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It’s not about the sex, it’s about compromising your own position

If we say it’s OK for anyone holding public office to behave disgracefully in private as long as it’s during their time off, that type of slippery slope just opens the door to more abuse and unbecoming behaviour. At what point are you going to draw the line? 

josanne_cassar
Josanne Cassar
2 February 2017, 7:29am
Minister Chris Cardona. Shouldn’t a politician be above reproach always and everywhere?
Minister Chris Cardona. Shouldn’t a politician be above reproach always and everywhere?
I have no way of knowing if the rumour that Minister Chris Cardona was allegedly at a German brothel with his ministerial consultant while he was away on government business, is true or not. But the case has given us, once again, a great deal of insight into the way the average person looks at political scandals.

For the sake of argument, and because it is now the subject of a libel suit, let us simply take this as a hypothetical case.

It is clear that rather than shocked and disgusted, most people’s immediate reaction to such stories is to fall about laughing. The inevitable jokes and one-liners tend to far exceed the tones of contempt and disgust because hearing that someone got “caught in the act” is in itself funny (except for the person being caught) and has been the subject of many a theatrical farce. There is also something comical about a politician having his foibles exposed, which goes to show that he is “just like one of us”.

But that’s the whole point isn’t? Should a politician behave just like everyone else or should he be expected to have higher standards, to be a role model and to conduct himself appropriately at all times? Where does the public persona end and the private individual begin? This is where there seems to be a huge divergence of opinion.

I happen to think that once you hold public office there are certain “rules” of comportment and behaviour you should adhere to, at all times. Other people see this as completely unnecessary, “as long as he is discreet”.

"So while people snicker, giggle and poke fun about (alleged) cold water in saunas and (alleged) threesomes, it is time we stop and consider what our blasé attitude to everything and anything that our elected representatives get up to, says about us. "
However, I am not sure that I agree with this “discreet” argument.

Shouldn’t a politician be above reproach always and everywhere? I know that is a tall order, which is why not everyone is cut out to run for office and if it were up to me, much stricter vetting should be put into place. If we are going to argue that sexual peccadilloes (and other questionable acts such as heavy drinking and frequenting gentlemen’s clubs) are nothing to make a fuss about as long as they are kept firmly under wraps, it is like we have already admitted defeat about what constitutes good decorum.

We are basically saying that it’s OK for anyone holding public office to behave disgracefully in private as long as it’s during their time off and/or we don’t know about it. That type of slippery slope just opens the door to more abuse and unbecoming behaviour, because at what point are you going to draw the line? I think you have to start off with the tenet that a politician should carry himself with dignity and self-respect as much as possible, and if he does occasionally slip up, then that should be an exception, and not the rule.

As for the very concept of being discreet… is that even possible on such a tiny island where the walls have eyes and ears? Heck, even if the over-indulgence is carried out overseas one cannot be 100% sure one won’t be spotted by a nosy parker as the (alleged) case in question seems to indicate. In fact, it is the sheer stupidity of thinking one won’t be caught that should be a resigning matter – the utter lack of judgement does not say much for one’s ability to think clearly.

And finally, the most crucial issue which people seem to be missing about this hypothetical case is that when a politician takes a work colleague along for the ride on such an escapade, he is taking a huge risk by placing himself in a very compromising position. Can you imagine having that kind of intimate information about what a politician gets up to in his spare time at one’s fingertips?

It is not only potentially damaging to one’s reputation, but the colleague could hold it over the politician’s head in exchange for favours. In fact, there are many possible ways in which this information could be used against the politician as leverage. And the power wielded by the person who is in possession of such sensitive knowledge could go on indefinitely.

So while people snicker, giggle and poke fun about (alleged) cold water in saunas and (alleged) threesomes, it is time we stop and consider what our blasé attitude to everything and anything that our elected representatives get up to, says about us.

With the Panama scandal there were those who justified it by saying “it’s his money, he can do what he likes with it” and in this alleged case, the reasoning goes that “as long as he used his own money to pay for sexual favours, who cares?”

Really? Has the bar for acceptable behaviour by politicians been lowered so much? I find it disturbing that so very few seem to be grasping the crux of the issue – that when one is in politics, some things are just not done. 

josanne_cassar
Josanne Cassar's field is communications – and over the last 30 years she has worked in ...
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