Saturday, June 27, 2009

It's the Judgement, Stupid

So this week we got a new member of the Politician-caught-having-an-affair club, South Carolina Governer Mark Sanford. And as happens each time this happens, I hear the same issues being rehashed, e.g.
  • It's about the morality
  • No, it's about the ethics
  • No, it's about being a good role model
  • No, it's about character
I'm not going to argue that none of the above matters. But that's not aspect that most bothers me. What bothers me about Gov Sanford (and Rep John Ensign, and NY Gov Spitzer, and President Clinton, etc...) is that this shows incredibly poor judgement and impulse control.

Put aside the above issues for a moment, and look at as a pro vs con decision making. Let's say Person X lives in a publicity fish-bowl, and person X wants to do some clandestine action Y.

Pro: If person X is not caught, it will make person X feel good.
Con: if person X is caught, it will:
  • humiliate person X
  • humiliate person X's family
  • damage person X's career
  • damage person X's cause, and all the allies, coworkers, and supporters of that cause.
  • empower person X's opponents and rivals
Anyone who is faced with the above decision, and chooses to go ahead and do it anyway, should not be in any kind of executive or leadership position.

"Good Judgement" is the main qualification I'm looking for anyone in an Executive position, whether it's Mayor, Governor, President, Ceo, (or were I religious, Pastor) etc. That's pretty much the job description -- make good decisions for the people you represent. Anyone who decides that "I don't care how many people it might hurt, I'm doing it anyway" shouldn't be in the position to make such decisions.

I think the chattering classes miss the point when they frame the issue as being about morality ("It's about the sin!" "No it's not, sex is private!". Repeat ad nauseum) Even if you 100% believe that the sex lives are private, it's still a mind-bogglingly stupid decision.

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