Sex scandals never helped a politician,but disqualification from office?

I care about a lot of different things. Among them are whether the characters will ever escape the island on Lost and how fast my computer processor can run. Not among them, though, are the favorite sexual practices of elected officials in this country. Whether they prefer guys, girls, eight of each or something in between, when it comes down to it, does it really even matter?

What are the qualities of a good leader? They must be just and be willing to do the right thing even when it’s unpopular. They must be fair and not be beholden to the interests of any group over any other. They must have the intelligence and be able to make the extremely tough decision under solid logical reasoning.

With those simple standards established, we then must ask, do they need to prefer a singular female underneath the sheets at night to meet all of those qualifications?

Some people will always argue that anything other than a heterosexual monogamous relationship constitutes such a moral shortcoming that a transgressing politician is not qualified to represent them in any capacity. Often these people are impossible to convince otherwise.

For the rest of us, it is unfortunate that true crimes often end up shifting focus onto a politician’s private life instead of illegal actions. And in the end, the important issues are laid aside while the sexual choices of the accused are highlighted relentlessly.

Former New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey revealed in 2004 that he had had an extended extramarital affair with a male employee. This no doubt was a major moral misstep, but does that alone change his qualifications for the job he was elected for? Does it make him too dumb to make intelligent, just decisions in his political life? Obviously the people of New Jersey didn’t think so when they elected him without knowing his sex life.

However, McGreevey did take actions that would prove his lack of leadership qualifications. While in office, he gave his unqualified lover a plum job without bothering to disclose their discreet relationship. Without a doubt, this was a reason to toss him out of office.

What should not occur though is all of the issues being wrapped together into one. He was gay. Big deal. He lied to his wife about an affair. Big personal problem. He used his power as governor to give his lover a job he absolutely did not deserve. Now that’s a reason to disqualify him from office.

When tabloid news gets a hold of such a story, the real issue gets pushed aside for those that are least important but far juicier to the public. It becomes more about a politician’s personal life than the professional crimes at hand.

Former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer was recently caught repeatedly cheating on his wife with female prostitutes, but it was often difficult to tell if his crime was cheating on his wife or violating state statutes.

Even when there is no potential sexual taboo involved in the scandal as with Spitzer’s situation, the public’s obsession, rather than legal ramifications, pushes the story. One only needs to remember the Bill Clinton’s sex scandal with Monica Lewinsky. What is so well known about the entire fiasco that it became? That he lied under oath as the president of the United States? Or is it that the president left a stain on the dress of an intern?

Granted, there are major problems with a man in a position of power having a relationship with a subordinate, but it’s not a crime, and it’s certainly not unique. Did any of Clinton’s sexual transgressions make him incapable of making good leadership decisions for the country? People evidently were happy enough with those he made during his first term in office, as he was re-elected.

Why the rush to change our opinion of an elected official when we find out what goes on legally underneath his sheets? If we thought well of them before, why do we rush to change our opinion after we find out. It’s time to stop worrying about the tabloid reports of a public official’s controversy and start thinking about if it really changes what really matters about the person.

Tim Riley is a mechanical engineering junior. E-mail opinions