Sunday, March 04, 2007

Should we be judged by our past actions?

In light of the upcoming U.S. Presidential elections (which won't arrive soon enough, once the mudslinging starts for real), I thought I'd bring up the subject: should one be judged by one's past actions? This applies equally to candidates on both sides of the political fence, and those straddling it, as well.

As we all know, the media loves to delve into the past of potential candidates (prompted, oftentimes, by a political opponent), and expose those deep, dark secrets that they feel will either make or break them, but is it fair to judge someone by their deeds from long ago? I sincerely doubt there are many in this world who can say, with all honesty, that they have not done something in their past that they're not proud of. I think we have all been guilty of some kind of folly or youthful indiscretion (in varying degrees of seriousness), that could be viewed and judged in a negative light.

I know they say that 'a leopard can't change its spots', and perhaps with certain individuals this remains a truism, but I would like to think that man can change and evolve, if he/she chooses to, so that what they were associated with in the past might not apply to them in the present. Should someone who had a problem with drugs or alcohol 20 years ago, but has since been sober, be eliminated from the running because of that issue? People can and do change. I'm a case in point. I let go of destructive habits decades ago, including certain political ideologies. I started off as a Democrat and one day found myself a Republican. I'm not even really sure when that transition occurred, but I remember I was out there vigorously demonstrating against nuclear proliferation (and any other cause du jour), and then I wasn't. So, if I were to run for office today, people might look back at my 'anti-this & that' days and unfairly criticize me for what they perceive as my 'liberal' ways, however erroneous a conclusion that might be, considering it isn't currently applicable. And please do not take this, in any way, shape or form, as an endorsement of her, but Hillary Clinton's college thesis is being called into question because of its leftist bent; and although I believe that she does happen to be a leopard whose spots have not changed, there is the very remote possibility she no longer espouses those socialist views. Doubtful, but possible. And people do legitimately change their minds regarding social issues; I know I have.

I think it is very important to look at the character of a potential candidate, and then what he currently stands for, not what he embraced 10, 20 or 30 years ago. It's not an easy task, given our politicians' knack for dissembling. The problem is: how does one determine whether individuals have truly changed or whether they are just telling us what we want to hear?

I would encourage everyone to do their research, when the time comes.


Purist said...

Personally, I wouldn't trust anyone who claims to have never tried drugs/had a weird sexual encounter or generally screwed up majorly in the past.

If they are telling the truth, they are not normal and probably too dull to run a country.

I say vote for the person who took the most drugs, screwed the most women and drank the most beer between the ages of 18-30.

Papa J said...

I had intended to only comment on your blog but I must address "purist"'s comment first.

Shakespere said, "This above all else, to thine own self be true." That is what we want from our politicians. I happen to believe that drugs should be illegal and that premarital sex is bad. Therefore: I have NEVER tried an illicit drug. My friends in highschool (and I was fairly popular) never even offered them to me because they knew where I stand. My first sexual encounter was with my wife on our honeymoon.

If a person proclaims an ideology, they should live it. That's why socialism and communism suck. You can talk about how great it would be it everybody were treated equally, but in practice it can't be done without divine intervention.

Now, back to the comment on the blog. If a person does change, they should be willing to admit past mistakes as well admit their past positions. (Mitt Romney has changed his position and done so openly. He'll have to explain it, but he hasn't tried to hide it.)

Blazing Cat Fur said...

When I was 15 I was a member of the communist party, by 18 I had begun the process of actually learning how to think for myself and have since become conservative. My better half was an extremely active organizer in the disarmament movement and other progressive causes throughout her 20's etc, at that time she was pro-choice, agnostic etc.. for the last decade or so her views have turned around completely. People do change, and at the end of the day it is to be hoped that we have learned from past experiences and are in fact the better for them. However a licentious or libertine lifestyle should never be a prerequisite for public office.

Anonymous said...

Hillary blamed a "vast right wing" conspiracy for spreading lies about Bill. When she caught him in the lie she kissed and made up. I just don't trust anyone that can't tell, time after time, when they are being lied to.
I am far from perfect and I know as a recovering alcoholic people don't look the same way at me. Oh well, I am running for the local school board, warts and all. MUD

Blazing Cat Fur said...

Well you make a good point MUD. I have always felt that her need for power superseded her need for dignity, witness staying with Bill - I do not think this was a case of Family Values or Stand by you Man traditionalism ;)

A. Truman North said...

She don't believe He brought her this far to leave her.

Too bad for her!

Incognito said...

Purist: Maybe you should go into politics, you probably have all the prerequisites.

PapaJ: I think it is very commendable that you were able to come out of your teen years unscathed, so to speak, and that you had friends who respected your choices. That's not always the case. And I would agree, if someone adheres to a particular ideology, they should fully embrace it, but politics and religion are full of hypocrites, so it's not always the case.
And that's my point exactly, a person should not be judged for changing his/her mind about something, IF, it is a legitimate change, and not for political expediency. How many people have suddenly changed their minds about having sanctioned the war in Iraq, now that it is not going so well and their are political careers on the line?

Wow, BCF, I never quite went that far ;-). But you made the turn-around a little quicker than I did. And I would agree, people in public office should be held to a higher standard, particulalry WHEN in office. And, obviously, it shouldn't be a prerequisite, but if someone happened to have been that way say 30 years ago, should they not be allowed to run for office, if they had truly changed their ways?

MUD: Hillary stood by her man because she knew she would need him when it was time to run for Prez. She probably did not count on him suddenly becoming a liability to her. She has had her eyes on the presidency for decades. Way before hubby was even Prez himself! She needed him. So she stuck it out. I don't trust her as far as I could throw her!
Good luck MUD running for the school board!

And yes, BCF. You are absolutely right. Power is very seductive.

Hey Truman.. yeah, too bad for her.. But it aint over till it's over.. so we can't become too complacent.

Papa J said...

You know, I guess what I wrote does sound kind of high and mighty. The main point I was trying to make is that a person should be honest about who they are and live that way.

It takes courage to admit you are a recovering alcoholic. But at least people know where exactly you stand on alcohol if you tell them.

What irks me the most is when people try to equivocate around any kind of a moral stand. Ie, "It depends on what the definition of "is" is"

If your a lecher, hitting on all of your interns, admit it and let the chips fall where they may. Don't try to maintain a public persona that is not who you are because then we can't trust anything you say.

All_I_Can_Stands said...

The problem is: how does one determine whether individuals have truly changed or whether they are just telling us what we want to hear?

Yes, we do judge politicians by their actions from 10, 20, 30 years ago. However, we counter it by their actions since. When we heard that George W. Bush had a drunk driving offense, we were able to balance it against decades of sobriety.

With Hillary, we saw that she attempted to hide the thesis instead of denouncing it. With her Hillary Care saga we see that she has not changed.

It takes sound information and careful judgement to sift through these things.

Dan Frye said...

Well, I’m a little torn on this subject... firstly I do truly believe a man/woman can change their views/opinions and even parts of their personalities. However I also think, as you stated, that it completely depends on the individual… I also agree that media can be a hindrance and a thorn in the side of most political figures.

Now to my discrepancy…. I am a British citizen and a British voter. I know that our system has its great differences but I can relate to many of your arguments…. Well, I would say that it is definitely important to research your politicians but if they want to one day run our countries then they need to be cautious with their decisions in early life. I think a change in view or even a change from Democrat to Republican is fine…. but I think one night’s stupid mistake, should be enough to mark a politician’s carrier. If the smallest reflection in ones character is rash in decision-making, then a bigger more important decision might get screwed up one day!

What do you think?

Purist said...

Not a lot of people get into poliics after leading a perfect life. Being a bit of a shit is the only way to progress in politics nowadays.

We're not living in the Middle Ages, the vast majority of people have premarital sex - most more than once or twice. I would like my pliticians to reflect the views of the majority, we don't need a saint-like figurehead, we need someone who understands what living in the year 2007 is like for the general public.

And yes, incgonito, I probably do have all the pre-requisites. I'm 34 and I still do the odd line of coke for fun, and I sleep around a lot. Papa J, I don't think this makes me a bad person. I don't believe that a voice from the heavens boomed down to moses and told him to tell everyone that sleeping around wasn't on. In the same way I don't believe Noah lived to be 433 or whatever it was.

As such, I don;t need religion to come into my personal decisions.

Blazing Cat Fur said...

That is a specious argument Purist, it's a bit like saying an artist has to suffer, live in a garret and drink absinthe in order to be creative - romantic nonsense. I do not think anyone is arguing for a "Saints" only policy. True leadership is just that, leadership, and that means not governing by opinion poll.

Papa J said...

You don't have to be a saint. But WHATEVER you espouse you have to live. If you do the "odd line of coke" you shouldn't tell your voters that you're against drug control.

I think that is the same point the BCF makes...True leadership is knowing what you believe in and living and governing accordingly not finding out what others believe in and governing by popular opinion poll.

Incognito said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Incognito said...

Honesty is *always* the best policy. That way, no-one has anything to 'dig up' so to speak. I'm not quite sure why people don't realize that the 'truth' will always be revealed, no matter how hard they try to bury it.

And, yes, Dan, I would agree that if you aim for a political career, you should make sure that you conduct your life in a manner that is above reproach, and even more so when you are in office. But, unfortunately, not all those who become politicians make that choice at an early age, so youthful follies (like perhaps smoking pot etc) might reflect badly in later life. But, acknowledging your past indiscretions can go a long way in creating an atmosphere of trust.

And yes, AICS, Hillary was stupid to have tried to force the University administrators to bury her thesis, instead of admitting that she no longer embraced the socialist idealogy of her younger years.

We wouldn't have the right to judge your life, Purist, but we do have the right to judge our leaders and how they conduct theirs. They are not only role models, but they have to make sure they do nothing that will jeopardize their position or the country. People have been bribed into handing over government secrets by foreign spies etc. over something as simple as an affair. You have to live a life that is above reproach to assure you don't compromise yourself.

And that's the problem with many of our leaders today: they change their opinons dependent upon the popular notions of the times.