Modern liberals have an almost religious belief that the government can solve any problem if given sufficient power, but recent scandals have shown that this belief is horribly misplaced. In recent weeks we have witnessed a disheartening parade of human weakness which confirms Lord Acton’s famous observation that, “Great men are almost always bad men.”
We have world leaders like Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and former IMF Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn on trial for underage prostitution and rape. Then there are national figures like former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and former Senator John Edwards with illegitimate children, and of course Congressman Anthony Weiner who finally confessed to a scandal that has gripped the capital for the past week.
Even the founding fathers had their dalliances. Benjamin Franklin fathered an illegitimate son and is reputed to have had extramarital affairs while seeking aid from France. Thomas Jefferson took one of his slaves, Sally Hemings, as a mistress and sired several illegitimate children with her. Even as august a figure as George Washington was not immune from the weaknesses of the flesh, penning love letters to Sally Fairfax.
There is a big difference though between George Washington’s suggestive love letters and Anthony Weiner’s infamous tweet. Modern politicians seem to believe that extramarital affairs and indiscretions are fringe benefits of the job and that maybe they will get away with it. Indeed, some have.
On the other hand, the founding fathers recognized their own weaknesses and did their best to create a system of government that separates the man from the office. Embarrassing scandals are as inevitable as the rising of the sun, but under our system, at least the damage caused by these scandals is limited to the perpetrator and does not undermine the faith of the people in our Constitution.
However, that faith in our system of government depends on limited powers and constraints on the wicked men who would abuse their position. Liberals who would give the government ever greater power should remember that the politicians and bureaucrats that are entrusted with life-changing decisions about education, health care, the economy, and foreign policy are just as fallible as the rest of us.