTheDevil89
Pro (for)
Losing
23 Points
The Contender
SolaGratia
Con (against)
Winning
30 Points

America spends too much time on our politicians personal lives and not enough on the issues.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 8/9/2008 Category: Politics
Updated: 9 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 2,340 times Debate No: 4954
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (1)
Votes (11)

 

BeatTheDevil89

Pro

With all the terrible things going on around us; wars, the failing economy, civil rights, education, rising health care prices, soon unaffordable gasoline with no sign of substantial alternative fuels, some of the worst living conditions for children in the industrialized world, ethnic genocide, some of the highest crime rates in the modern world, epidemics of disease that could have and should have been prevented, the largest stratification of wealth besides the oil barons of the middle east, deteriorating farmland, corruption, urbanization and over population, housing and credit problems, and extreme apathy towards it all. Look at the recent news in the media today; Mcgreevey, Spitzer, Larry Craig, David Vitter, and now Edwards. In France their president died and the wife and mistress were sitting together at the funeral. Why do the people of America choose to follow a "moral" standard while the country is run into the ground. Look at the presidents since WWII, all but two had affairs. Nixon and Bush 2 if I remember correctly are the only ones who didn't have an affair. Nixon was the instigator behind the Watergate scandal and Bush was a alcoholic who snorted cocaine and can't run anything from a company to a country to even a mountain bike without crashing. Russia invaded Georgia today (the country not our state) but most people haven't heard about it because we're to concerned with John Edward's penis. Did I mention that Georgia has a large oil pipeline that runs into Turkey which, if affected could increase our gas prices? That Georgia is one of our allies and by defending them we defy Russia? No, most people don't because an otherwise brilliant politician had an affair.
SolaGratia

Con

Americans are naturally concerned with the personal lives and conduct of their elected leaders. Scandals at the national elective level draw even more attention than scandals among Hollywood stars. There is a very simple reason for this: We elected them. What do John Edwards, David Vitter, Larry Craig, Bill Clinton, Kwame Kilpatrick, Gavin Newson, Elliott Spitzer and Gary Hart all have in common? They were elected. A vote is a mark of trust, and when those on whom we have bestowed our votes betray that trust, we naturally regard it as a serious personal affront; something to take offense at, something to SPEND TIME investigating.

You may say this this does not follow, because you do not view adultery and sexual misdeeds as a betrayal of the trust elected leaders earn. But they are. Let us take Edwards for example. The man was an irrelevant piece of furniture in the 2008 campaign in my opinion, and so toned up the us-vs.-them, two-Americas rhetoric to keep himself in the news. While he was trumpeting about injustice towards the poor, the evil rich, and the need for the eternally vague term "change," he was cheating on his cancer-stricken wife with a blonde vamp in expensive hotel rooms. Do these strike you as the actions of a trustworthy man, of a man fit to be elected to the country's highest office?

Why is this relevant? You say people concentrate too much on the people, and not the issues they deal with. But you would trust the day-to-day navigation of the Ship of State to people who would engage prostitutes, solicit gay sex in a restroom, betray their spouses on yachts named "Monkey Business" and dare the media to catch them at it, or be pleasured by a fat aide--in the Oval Office? I certainly wouldn't. Underlying your argument is the obvious fallacy that people's "personal" lives are completely divorced from their "public" lives, and thus what they do in private is nothing of our, their constituents', concern.

If you are right, then the media coverage and the attention people pay to these misdeeds is out of proportion, and they should indeed concentrate on real issues that face America. But if I am right, then this concentration is merely a symptom of the TRUST we place in our leaders, those who DETERMINE the response we give to your vaunted issues, and our natural anger when that trust is betrayed. You can't, I repeat, chop a person into two parts: public and private. What he or she does in one sphere affects the other sphere proportionately because they are part of the same person. So, any misdeed in one sphere has reverberations in the other.

In the case of a self-righteous hypocrite like Edwards, this makes him a hypocrite. With less outwardly puritanical politicians, it merely makes the people who elected him, most of whom have far more self- and zipper-control, disdain him as a phony. It is accepted that leaders in this civilized society are accountable to the people who elected them, thus if their sins meet with disapproval in the electorate, they must account for them, therefore, all scrutiny is called for.

You paint a disturbing picture of America today, and not without reason. I think, however, that people complain far more about gas prices than they do about being deceived by John Edwards; they are more alarmed by Russia's invasion of a sovereign non-aggressor state than by the fact that Edwards could have been President. I certainly am.

Certainly, it would be a pity if people ignored the destruction being rained on Georgia in favor of whether or not John Edwards fathered his mistress' child. I certainly did not; the Georgia story is far more important and alarming--and neither did CNN.com. On the day after the Olympic opening ceremonies, did the choose to concentrate on that, or the Edwards affair? No, they chose to devote their front-page headline, so to speak, to the Georgia invasion.

So in conclusion, Americans spend enough time on the issues; in general more time than they spend on the sordid, but maddening and important, affairs of politicians; but what time they do spend on these politicians is merited by the fact that their actions were a betrayal of the vote of trust bestowed on that candidate.
Debate Round No. 1
BeatTheDevil89

Pro

What did we elect our politicians for? To be good father figures or to run the country, state, or town and make it a better place? Yes we may have voted them into office but we voted them into office based on their merits as a leader and not by what they do in the bedroom. If it happens to be a case such as Larry Craig were he is soliciting gay sex illegally in a public place when he denies them basic civil liberties or Spitzer who was busting prostitution rings and paying them for sex at the same time then by all means investigate; because what they did was ILLEGAL.

To respond to your question of whether these men's actions "strike you as the actions of a trustworthy man, of a man fit to be elected to the country's highest office?" I answer yes. As stated previously the only two presidents that didn't have affairs since WWII were Nixon and Bush Jr. Look how "trustworthy" they turned out. Both had some of the lowest approval ratings in American history and both were under investigation for illegal activities during their terms in office. FDR, Ike, JFK, LBJ, Carter (i think), Bush Sr., Reagan, and Bill Clinton. Among the list above are some of the best presidents in the last 70 years and all had affairs. I think it would be better for the country if we stopped worrying about the sex lives of our politicians and using that to judge them when clearly the trend has been the opposite.

As you stated, some people pay attention to the issues. But if you watched CNN or MSNBC and tried to find coverage of the invasion of Georgia, you would be blocked by a wall of John Edwards, the ad by Paris Hilton, and Obama's vacation. If people are more interested in the issues it certainly doesn't show on the actual news programs.

Now lets take your example of dividing people up into "public" and "private" and fill in the blanks. What someone BELIEVES in private like a certain religion or opinions then it affects their public life. But what a person DOES in private usually doesn't affect their public life. If a politician plays an instrument they won't give tax breaks to everyone who buys a guitar this year. Affairs are the same way, they are legal so their is nothing technically wrong with them according to the law so how does that affect public life? Do people that have affairs get tax breaks, laws written especially for them, exceptions from the draft? No, so why do we need to know who our politicians are with.

Fun Fact: Republicans are happier with their sex lives than Democrats, but Democrats sex lives are more interesting according to a poll from a magazine (I think time, you can google it). Just found that interesting.
SolaGratia

Con

True, what Spitzer and Craig did is somewhat different than what Edwards did. Spitzer and Craig crossed the line; into the illegal. Edwards merely betrayed his wife and lied about it. However, you're basically saying that the legality/illegality is what determines what is right and wrong. It is wrong, but not illegal, to cheat on your spouse. It is illegal, however, to hire people to do it with, lie about it under oath, etc. It is wrong, but not illegal, to get drunk. But it is both wrong and illegal to drink and drive. What's the difference? In the second case, operation of a vehicle while intoxicated is a serious danger to yourself and others, while with designated drivers and things like that, drinking itself can be kept as risk-free as possible when imbibing large quantities of addictive substances that are flammable and unhealthy in large quantities. With adultery, however, there are ALWAYS victims. When you are callous enough to cheat on your spouse, your spouse is hurt. Badly. Your mistress is hurt, because, as with Edwards, the relationship is extremely unlikely to come to a satisfactory conclusion. You yourself are hurt because you are defiling yourself, and it turns you askew. I'm not saying all adulterers' lives are ruined, at least not immediately, but it will come back and get you. Adultery is, quite simply, not what I want my elected leaders to concentrate on. Even if it is, as you say, basically something we should just ignore, it has to impair their ability to do their job. Thus, illegality is not a good measure of whether a person's personal actions should be scrutinized; it is Right and Wrong. This is doubly true with elected leaders: they represent us in more ways than one; they speak for us at the level they are at, but they also reflect back on the people they represent. When Elliott Spitzer was outed as a sleazeball, the people of NY rightfully wanted to get rid of him right away, because he reflected badly on them.

I contest what you say about a "Wall of Edwards." I don't have any figures, and I'm sure you don't either, but from the news I've seen, it seems that the media concentrates far, far more on issues like the War, the economy, etc. than it ever does on the personal lives of politicians, even when they're embroiled in scandal.

I think we're concentrating too much on the adultery side of this. Candidates "personal lives" can include legitimate things such as their pet peeves, relationships with their family, etc. It can also include financial misdealings and bossism, such as Gov. Rod Blagojevich is under investigation for. You may not see how adultery can affect someone's ability to lead, but when politicians steal and bribe, that's part of their "personal lives" too. Do you think THAT interferes with their ability to do their job well?

Again, just because it's illegal doesn't mean it's right or just.

It all comes down to what we want our POLITICIANS concentrating on: the blond babe they're cheating with, or the people they're representing? The money they're taking in illicit side contracts, the money they've made in Cattle Futures, or the interests and needs of the people? When they concentrate on the wrong things, the scrutiny of the people is and should be attracted, because they're not doing their job.

Fun Fact: Bush Sr. may have had some of the lowest approval ratings in history, but he also had THE highest--after the Gulf War 1 was successfully concluded. And Nixon's shenanigans at Watergate, I think, are part of his personal, private life; or were before they came out. So you think the scrutiny and anger over Watergate was unjustified? Sure he broke the law, but it was part of his "personal" life. Should we just ignore that?

Say you were in an affair with someone. You love the person very much, but want to stay married to your current wife so people will not lose their respect for you. It may also be bad for your prestige generally, because you hold a very important, closely scrutinized job. You are preoccupied with keeping your affair secret from everyone. You worry about your wife and children finding out, you worry that your mistress will blackmail you because of the importance of your job; you worry that she will reveal the affair, intentionally or unintentionally. Now, do you think that having all these things going on in your head might, just might, interfere with your ability to do your job?

Or say it is a financial indiscretion. The same circumstance applies. Your personal life is intertwined almost beyond the point of distinction with your public life, and so an indiscretion in one reflects just as strongly in the other, even if the effects are not immediately apparent.

So, spending time on politicians' personal lives is no wrong; and while not as important as the actual issues, it is still important--to keep politicians honest, and to know bad apples when you see them.
Debate Round No. 2
BeatTheDevil89

Pro

While you may want to stick to your morals and pass judgement on others using your morals, I want you and everyone reading to stop and think about what they're doing. Adultery is not illegal, immoral it may be but not illegal. How would you feel if you went for a job interview and was denied the position because who would-be boss tells you that since you cheated in your wife we don't feel we can trust you to package meat or file papers. While we need to trust our politicains, what we should trust them with is their job, we need to stay out of their personal lives (unless what they are doing is illegal) and let them concentrate on their duties. You spoke of the distractions that arise from adultry. But what about the distractions from the media and the country when their is constant media attention on you, your spouse, mistress, and not you job. Bill Clinton's presidency was catergorized as scandalous because he had an affair. They had a trial because he couldn't keep his zipper up, when he was (at least I think) not doing a bad job running the country. No war and no deficiet sounds like and improvement from what we've got now. But we just couldn't handle our president having an affair because it ruined the country...not. Like I said, persoanl lives is one thing and illegal is another.

If a politicain is taking "brides" or is involved with other illicit activities then its not private its public. Police get involved and some freedoms one would normally have are taken away. This is not private because the society that one lives in decided what one did is unacceptable and punishment should be renderd. No such law exists in America. Why then should we devote any time to such an issue? For some people in America; tatoos, pre marital sex, and staying out after sunset is wrong. But it isn't illegal and it doesn't affect our politicains as much as the unwarrented attention given to it.
SolaGratia

Con

Your analogy about hiring is apt, but consider this. People who have the power to hire and fire can make up their own mind about who they want to do the job. They look at the applicants' resumes, find out what they can about them, interview them and finally offer them a job, or don't call back. Imagine that we, the people, are the people with hire and fire power over the politicians. We need to know what kind of people they are; Are they personable? Are they competent? Do they have the experience and qualifications for the job? Are they nic people? We need to know about transgressions in their past, and whether they're likely to commit them again. This is not "sticking to my morals," it's legitimate interest.

Politicians, unlike movie stars and other celebrities, are directly responsible to us, the people who elected them. We want, nay, need to know about them. We are not going to elect a dark horse, and we are not going to tolerate politicians who do things we don't want them to do. Adultery and other personal transgressions, as well as more public blunders, fall under that heading, don't you think?

By the way, you're dead wrong about Clinton. He was not prosecuted for adultery, he was prosecuted for lying under oath about it. And for the record, he was impeached, but not driven from office. People think it means the same thing. Your Clinton hero-worship can't blind you to the fact that he LIED. You may be willing to pass over adultery, but lying under oath about personal doings?

I assume you mean "bribes," not "brides." If a politician takes bribes, he's taking money for favors. If he's taking brides, he's Warren Jeffs.

I think we have a little disagreement about the definition of the word "personal." In this sense, I think it means anything done personally, especially in private or secret, illegal or not. You think it means anything done personally, especially in private or secret UNLESS it's illegal. While I agree that if an action is illegal, it is always illegal, if a politician does something illegal secretly, it's "personal" first, and illegal after.

You say Americans "spend too much time" on politicians' personal lives. You say that unless something is illegal, it is the politicians' business and not ours, the people who elected them. But how do we find out if they've done anything illegal unless we "spend time" on their personal lives. Are you suggesting that their privacy is so sacrosanct that people should not investigate politicians, not for fear that they might uncover something nasty, but that they might NOT? An altogether wrongheaded way of doing things.

In conclusion, while I don't know if I approve of the media spouting triumphantly over the sordid wrongs of politicians, I believe the people have a right to know what their leaders are doing. It is almost as important, in fact, as paying attention to the issues. Who dictates our response to the issues? The politicians. Therefore, we should scrutinize what they do PERSONALLY to find out whether we are being well represented.

Thank you for an excellent debate. BeatTheDevil.
Debate Round No. 3
1 comment has been posted on this debate.
Posted by sadolite 9 years ago
sadolite
UMMM, Don't you mean the "news media" spends to much time on politicians personal lives. Substantive reporting is way beyond the news media's ability to comprehend. They are in the entertainment business not the fact finding business.
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