The other night I was channel surfing and came across the movie 'All The President's Men' on one of the movie channels. It is the story of how the Washington Post--namely, Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward--broke the story of the Watergate scandal. I remember when I saw it the first time--I was wowed by the performances of Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford. Actually, to be perfectly honest, I was wowed by Redford--how gorgeous he was in this movie. Those were the years when he was his most-beautiful. ;) Anyway, I love to watch old movies and compare my feelings about them NOW as to how I felt THEN. And this movie definitely has me looking at things in a different way from what I did at the time.
First off, let me say that Richard Nixon was not then, nor is now, my favorite President. (Actually, I can't find one to accept as 'favorite,' as my assessment of the Presidents seems to change as the years go by.) As hard as this is to say, I could never accept him as trustworthy because of his looks--he always seemed to have a bit of a weasly look to him and never looked honest. At the time of his 'take down,' I was front and center cheering and applauding. I thought there had never been a more crooked person to hold the office of POTUS and thought the man got much less than he deserved for what he did. Today, I don't have quite as harsh feelings about him.
Without turning this into a Republican vs Democrat--or liberal vs conservative--thing, I do believe Nixon wouldn't have been pursued so doggedly by the Washington Post if he had not been Republican. (This is the same as conservative reporters 'going after' Barack these days.) The Post--and Ben Bradlee--were VERY liberal and I believe they delighted in doing what they could to smear Nixon in any possible way. That he actually WAS dirty, made it so much better. Also, if he wouldn't have LOOKED so damn guilty... But, I don't believe Nixon was much different from any other POTUS that has been, is, or will be--he just happened to be the one that got caught.
Years ago there was a 'gentlemen's agreement' about what would and would not be printed about the POTUS. Roosevelt was never photographed--or the photos were never published--sitting in his wheelchair. The wheelchair could have given the suggestion of weakness and that wasn't a good way for the POTUS to be seen. Even though JFK was a womanizer and his numerous affairs were some of the worst kept secrets in Washington, the papers never mentioned the fact--because there was respect shown to the office. This is no longer the case and hasn't been for some time. Some people think the internet and 24-hour news networks are the reason for this, but it has been a much longer time coming than that. A good reason for this is the fact that, as a society, there has been a breakdown in common decency and respect. Plain and simple.
It is human nature to want our leaders to be 'perfect,' or, at the very least, better than we are. Before TV, the internet, etc, it was much easier for us to believe that those in the public eye were (or could have been) a step above us in every aspect. Of course, we know better today. There are very few people that show any sign of being even a little bit better than 'only human.' And too often, we won't give our leaders the courtesy of being 'only human.' Every one of us has something in our past that we wouldn't want examined in the cold light of day, but most of us are lucky enough to not see our mistakes talked about on the 6 O'clock News. Unfortunately, because of the nit-picking ways of the 'opposition,' far too many highly qualified people won't even try to become elected officials. And that is a crying shame. Isn't it time that we allow our leaders to be human and make mistakes? Can't we forgive youthful indiscretions? Couldn't we look at how good of a leader a person could be and ignore a mistake from the past? Or should we expect more from them? I don't really know the answer, but I'm afraid that our best potential leaders will never step forward because of the unattainable standards we set for others, and can't come close to in our own lives.