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September 23, 2014 / 28 Elul, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘power’

I Am a Loser Today

Thursday, November 22nd, 2012

First we must admit we lost the war with Hamas.

It will allow us to begin healing from our wounds. For until we make the admission that we are on the losing side in the war and remain in a state of denial about it, no recovery is possible. We are thankful to be alive, of course, there is that to be grateful for – we can write letters like these and feel some satisfaction in the small pleasures of daily life, but we lost the war, yes, we did.

If we all make the admission simultaneously it will be an even stronger spur to our recovery, for we will be able to move on and examine our options. But until we as a nation, say it out loud, we’re trapped in fear, despair and disappointment.

We lost the war with Hamas. Please, don’t be afraid to say it out loudly and clearly. Say it to yourself. Say it to your family and friends. Say it at work and in the streets. Let’s own our defeat and see how it feels before condemning it as defeatist or negative. I think it will do us a world of good, actually. Today, this Thursday morning, this week of Parshat Vayetze, we were defeated by Hamas.

We’re alive, unapologetic and eager to find the positive in the situation, but we are defeated. We lost the war with Hamas this week, you know. It hurts a lot. We were sure it was going to be a resounding win, a victory and a new beginning for Israeli citizens everywhere but especially in the south. Unfortunately, we lost the war with Hamas.

They won, you see, because they have two advantages over us, superior tactics and a superior strategy. I’m not writing an analysis; that’s for the historians and the war-college professors to do. I’m merely stating what needs to be said out loud for our health’s sake, today. We lost the war with Hamas.

I cry for us, for those who survive unscathed and for those who mourn their losses, all our collective losses. Their children are our children, their parents, our parents. We are all living in Sderot, we are all about five seconds from a devastating trauma – we all have the scars this morning from the war with Hamas which we lost.

We are a noble people, for the most part. God knows we seek no one any great harm, and rarely dream, as a nation, of committing genocide, rapine or plunder. But we must, for our health’s sake, admit that we are locked in a deathly embrace with Hamas who have beaten us this week, who have reduced us to the role of the vanquished, to the point where we were forced to sue for peace on their terms, on any terms. We need to internalize the simple fact that Islamists have forced us to settle, not for peace on any terms, but with a lull, a not-even-truce. They have graciously, as the victors, agreed to allow us a short respite, for as long as it takes them to rearm, regroup and reposition for the next battle in the war we have lost.

I am not ashamed to say I am an Israeli Jew, I am a loser today in the war with Hamas.

I’m ashamed of the men and women we voted into political power, whose duty it is to protect us, let us not sully our lips with their names, they know who they are. I will look for more savage politicians to vote into power next time, lesser practitioners of the reasonable arts – with frothier spittle and madder eyes.

I am ashamed for us, I’m crying for us. We seem to have lost our vision and our insight. We are lost in broad daylight, blinded by the truth and crippled by common sense.

Because it’s true, I admit it. We lost the war with Hamas.

Join with me, friends and family. Let us make the admission with contrition in our our hearts and all the earnestness at our command; We lost the war with Hamas.

Parshat Toldot: The Power Of A Text

Thursday, November 15th, 2012

The theme of my column is leadership. As a general rule I avoid extrapolating leadership lessons from current events. The following is my reasoning. First, the information available from current events is often incomplete and inaccurate. Even when the information is relatively complete and accurate it is unanalyzed. Therefore the basis for lessons learned may prove to be faulty. Second, current events are often too current. To attempt to draw practical lessons in a dispassionate way would be insensitive. At least a minimal amount of time is needed to create the space necessary to allow for such an article. I have relied on the publication of books and scholarly articles on a particular recent event as an indicator that an appropriate amount of time has passed, thus allowing me to write a leadership article about it.

Like any good rule, however, there need to be exceptions. The all too recent hurricane that shattered an untold number of lives is such an exception. I thank Hakadosh Baruch Hu that my family was spared during this storm, but many of my colleagues, students, and friends suffered from its power and continue to suffer in its aftermath. From them I heard stories of hope and chesed that are unbelievable. I also learned from them a more nuanced definition of leadership.

We read in this week’s Parsha how important a bracha is. Even Esav, the rough and tough warrior and hunter, cries uncontrollably because he missed getting blessed by his father Yitzchak. It makes us stop and wonder what it was that made Esav so upset. It certainly was not his losing out on the spiritual aspect of the blessing. One also wonders if he was upset at losing out at the material aspect – after all, he received a material blessing from Yitzchak and it is clear that his descendants have done materialistically well for themselves.

So what was Esav upset about? That he lost out on the encouraging good words from his father. He missed out on the emotional laden blessing that could have served as Esav’s lodestar throughout his life. It could have served as a source of strength and hope when things were not so good, and a moral compass for when things were going well. Fortunately for us, the children of Yisrael, our forefather Yaakov received this blessing and we benefit from what the descendants of Esav missed out on.

Members of Lev Leytzan’s ElderHearts visited with residents of the Atria Riverdale Senior Community during Hurricane Sandy.

We see from here how important a simple string of words can be.

Leaders often focus on the big vision and the mega-decisions, but the primary role of leadership is to give hope and guidance to one’s followers and organizations. In this regard everyone who helps another person get through a day is a leader.

One of my friends who has suffered tremendously from the storm told me the following story.

On the Sunday following the storm, she was surveying the extensive damage to her house. She had just thrown out all her ruined sefarim, books, and furniture. Looking at her damaged home, wondering how long she and her family would remain nomads, how she was going to rebuild, and where she would find the moral energy to move forward, she became totally overwhelmed. Although she had been strong during and after the storm, she had finally reached her breaking point. Then suddenly out of the blue, at 1:20 p.m., she received a random text from a friend saying how inspired she was by her, because despite everything she was experiencing, her thoughts and prayers were about other people! This text, my friend told me, gave her and her husband the boost they needed. Her message to me was simple: while victims of the hurricane need lots of help in so many ways, people should not underestimate the power of a thoughtful word and a sympathetic ear, in addition to an outstretched helping hand.

We Are Seeing Moshiach in Action!

Thursday, November 15th, 2012

The Pillar of Cloud, otherwise known as the Clouds of Glory, or Amud HaAnan, protected the Jewish People in the Wilderness, and the “Amud HaAnan” Operation which Tzahal has now undertaken is intended to protect our beleaguered citizens in the south. But it is much more than that.

Rabbi Kook writes:

“When there is a great war in the world, the power of Moshiach awakens. The time of the song bird has come, with the weeding away of tyrants. The evil ones are obliterated from the world, the world becomes more perfected, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our Land.

“And after the war has climaxed, the world is revitalized with a new spirit, and the ‘Footsteps of the Moshiach  are exceedingly revealed. The greater the war’s measure, both quantitatively and qualitatively, the greater the expectation for the ‘Footsteps of the Moshiach’ which the war reveals…

“With great insight, incredible valor, with deep and penetrating logic, with true desire, and with clear understanding, we need to receive the exalted contents of the light of G-d which is revealed in wondrous action in the workings of precisely these wars.”

Rabbi Kook ends his essay by quoting from our morning prayers. Make no mistake. This is what Operation “Amud HaAnan” is really all about:

“The Master of wars, sower of righteousness, Who causes salvation to sprout, the Creator or cures, awesome in praise, the Master of wonders, Who renews His goodness every day the act of Creation, cause a new light to shine upon Zion, and may we all be privileged to see its light” (Orot, 2:1).

Hashem is the Master of wars. And now, as citizens in the south of Israel sit anxiously in their bomb shelters, Hashem is at war. Hashem is weeding out tyrants, the killers of Jewish men, women, and children. Hashem is obliterating evil ones from the world, the murderers from the Hamas and the Islamic Jihad. The Moshiach has awakened. He is sitting in the cockpit beside our pilots as they soar over Gaza, cleansing and perfecting the world. While the Israeli Army is fighting, Hashem is sowing righteousness. Hashem is causing salvation to sprout. He is causing a new light to shine upon Zion, and it is our task to open our eyes and see it. No, my friends, this is not a mere war – this is Moshiach in action!

The Mashiach is not only the ideal Jewish king, but a process which evolves over time. The Gemara informs us that, “There are 2000 years of Moshiach  (Sanhedrin 97A).  In Tractate Megilla, we learn that, “War is also the beginning of Redemption” (Megilla 17B). The Rambam tells us that one of Moshiach’s premier tasks is to fight the wars of Hashem (Laws of Kings and Their Wars, 11:4).

Yes, Operation “Amud HaAnan” has come to protect our citizens, to teach Hamas a painful lesson, and to return our power of detriment, but when you watch the footage on TV, know that you are watching the “Footsteps of Moshiach ” You are witnessing the Sanctification of G-d in the world. Let the word go forth, “There is a living G-d in Israel!”

Yes, war is hell. Yes, if war could be abandoned, the world would be a better place. But the Redemption of Am Yisrael also comes through wars. In the roar of our jets streaking over Gaza, Moshiach is on the way! When evil doers are uprooted from the world, the light of Moshiach appears. The greater the magnitude and force of the war, the greater the revelation of Moshiach which follows.

Our hearts and prayers are with the soldiers of Israel. May Hashem grant them and their commanders the holy courage and valor to finish the job and wipe out the evil in our midst, for the betterment of the world. And may we all be privileged to see and enjoy the new light shining on Zion!

 

On Being Sandy

Wednesday, November 14th, 2012

It was William Shakespeare who posed the question “What’s in a name?”

These days, if someone calls you “Shakespeare” it probably means he or she thinks you are pretty bright, or at least can write well.

But a name can take on a whole new meaning when you find yourself sharing an identity with the most destructive storm ever to strike the East Coast.

My first inkling of Hurricane Sandy came approximately six days before the actual winds blew into town, when a friend jokingly e-mailed me a weather map showing the storm’s track.

I admit I was intrigued. When the National Weather Service issues its annual list of hurricane names for the year, they are arranged alphabetically. Honestly, I never realized the list went all the way through the alphabet and had never heard of a hurricane with an S-name. Hurricane Sandy? It sounded pretty cool.

By Thursday I had changed my Facebook profile picture to a graphic of the impending hurricane and got plenty of “likes” on my new photo persona, as well as lots of teasing from my friends. With the projected forecast of Sandy colliding with two other weather systems and during a full moon, which meant really high tides, they were calling me “the perfect storm.”

By Sunday night, my father, who had already been experiencing Sandy’s rain and winds, called me from Florida.

“How could they name such a terrible storm after someone so special?” he asked me in a way that only a loving father could. I told him not to worry. He had always said that if I was going to do something I should do it with a full heart – and it sounded like Hurricane Sandy was going to give her all as well.

And indeed she did. But not in a good way.

Four days after Sandy wreaked destruction, havoc and unparalleled devastation on the Eastern Seaboard, I was ready to change my profile picture on Facebook. How could I, even jokingly, associate myself with something that claimed the lives of innocent victims, washed people’s houses out into the Atlantic, and caused so much heartache to so many?

For those who weathered the storm with minimal adverse effects, it will be just a memory of taking in the lawn furniture in advance of a rainy night accompanied by howling winds. For others, Sandy will go down in the record books as the mega-storm that took out the electricity, leaving us shivering in the dark as we waited for the power to go back on and prayed that our freezers wouldn’t defrost on us.

I consider myself one of the fortunate ones. But in far too many instances, Sandy turned out to be a life-altering experience resulting in catastrophic losses.

In some ways Sandy took me back to 9/11, when we walked around in a daze wondering how something like this could have happened here. We all looked at the pictures of Breezy Point, Sea Gate, and the Battery Tunnel in disbelief, unable to comprehend that this was no movie set, that this was in fact very real, and realizing how in an instant our lives can crumble before us.

Did anyone imagine that the New York City subway system could be brought to a grinding halt? That entire portions of midtown Manhattan could be without power or that lower Manhattan could be submerged? How crippled we would be if we no longer had access to cell phone service or the Internet?

As time goes by and the repairs and the healing take hold, perhaps we may be able to see Sandy not only for the epic catastrophe she turned out to be but also as an opportunity for people to show their true colors, as they turned out in force to do everything within their power, and then some, to help those who bore the full brunt of the storm’s wrath.

But of course it is way too early for those who are suffering to even contemplate looking for the silver lining in clouds that are undoubtedly darker than most of us have ever seen.

Ultimately, Sandy will come to represent many different things to many different people.

For me, Sandy is a sobering reminder that while our lives are, thankfully, so rich and so full of advances and comforts, we haven’t earned them or created them on our own. All that we have we have only through the benevolence and kindness of Heaven, and we must appreciate and value them every single day of our lives.

Dealing with Adult who Sexually Abuses Children

Wednesday, November 14th, 2012

A sexual abuser is someone with visceral urges who often spirals down into an abyss from which he usually cannot fully recover. Research shows that sex offenders are among of the most difficult to treat, as their behavior is caused by such powerful forces.

There are clear mental dysfunction and depravity that go along with being an adult who sexually abuses children. This is an explanation, not an excuse. Perpetrators deserve our empathy – possibly – but need to be dealt with justly and in methods that ensure our children’s safety, without any compromises. It is a sad fact that for each perpetrator there isn’t only one victim, but more likely there are sometimes scores and even hundreds of victims. That sounds hard to believe, but simple math tells us that stopping just one perpetrator may protect hundreds of potential victims.

Most abusers have at one time themselves been abused and now prey on others. For many of us this is difficult to fathom; how could someone so acutely aware of the pain and suffering abuse entails now mete out those same feelings onto another?

Let us try to understand this psychological phenomenon from a theoretical perspective. When people are sexually abused, much of the inherent power and control they once had over their bodies and minds becomes either severely compromised or downright damaged. When the abuse takes place repeatedly, the power and control we speak of can become a distant memory, and victims often develop serious trauma.

The question for the victim now becomes, how can I regain that elusive power and control? Unfortunately, the form of power and control he knows best is sexual abuse – and to regain it he perpetrates what happened to him onto another. It is important to note that the former victim, now abuser, is most likely unaware of the trajectory and evolution of his own thoughts; he is merely desperate to recover what has been missing from his life all these years. This absolves none of his personal responsibility; he remains fully culpable for his actions, but it is important to examine his motivations.

Now that we understand why abuse occurs, the question becomes, what can we do about it? There are many ways, and addressing only one aspect or having one direction won’t fully incorporate what is necessary to eliminate abuse from our midst (although, complete eradication is most likely impossible).

I believe an increase in education as to the effects of sexual abuse on victims – rather than dry statistics of abuse prevalence – may help. Too often I hear, “It happened so long ago, can’t the person just get over it?” Many fail to comprehend the association between abuse and long-term trauma, and don’t understand why there is a significantly increased risk of serious mental issues in victims, such as depression, anxiety, addiction and suicide.

In addition, as described above, abuse becomes repeated and multigenerational. The facts are out there, they merely need to be disseminated. An increase in knowledge invariably causes an increase in sensitivity and understanding. Sadly, almost ninety percent of abuse never gets reported – in all communities. But the courageous few who do come forward, need our full backing and support.

As to our own community, it has been copiously documented by the media how we responded in the past to cases of abuse – everything from, “this doesn’t happen in our communities,” to “it’s a chillul Hashem to allow this to get out.” By increasing our understanding of what abuse causes, rather than merely stating that abuse exists (which at this point is difficult for anyone to deny, though some inevitably try), we might discourage cowardly individuals from within from attempting to prevent deserved justice. While this may be only a small step towards eradicating wrong from the world, it can, hopefully, be a start.

 

Giant Rats and Tiny Men

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

On the corner of the street a giant rat squats over the sidewalk, its shadow blocking the cold winter sun, while at its feet, hired men, some with heavy accents, hand out leaflets and chant, “Who are we, What do we want” in the familiar hymn of the hired union protester, not a member of a union or an employee or a shop, but just a man hired by unions to intimidate some store or company into going along.

There’s another giant rat creeping its way up the Potomac through the evening fog. Its snout is the size of a skyscraper and its shadow is the night. And there are hordes of smaller rats inside that rat and smaller rats inside it that come spilling out. Call it the Trojan Rat or the Great Rat of the Potomac. Or just call it Washington D.C.

In the year of the rat, the election came down to a whole bunch of men and women loudly chanting, “Who do we are, What do we want.” The Democrats had clear answers to both questions. They wanted the rat. They wanted to be rats. They wanted to be the last rats on the sinking ship of state.

That was the hysterical frenzy of the Democratic National Convention in a nutshell. It was the pied piper calling forth all the rats by name and teaching them to march around when the pan pipes played. And the pipes played, the rats went to the polls, they voted, once, twice, three times and then waited around for their cheese.

And who were the Republicans? What did they want?

Watching the Republican National Convention, you got the sense that they were amiable people who like hard work, and talking about hard work, who like minorities and Clint Eastwood movies. They were as American as apple pie, in the way that commercials for frozen apple pies that you defrost in an oven are. Pop the Republican Party in your Sunbeam, punch out 60 years and you’ll get the Eisenhower Administration, toasty and fresh in your kitchen.

But the voters didn’t want apple pie. Some of them did. The older ones. The married ones. And yes those hordes of horrid white males. But a bunch of the electorate wanted burritos, they wanted hot pockets and a hundred other treats. And they wanted them free of charge.

The Republican Party was proposing a country where anyone can open up their own pie shop, while the Democrats were offering free burritos and degrees in Transgendered Mayan poetry in order to “invest in our future.” The party of apple pie came close, but the party of burritos with cheese for voters who vote early and often, came in closer.

The first question of any movement is who are we. The second question is what do we want. And until we can answer those questions and communicate those answers, then we are always going to be flailing, moving from one compromise to another, while our own rats ponder which principle to dispense with first. After all, what good are principles if they don’t get you in to ride the rat?

What the Republican Party communicated in 2012 was that it wanted to win an election. It chose the most electable candidate and put on a show that had little of substance. Three nights of apple pie commercials and then months of apple pie speeches about how wonderful this country is. Little was said, but the unspoken message was that policies didn’t matter, winning did.

As Churchill said of Chamberlain, “You were given the choice between war and dishonor. You chose dishonor and you will have war.” The Republican Party thought it had a choice between defeat and dishonor, it chose dishonor and got defeat anyway. Now we are offered even greater dishonors to avoid greater defeats. And when the GOP has appeared every single element of the electorate except its own base, then surely it will be allowed to win.

But winning isn’t the point. Winning is a power play. It only matters if you either expect to ride the rat or if you are fighting for something. The Republican Party fought to win and it lost. Now might be the time to fight for something, rather than to fight for the sake of winning the fight.

Tiny men don’t defeat giant rats. Not unless they are fighting for more than themselves. More than mere antipathy for the rat. And men who don’t know who they are or what they are fighting for will always be small, no matter how much fame they have or how well known their names are.

And that brings us right back to the question being shouted under the giant rat. “Who are we and what do we want?”

The Republican Party is divided, not split, between an establishment that wants to ride the rat and a base that wants the rat gone. The establishment is still trying to figure out how to win over giant rat voters with the promise of a better, slimmer, but more efficient rat. The base wants it to build a rat trap. But in elections the establishment usually gets its way and whatever the election results are, the giant rat stays around for another year, getting bigger and bigger.

The establishment, that nebulous entity, as at home on the Potomac as its rivals, has few differences with the Democratic Party. It agrees with most of its premises, it just wishes that it wouldn’t be so fanatical about them. It would like to trim back the bureaucracy, loosen some of the regulations and make life easier for business. At least it thinks that it would like to do that, but aside from occasional tax cuts, it doesn’t really do much about that, because it too likes to ride the rat.

The Republican and Democratic leaderships might be divided into the moderate and extreme wings of the same party. But their bases are very different.

The old Jeffersonian and Jacksonian Democrats have become Republicans. The Republican Party is at the voting level, the rural party, the party of those skeptical about federalism and looking to lock in liberties with the Bill of Rights. At the same time its leadership consists of Hamiltonian Federalists who are interested in moving business forward. Throw in a moral traditionalist base and the party becomes even more impossibly conflicted.

Meanwhile the Democrats have become what the Republican Party turned into after Lincoln, corrupt, elitist and widely hated. A modernist party that postures as a party of civil rights, but views black people as walking votes and tools for extending the federal power grab of fanatical unionists. It is a party with no more vision than consolidating authority into central organizations that are run by the incompetent and it is not above pulling any and every illegal trick in the book to violate the Constitution. Its only reason for success is that its opposing party has so comprehensively disgraced itself that much of the country will not even consider voting for it.

But as rotten as the giant rat of the Democrats may be, it at least knows what it wants. The same can’t be said for a Republican Party that is stuck in a schizophrenic state. It is united, not by a vision, but by an opposition to the left.

The one thing that the Hamiltonians, Jacksonians and Jeffersonians can agree is that they don’t like the left and its vast bureaucracy that is hostile to business and bent on total control of all aspects of human life.

This opposition transcends federalist issues or moral divides. The Republican base and leadership may differ on how much big government they should be, but they can all agree that the endlessly expanding horror show of the giant rat, towering over Washington D.C. and sharpening its teeth on the Washington Monument is too much.

America is the other thing that the Hamiltonians, Jacksonians and Jeffersonians agree on. They all like it and think that it’s a special and exceptional place. And turning conventions to that theme is a point of agreement. Unfortunately the unwillingness to define what makes America special, beyond the ability to open your own apple pie shop and the ability of immigrants to open their own apple pie shops, means that there is little disagreement, but also no real message.

The Hamiltonians turn Jeffersonian when talking to the base. But then they revert back to being old Alexander. Romney is the first presidential nominee in generations to run on such an explicitly Hamiltonian platform and the results should surprise no one. Hamilton was a good deal more popular after he was killed by Aaron Burr, probably the most ruthless American progressive of all time, who makes ratlings like Ayers or Alinsky seem downright inconsequential, than when he was alive.

Ideology follows interests. The Hamiltonians are city dwellers. They believe that men need regulation but that free markets don’t. They understand the power of the economy in building a nation and how making unpopular decisions that hurt people in the short term can help them in the long term. But they don’t understand people and are terrible at getting their message across. They are sophisticated enough to think big, but not to think small, and the populists beat the stuffing out of them every time.

The Jeffersonians are rural and suspicious of cities and central organizations. They want to keep their way of life by limiting the power of the central government. They are passionate about freedom and instinctively dislike the Hamiltonians. Jeffersonians can win the majority of the country by land area, but the cities stifle them. They are instinctive revolutionaries, but like the Hamiltonians they struggle to communicate their deeply felt beliefs to the rest of the country. They always think small.

And then there are the Jacksonians, who go deeper, challenging the disenfranchisement of the public by the elites. The Jeffersonians still believe, to a degree, in the basic decency of their opponents. The Jacksonians do not. They suspect, and sometimes rightly so, that their opponents seek a one party state. They don’t just protest, they organize public outrage, marshaling the frustrations of those who feel excluded to challenge and overturn the entire system. The Jacksonians can think big and small.

The question is are we going to be Hamiltonians, Jeffersonians or Jacksonians? The question is what do we want?

Do we just want to prune back regulations and make life easier for big business, tidy up the debt and keep the train rolling for another decade? Do we want to smash the Federal system to keep our own corners of the world safe from the overreach of its power… or do we want to use the Federal system to smash the institutions of the left? Do we want to ride the rat, kill the rat or teach the rat to eat its own young?

Do we want to keep the urban federal technocracy going or pull back to local government? Does our future lie with big institutions that plan to do a lot or small ones that we control? Do our economic interests, short term and long, lie with free trade and open borders, or small business and domestic manufacturing? Do we believe in the system or in the family? Do we believe in the expert or the wisdom of the mob? Do we want to push on into the future or protect our past? These are the debates that we need to have if we are ever going to move forward.

We all know what we’re against. The question is what are we for? Once we answer that question then we’ll know not just what we’re fighting against, but what we’re fighting for. And until then we will not be able to step out of the shadow of the rat.

Originally published at Sultan Knish.

The Broader Implications of the Petraeus Resignation: Personal Behavior and Public Office

Sunday, November 11th, 2012

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

General David Petraeus was the hero of the victorious surge strategy in Iraq. But he also has the distinction of becoming America’s first Politically Correct field commander. His strategy in Afghanistan was in line with that of the Obama Administration by putting the emphasis on winning Muslim hearts and minds as a higher priority than military victories or even at times the safety of American soldiers. There’s a reason why President Barack Obama made him CIA director.

Leaving aside the question of the resignation’s relationship to the Benghazi debacle, in some ways, his fall is more discouraging than the election results. Don’t these powerful people feel that their duty is more important than their personal self-aggrandizement or pleasure? We should remember, too, that Petraeus’s predecessor in Afghanistan was brought down because of some incautious things said in a magazine interview.

Gary Hart, Bill Clinton, Herman Caine, John Edwards, Ted Kennedy, Larry Craig, Richard Nixon, and other politicians supposedly represented certain ideas, policies, and the hopes and dreams of millions of people who have worked hard for them and put their trust in them. Can’t they put aside what they might also desire for the sake of those things?

I have seen with my own two eyes Kennedy drunk on the floor of the Senate and I know a lot from first-hand observation about the private adventures of former Senator Chris Dodd and Hart. And all of the above hasn’t begun to touch on financial corruption.

Of course, many do behave differently and far better. A few years ago I’d have said that perhaps the media has become too willing and able to expose the foibles of those at the top. Yet after the spectacle of a Teflon Obama and his entourage it would be more correct to say that the media only exposes those it wants to for political purposes. Then, too, Clinton and Kennedy didn’t suffer at all from their amorousness and bad driving.

If I’m not mistaken, there are now Democratic senators from Connecticut and Massachusetts who lied about their military records. The latter one, Senator John Kerry, may soon be secretary of state, which will be a global disaster of major proportions. There is also now a Democratic senator from Massachusetts who clearly lied about being a Cherokee in order to get preferential treatment in getting a job.

I have seen in the National Archives the OSS report during World War Two that a Danish journalist was a Nazi spy. And this is the woman with whom John F. Kennedy had an affair and for that reason was shipped out by his father to the Pacific front, where he would be made a hero through a combination of his bad navigation and subsequent brave behavior in the sinking of PT-109. General Dwight Eisenhower’s and President Franklin Roosevelt’s affairs during World War Two are today well known. But those were times when things remained quiet.

Why, though, are these personal matters anyone else’s business? The debate usually focuses around an argument between what is proper morality and whether Americans are too puritanical. The French, we are told, rejoice when their politicians get naughty.

But there is another far more important issue altogether that is rarely aired. If a politician or major public figure believes in what he’s doing and knows that exposure of his misdeed would destroy that mission, how can they give in to temptation if they really believe in the importance of that mission or of the importance of keeping faith with those who are relying on them?

And if they don’t care at all about those things, how can they be worthy of wielding power? It is not so much a question of personal morality as it is of character, not an issue of private life but of whether one takes seriously the concept of duty. If, for example, Bill Clinton was willing to risk his presidency for having some sort of relations–even if he could define them as not having had sex in some physiological sense–with Monica Lewinsky and then, according to the court finding, committing perjury about his behavior, that is not the sort of person one should want to be president. The fact that he escaped impeachment for the latter offense is not the point. His being willing to take that chance is the issue.

There is also something in the character of those who lust for power and fame—and I write this from long observation growing up in Washington DC—that very much distorts one’s personality. Such people almost inevitably feel superior to others, arrogant that they can get away with anything, coming to take for granted that they deserve privileges but that the rules don’t apply to them. That’s why the founders of America wanted to limit government and the power of those who ran it.

Such wisdom is even older, though it has only rarely done humanity much good. “Put not your trust in princes,” says Psalm 146. Rabbi Hillel said almost two thousand years ago that the obsessively ambitious end up by destroying themselves.

Today, it isn’t so much that Republicans are more upstanding. The difference is that they pay for their sins because the media is so quick to devour them. If, say, a Republican candidate for the Senate in Missouri says something stupid once, he’s finished. If a Democrat does so, even repeatedly racialist statements, he gets to be vice-president for another four years. That’s reality.

Before the revolution it was clearly defined in France which classes whose members could or could not be legally tortured. This distinction now applies to public figures along partisan and ideological lines as well.

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/analysis/rubin-reports/the-broader-implications-of-the-petraeus-resignation-personal-behavior-and-public-office/2012/11/11/

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