Politicians and Image Problems? Well, I Never…

Here’s a topic that seems to transcend party lines: Politicans getting into trouble for lewd, immoral behavior. Personally, I try not to judge, and I figure mostly it’s between the offender and his family to deal with. Although, I do get irked by the lying that immediately follows discovery — especially when it’s rather apparent, as was the latest case involving Rep. Anthony Weiner.

Ball State sent out a press release on this general topic today, so I thought we’d share it here:

As a former journalist, Ball State telecommunications professor Phil Bremen is still amazed that politicians are making the same mistakes time after time when it comes to integrity.

The latest politician to get into hot water is U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner of New York, who spent the last week dodging questions over whether he had sent a lewd photo of himself to a female college student in Seattle. During a press conference Monday in New York City, the congressman admitted to that as well as sending photos and having online chats – even intimate phone calls – with at least six women over the last three years.

"A politician governs in complexities but campaigns in simple slogans," says Bremen, who was an NBC News foreign correspondent and local television news anchor before joining Ball State. "A politician knows that Joe Sixpack and Sarah Soccermom don’t bother with complexities and nuances but they do know whether or not they have been photographed in their undershorts.

"It was just a few months ago that another married congressman from New York was revealed to have sent a shirtless photo of himself to a woman other than his wife. How can so many accomplished, presumably intelligent men keep missing the lesson? My guess is that they just shrug it off as not applying to them. You don’t have to look very hard at legislatures, for instance, to notice that the folks who write the laws make a habit of exempting themselves. When power corrupts, why would we expect the corruption to be limited to one’s official dealings? And as for the sense of entitlement that so many politicians deride in other people, it appears to be alive and well in themselves."

Besides, busy public officials can get just as distracted as anyone else. Weiner is only the most recent example, Bremen says, of someone prominent who forgot which social-media account he was using when he pushed the button, thus sharing with a universe of people instead of the intended recipient.

Bremen has watched as news that used to be relegated to gossip columns in the tabloids now makes the front page of respectable newspapers and the top of the evening news.

"Privacy – and the expectation of privacy – is eroding all around us. At the same time, people are willingly disclosing much about themselves that previous generations were ashamed to mention. Also, unlike big public-policy issues like what do to about Pakistan or how to fix the economy, stories about sex are not only titillating; they’re also very easy to understand."

Bremen also spent four years as press secretary to Indiana Gov. Frank O’Bannon. He emphasizes that his boss was as every bit as squeaky clean as his image.