Tom Foreman | BIO
Reporter's Note: I don’t think one can trick or treat at the White House. Of course, I didn’t think I could post a letter every day for more than a year and half and not get a visit from the Secret Service either, so go figure.
Dear Mr. President,
We’re very big on Halloween at our house. Our basement has enough costumes in it to spur accusations that we are running an unlicensed dinner theater, albeit one that seems to specialize in rarely seen stage revivals of “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.”
So I was both entertained, and - what’s the word? - intrigued by a report that Delaware Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell showed up on Halloween some years back dressed as a ladybug. As a practical matter I don’t even drink, and yet on any given day of the year there is a reasonable chance I’ll slap on a pirate hat and go for a stroll, or slip into a cape for a 7-11 run, or even hit the McDonald’s drive-through sporting Groucho glasses and a fake nose.
Where the O’Donnell story gets sticky, of course, is in the part about her alleged escapades in her ladybug regalia. I won’t get into the seamy details in the report, nor do I want to excite more of the furor that followed. Suffice to say, the critics are right: This report was sleazy, demeaning to the political process and to O’Donnell, and it makes you want to go wash your hands. (Right after reading the article, the rebuttal, the follow-up, and looking at all the pictures, of course.)
But I fear in the political climate of today we’ll never see the end of such tales; and a lot of men and women will come to regret nights of less than circumspect behavior. I’m not going to say a word of judgment about that behavior. We have plenty of “social values” watchdogs on the left and the right which bark relentlessly over such issues.
I am wondering what it will all lead to. I think some of the smartest, best, most well-intentioned Americans already don’t consider public service because they fear the Night-of-the-Living-Dead hoards will begin circling the moment they announce a campaign. For conservatives, the fear has to be that liberals will use any lapse in perfectly moral, upright behavior to portray them as shameless hypocrites who can’t live up to their own standards. For liberals, the fear may be the opposite - that conservatives will take their past behaviors, especially any that were rash or ill-considered, to portray them as morally bankrupt and unfit to serve the broader public. In either case, part of the problem is that it’s not only the candidate who suffers; so does his or her family and associates.
I have met a lot of good liberals, conservatives, and moderates over the years –individuals who love their families, cherish their beliefs, and speak openly about how they are trying to live their lives. I have also met very few perfect people among them. Most, maybe all, have had failures or moments that would not fare well in the bright light of public scrutiny.
Should we demand high moral character from our leaders? Sure. We don’t want a bunch of pathological liars and cheaters leading us; it would just get too messy, for one thing. Should we hold candidates to a higher standard, especially if they themselves proclaim it? That seems reasonable too.
But as a general rule, as we consider all the people who seek office in our land - left, right and middle - should we demand philosophical perfection? I suspect probably not. Because if we damn and dismiss every person who can not live up to his or her own ideals, I suspect we won’t have many candidates left. Don’t be mistaken: I do think we should demand the best and expect our leaders to behave considerably better than most; but there is a big gap between that and the ideal.
Anyway, I’m prattling on. I need to get to the decorations and get the candy ready. We’re going with a Legend of Sleepy Hollow theme this year! Come by if you can, although I suppose you’re busy with election stuff. Talk about scary! Ha!
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