Public men behaving badly

June 12, 2011


Let’s roll out the list. It includes, in no particular order of sluttishness: Kwame Kilpatrick, Jesse Jackson, James McGreevey, Ted Haggard, Gary Condit, Mark Sanford, John Edwards, Bill Clinton, Newt Gingrich, Rudy Giuliani, Eliot Spitzer, Antonio Villaraigosa, Arnold Schwarzenegger, James West, Larry Craig, David Vitter, John Ensign. And now, Anthony Weiner, Democratic representative from New York.

The thing these individuals have in common is as obvious as, well ... the erect penis in Weiner’s underwear in that risque picture he claimed he never tweeted to a young woman and wasn’t even sure was really him, only to confess last week that he was lying on both counts. In case the commonality eludes you: They are all political or social leaders who got caught in sex scandals, having gotten busy, hiked the Appalachian Trail, taken a wide stance, or otherwise behaved inappropriately with women, men, and a prostitute or two to whom they were not married. And they are all men.

Can anyone name the last female leader caught in a sex scandal? Me neither. It is not that women are of a higher moral order than men. Studies confirm that women cheat, too. And yet, you never see that fact reflected in a Hillary Clinton or Sarah Palin biting their bottom lip in the glare of TV lights while making some teary-eyed confession of infidelity and “mistakes.”

We must conclude that women are possessed of something rare among men. It is called a “brain.” Evidently, that organ tells them that when your private life is public record, when you live in a news cycle that is all intrusive, all the time, it might be wise to keep that other organ zipped.

Some may say this is not our business, that while infidelity is awful, it is also between a man — even a public man — and his wife. But see, this is not about marital morality. It is, rather, about judgment.

The ability to weigh one’s options and make the right call is the basis of leadership. Consider that, and then consider: Bill Clinton thought he could get away with being serviced by an intern in the Oval Office. Kwame Kilpatrick thought he could get away with paying $8 million from the city treasury to keep his affair secret. Anthony Weiner thought he could get away with tweeting suggestive photos of himself online. Repeat: online.

Yet we depend on men like these to make decisions about our money, our health care, our children. Not to mention war and peace. What faith can we have that men who show such poor judgment in their marriages will show better judgment in other areas? Or might not the thrill-seeking, testosterone-fueled alpha male recklessness that makes a public man think he can get away with a private affair not also impair his thinking when debating the debt ceiling or teacher salaries? And we wonder why things don’t get done.

No, your humble correspondent does not hate his own gender. There is a place in public life for boldness and risk-taking.

But at the same time, as female leaders attempt to shatter the proverbial glass ceiling on bases of fairness and representative government, a case can be made that they are missing the most persuasive argument of all for why we need more women in public life: Men.

Leonard Pitts Jr., winner of the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for commentary, is a columnist for the Miami Herald. He chats with readers from noon to 1 p.m. CDT each Wednesday on www.MiamiHerald.com.


Reta Cosby 6 years, 11 months ago

Such eloquent words from the mind of a man. You hit the nail on the head - ten times. You go, boy!

RoeDapple 6 years, 11 months ago

Leonard is obviously disappointed that the emails of former governor Palin gave him nothing to rant about.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 11 months ago

And you're obviously disappointed that Leonard didn't give you anything to rant about.

RoeDapple 6 years, 11 months ago

I can count the number of times I have commented on a Pitts column on one hand and still have a finger left for you bozo!!


(Sorry bozo, couldn't stop myself. Some opportunities just too good to pass!)

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 11 months ago

I guess you have to pull it out from its normal smelly resting spot now and again. But if you really want to give it to me, could you please wash it off first?

Brent Garner 6 years, 11 months ago

The foregoing comments about fingers, where those fingers have been, and who ends up getting those fingers demonstrate the concept that Mr. Pitts was writing about. That concept is exercising good judgement. I suggest that those who composed these lines regarding "fingers" have NOT exercised good judgement.

Flap Doodle 6 years, 11 months ago

Leave us add "young men with their pants down around their knees" to the behaving badly list.

Sunny Parker 6 years, 11 months ago

I'll never forget "I did not have sexual relations with that woman". And now there is weiner. The lies just keep a coming!

akt2 6 years, 11 months ago

Their testosterone driven minds and bodies make men the weaker sex. It also makes them predictable.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 11 months ago

Men suffer from testosterone poisoning, and women suffer from estrogen poisoning.

They both cause problems, but the symptoms are different. Some of the problems are obvious, and some are not so visible!

Scott Morgan 6 years, 11 months ago

I agree, it's rare but the unofficial records have the former First lady of Arkansas Hillary doing the two step gerkin jerkin ballet sans hubby.

Of course Bill was no angel.

Brent Garner 6 years, 11 months ago

Amazingly, again, I find I have to agree with Mr. Pitts central premise, that premise being that each of these men has demonstrated markedly poor judgement and, therefore, are not worthy of the public trust given them. Here! Here! Amen and Amen, Mr. Pitts! However, please note that when a particular major political party had the opportunity in a Senate trial to remove from office one of these lechers, that party chose political power and politics over justice and truth. Can we, then, conclude that said political party does not view such violations of trust with any significant alarm? And, if that is true, then can any member of that political party be worthy of public trust???

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