Friday, June 3, 2011

What's in their tea?

At the risk of sounding a bit naive, the news that John Edwards is being prosecuted for misusing campaign funds to hide the fact that he had a secret mistress and child set me wondering. Exactly why are so many (male) politicians caught out by this kind of scandal? I mean, can you really expect to become President of the United States these days without anyone noticing that you have undeclared children? Add this case to Berlusconi, Strauss-Kahn and Newt Gingrich and suddenly Bill Clinton starts to look like a pretty reliable kind of guy.

So what's going on? Well one possibility is that politicians are up to what everyone else is up to, and that I've led a sheltered life. So the scandals are just a typical sample of the peccadillos offered up by the general population. But somehow I'm not sure - I mean, how many people do you know who've left not one, but two wives because they each had the misfortune to fall ill?

Second, politicians get caught out because they're no more monogamous than the general population, but more likely to try and cover up their flaws, leading to Clintonesque scenarios where the crime becomes lying about it.

Third, and most intriguing, is the hypothesis that politicians - or at least male ones, which for the moment still means most of the pack - are testosterone-addled crazies, and that's why they go into politics. Certainly, politics is about craving adulation as much as anything else, and the same traits might lead to an over-representation of philandering in high office.

Either way, the more we obsess about this kind of thing, the less time is left to argue about how to drag ourselves out of the morass of economic depression, climate change and social injustice. Maybe that's what Newt's up to.