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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Separating the personal and political spheres

<resence of the mass media has undeniably affected the way that this country relates to politics. Candidates live and die by the power of “media spin.” One scandal, one misstep has the potential to derail a seemingly solid bid for office. It is the unfortunate truth that the personal lives of politicians can draw more attention than the details of a political career. News sources tend to assume, and perhaps mistakenly, that their audiences are more interested in salacious details than in solid coverage of political society.

A blatant and recent example is the Monica Lewinsky scandal that plagued President Clinton’s administration and resulted in impeachment. The problem was not that Mr. Clinton engaged in elicit actions—the problem was that he lied about said actions. However, the media relentlessly angled the story by focusing on the sexual details rather than the serious, law breaking offence of lying under oath. This type of coverage served to benefit the media because it drew and sustained a significant audience. An event that should have remained a personal issue instead ingrained itself into Mr. Clinton’s legacy. While adultery is an issue of morality, it is a private matter and does not necessarily affect one’s performance in the political sphere.

The 2008 Presidential election is relatively devoid of major personal scandal. Media focus has turned to the issues of gender, race and faith especially in light of the specific and historically significant candidates that lead this year’s race. Senator Hillary Clinton’s gender has a tremendous effect on the way the media covers her campaign. Similarly, Senator Barack Obama’s race has earned significant attention. On the Republican’s side, Mitt Romney has publicly defended his Mormon faith on several occasions. Mike Huckabee, an ordained Baptist Minister, has had to do the same. All of these candidates argue that these factors will not overshadow their political values.

This is an important and promising distinction—hopefully, whoever wins the election will honor these assertions. It is important to distinguish between personal and political action. But how can one truly divorce oneself from gender, racial and religious identity? All of these factors will inevitably affect personal perspective, but these factors should not influence choices made in political policy that will impact an entire nation.

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