Political Leadership and Morality: Shifting American Leadership Responses to Scandal
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Politicians have always walked on the shaky ground of public opinion, but now more than ever it seems their personal lives have come into play in the political arena. The American People are no longer satisfied with leaders who pose as good citizens in public but have deep secrets in private. Rather the dynamic has shifted, and it is clear that there is a distinct relationship between American Political Leadership and Morality. Interestingly, I have found that over time the definition and perception of this idea has shifted. Americans have always embraced leaders they believe to have good character, but in today's political climate this character is focused on complete honesty rather than moral integrity. The way in which political scandals are handled has shifted dramatically over the last half-century, and as a result the model for political leadership has changed. Richard Nixon began this trend by breaching America's trust and view of politicians and awakening a watchdog media. Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich continued by defiantly admitting to private infidelities, leading to the present. An American public willing to forgive Mark Sanford within 3 years of a sex scandal, and re-elect him to the United States Congress, with nothing more than an honest apology for his error.
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