I have never favoured the view that elected officials need be just like us. Ideally, given the scope of the responsibilities of those leading what is regrettably the most powerful and dangerous force in our society, it is desirable that they be unusual.
Most importantly they would (unlike most of us) find economics interesting. Or at least they would be prepared to give it — as a scientific attempt to analyse human behaviours — primacy over how they would like to think the world should be. Angela Merkel with her “primacy of politics over economics” just reminds me of Douglas Adams’ marble sculpted teacup held in the air by the superiority of art over physics. Without the laugh.
Scientific detachment, a non-corrupt desire to serve the public, a healthy sense of inadequacy to a task never yet successfully undertaken and a humble awareness that, even ignoring wars, government is the leading non-natural cause of death. These should be differences enough. We are not entitled to expect our politicians to be moral paragons. Indeed I think it would dangerous if they were.
Many a normal man has lusted after an attractive woman when his social commitments and/or hers dictated otherwise. And, let’s not be sexist here, vice versa. Some are too moral to act on their desires. Some are not brave enough and call their cowardice morality. Few are vulgar enough to share them with third parties. Even fewer are near live microphones if they do. So I don’t really understand the fuss about the Trump tape. Neither his vulgarity nor his undiplomatic openness about his fleshly desires were anyway in doubt.
I therefore think he was unwise to apologise for it because he has now accepted a higher standard of behaviour than he is likely to have lived up to generally given his colourful sexual history.
People are driven to power, fame and fortune very largely because they give access to more and more attractive sexual partners and (as Rupert Murdoch demonstrates) for longer. As long as all partners are consenting adults, there’s no particular harm in that. Anything lawful and non-violent that fires the ambition of the productive is good, whether it’s the desire to bed a looker, own a Picasso or fund a cure for AIDS. Without such ambitions the successful would all retire quietly on their first million and most great endeavours would falter.
If there is a moral dimension to it, it says as much of the sexual partners attracted by power, money and fame as it does of those using it to attract. It certainly does not speak of the moral superiority of one sex over the other as a chap I know who moved jobs because of a female supervisor’s demand for sexual favours as part of his appraisal would attest.
Trump has the same appetites and attitudes as America’s favourite president, JFK. President Kennedy however used the FBI to bring women to him and had the G-men threaten them with dire consequences if they told. Bill Clinton idolised JFK and strove to emulate him. The FBI being unwilling it was up to Hillary Clinton to threaten Bill’s women with consequences. I do not say she approved of them, but she seems to have been a knowing and thorough accomplice after the repeated seedy fact. Nor does she seem to have thought Bill’s behaviours disqualified him from office. She has, as the lawyers say, no locus standi on this issue.
It is in our interests for our political leaders to be flawed. We no longer expect them not to have smoked weed, committed sexual indiscretions nor held silly views in their youth precisely because a Cromwell — true to his Puritanical principles — will get you into far worse trouble than a leader who can picture himself in the place of your tempted, weak self. As we are about to find out with a prig of a vicar’s daughter in Number 10.
There are lots of reasons not to vote for Donald Trump. His utter ignorance of economics, for example. His lack of affection for either (it’s hard to tell) the truth or reality, for another. But this story teaches us nothing new or surprising about him.