NPR logo Politics: What Really Matters?

Politics: What Really Matters?

Since we're talking politics, in case you haven't seen New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson's "job interview" for President of the United States...

Telling some family business here: when I worked at Nightline, the ABC News program anchored by Ted Koppel, the show generally only covered one issue each night. Thus, we would often have these "debates" over which story was most important, interesting, etc. "Debates" is a nice word ...but sometimes we would have real brawls. My old boss Ted (a term he hated by the way — he preferred "friend and colleague" — but I digress) usually just listened, or he might ask a few pointed questions, because he knew if, and when, he did weigh-in the conversation would usually be over. Everybody would just do whatever he wanted. I always liked that he just let the staff kind of duke it out a while (not that I emulate him...).

One of the other things I liked was how, when we'd get all high and mighty about how we were not going to go tabloid...we were not going to talk about X,Y, or Z just because cable was all over it...he might raise an eyebrow and say, "Well, just because everybody else is talking about it doesn't mean we can't."

Well alrighty then!

That brings me to L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, whose affair with a TV newscaster is all in the papers. Boy, what a soap opera!...Talk about your business in the street!

Now some of you may be saying, "what do I care if he's handling the city's business?" But maybe some of you do care. Maybe some of you subscribe to the "if his wife can't trust him, why should I?" school of voting. The point is, nobody can tell you, as a voter, what your mayor may not care about. This is why we're so interested in this stuff, because you never can tell.

Does it matter? And what does it say about us, as a country?

Our roundtable today kicked it around. Now, how about you?
Do these issues matter to you when you cast your vote?
Does it matter who it is or what the circumstances were?...Man or woman?

Here's a brainteaser: I can't think of any high profile woman politician that has EVER admitted infidelity and retained her seat. Can you? (Ken Rudin, help!)
So let us know...

P.S. Speaking of shameless, here's a shameless pitch for Wisdom Watch suggestions: you heard from Gen. Wilma Vaught, USAF, ret. today. Who else would you like to hear from? Someone who is not just smart, but wise...



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Wisdom watch suggestion: Prof. Derrick Bell, Jr. He's on the faculty at NYU's law school. Smart AND wise. He's known for his legal work, but beyond his law expertise he once told a woman friend of mine: "It takes a hell of a man to be better than no man at all." That's always been pretty funny to me, but I get what he means.

Sent by Stanley | 8:44 AM | 7-19-2007

I was a junior in college when President Bill Clinton was going through his impeachment. One of the classes I took in my first semester as a junior was a Business Ethics class; which came in at the height of the impeachment soap-opera. So there were some spirited debates in class fostered by my professor at the time; who no matter what topic was been covered that week we ended up talking about the impeachment. Her theory was as a leader, much is expected in moral judgment and character. I remember one hispanic male student (as well as most guys in the class) voiced his disagreement with the professor's personal theory. His notion was why should he spite the President who was implementing worthy public policies just because of a moment of indiscretion in his private life? As I sat in my usual corner in the class, I must admit he had a point.

Now personally, I still believe politicians should have a high moral personal character and they have a responsibility to lead by example. After all, "to whom much is given, much is expected." However, if they fail in a lapse of judgment such as then President Clinton for the "Monica-gate" or the present Mayor Villaraigosa "reporter-gate," it just shows politicians are not above human frailty.

Sent by Moji | 10:13 AM | 7-19-2007

Bravo, Michelle

I'm so pleased you have a platform for your brilliant interview style and your informed refreshing.

Sent by D.J. Jackson | 11:34 AM | 7-19-2007

In my opinion, politicians' personal ethics do have bearing on my impression of their abilities to lead -- however, I think that personal ethics is much broader than sex. I am so tired of political sex scandals. I would never vote against a politican *just because* he or she had consensual sex outside of marriage. To me, a politician's ability to promote and achieve human-centered policies is much more important than what he or she chooses to do in his or her bedroom with consenting adults.

I think that other ethics violations -- insider trading, giving government contracts to friends' companies, profiting from war -- are much more serious than sexual social violations. When politicians break the law in their private lives, and break the law in a big way -- by endangering their constituents through bad corporate or business decisions -- this should be a much more serious reflection on their suitability for office.

Sent by Rachel N H | 12:33 PM | 7-19-2007

Grace Boggs has to be one of the wisest people I've had the opportunity to follow. She'd be excellent for the show, and timely.

Sent by Lester Spence | 1:56 AM | 7-21-2007