Herman Cain affair allegations: Should politicians' private lives face public questions? (video)

Nov 29, 2011

Brad Hirschfield discussed the ethical and moral questions raised by the week's biggest news stories in a video Q&A.

- Previous discussion: Penn State: What would you have done?

Hello and welcome.  Our three topics today -- although you are welcome to submit questions and comments about any ethical issue in the news -- are:

- The latest allegations again Herman Cain, and the question of what sort of public questions about private lives a politician should have to face.

- Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow, who has drawn criticism and praise for his consistent mentions of his faith this season. Shoudl he just "shut up," as a former NFL QB says? 

- The tension in Pakistan -- What is the outrage really about? Is U.S. foreign policy in the region a very costly building built on a foundation of sand?

From commenter fburgdave on The Post's Herman Cain article: 

A candidate for public office office is asking for public trust. And if he shows that he has violated the trust promised his wife, that IS important, as it shows a lack of character. NOTHING in a candidate's life for the presidency is private, as that individual will represent all Americans, and needs to have the moral character to earn respect.

Why does the press report on this? And why do people care so much about it?

From @ErwindeLeon on Twitter:

If they are touting their Christian lives to appeal to conservative voters, then yes -- politicians' private lives are fair game.



The allegations Herman  Cain faces are important in this sense: They are a distraction to him (time not spent on campaigning, and potentially lawmaking)  as well as to potential voters. If he can't keep his life in order, how can we have any faith in him doing good for society?

I believe that it was Cain that recently said this: If you can't stand the heat get out of the kitchen! I agree with him 100 percent!

Why do we need to have this so public? It feels like proselytizing. Tebow should keep it to himself.

Tim Tebow is entitled to celebrate his beliefs -- it's his business. He isn't imposing it on the team or the audience. We should be encouraged by an expression of faith, not repulsed by it.

Another former NFL quarterback, Kurt Warner, had advice for Tebow as well. Warner, who also is a devout Christian, said in comments published Saturday:

“There’s almost a faith cliche, where (athletes) come out and say, ‘I want to thank my Lord and savior. As soon as you say that, the guard goes up, the walls go up, and I came to realize you have to be more strategic.

"The greatest impact you can have on people is never what you say, but how you live.... You set the standard with your actions. The words can come after.”

Do you agree? Can saying less mean more?

From Post commenter ejmurphy414:

I don't know who fired the first shot [in Pakistan], but that is irrelevant. If Mexican troops crossed into the US, say in pursuit of a drug cartel, and engaged in a pitched battle in which 24 American troops were killed - - we would be howling  for vengeance and retaliation. Why  should we expect Pakistanis to react otherwise?

While it is understandable that Pakistan should be angry about the attack, they have often played it both ways, e.g., Bin Laden was living for years near the Pakistani capital. This doesn't excuse what happened but it is clear that Pakistanis less than a reliable ally. How can we really trust them?

[Back to Herman Cain for the last question]

It seems to me that it's not nearly as clear that adultery is unethical as most people seem to think. Yes, it can cause hurt feelings and other problems, but so can other things such as divorce which aren't generally considered immoral. People break other promises all the time without it being considered wrong. What are your thoughts on why adultery is so overwhelmingly disapproved of? Do you think this viewpoint is justified?

In This Chat
Brad Hirschfield
Rabbi Brad Hirschfield is an author, radio and TV talk show host, and President of CLAL-The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership. His On Faith blog, For God's Sake, explores the uses and abuses of religion in politics and pop culture. He wrote "You Don't Have To Be Wrong For Me To Be Right: Finding Faith Without Fanaticism." Named as one of the nation's 50 most influential rabbis in Newsweek, and one of the top 30 "Preachers and Teachers" by Beliefnet.com, he is the creator of the popular series, Building Bridges, airing on Bridges TV, and co-host of the weekly radio show, Hirschfield and Kula: Intelligent Talk Radio. For more information see www.bradhirschfield.com.
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