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Danger Lampost

Futurist & Technology Consultant,

TEDCRED 20+

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Should a public official caught in an extra-marital affair resign or be forced to resign?

It seems American politics is constantly filled with news stories of high ranking public officials who get caught in an extra-marital affair, and then either resign or are forced by political pressures to resign. Had I more time to research this debate, I would see if I could find any statistics on the relevance of this issue in different countries. But I was thinking that would be a fascinating call out to TED members in other countries for your point of view on this issue, both in your own country and in the United States.

Some studies show about 50% of Americans have an extramarital affair. So I would expect that a significant percentage of our elected officials are having affairs. Should they all resign?

Is there a contradiction here? Should we hold our elected officials to a higher standard than we (as citizens) appear to hold for ourselves?

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  • Nov 13 2012: Unless it's with a financial lobbyist, or a North Korean agent, who cares?
    You can't assume that an indiscretion in this area of an elected official's life means that the person is now totally corrupt.
    Anyone can be totally corrupt and still keep their genitals to themselves. It's not related.
    I think holding an elected official to be higher than the general public is a huge mistake. They are the general public and should be treated with the same disinterest and disrespect.
    Would having an affair get you fired from work? (OK maybe but not usually).
    • Nov 13 2012: "Would having an affair get you fired from work?"
      Depends on the company. If you have an affair with someone within the same company, some companies require the involved parties to disclose it to the HR. Only because they don't want to get involved when things go sour between the couple -- with one person accusing the other of sexual harassment, as an abuse of the higher rank within the company.
      • Nov 13 2012: As I understand it, if we are really talking about Petraeus, then his only omission was not telling the CIA security people. If the affair is known then blackmail is out of the picture and the affair is of no interest to them.
        But you are correct, in any event, bad behaviour, regardless of what it is, leaves the person open to outside influence. That has to be avoided.
        I still dont agree with the idea of holding public officials to a higher standard than we hold ourselves. That leads to expectations of high salary and other entitlements that most people are just not worth.
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          Nov 13 2012: Then The question is how many "affairs" has the CIA/secret service covered up over the years??????

          Theres a thought for you
        • Nov 13 2012: @Gordon Barker: "I still dont agree with the idea of holding public officials to a higher standard than we hold ourselves."
          I agree with you entirely. I only wrote the above comment to point out the extent of the interest typical companies in this matter.

          Also refer to the tongue-in-cheek comment that I made elsewhere in the same discussion.

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