Politicians can’t get away with anything anymore – except killing people and destroying their nation’s economies.
“I don’t get it…” said a French businessman over lunch on Friday. “In fact, I don’t think any of us get it. You’ve got a guy – the governor of New York – who hires a prostitute. He gets caught and has to resign. But the President of the United States lied to the American people and started a war in which thousands have died…a war that is so expensive it threatens to bankrupt the entire nation. How come he doesn’t have to resign? Strange system.”
We tried to explain. Getting caught with a prostitute is an unpardonable diversion. Starting a war is what politicians are supposed to do.
“You have to understand,” we began, “that getting a call girl is a simple, understandable act. To most Americans, it’s a sin. They don’t want an elected official who does things like that. They want him taking care of their problems, not his own tawdry whims and desires.
“The war in Iraq is a very different thing. Was it a mistake…was it a lie? We don’t really know the details. It’s complex. Maybe it was in the national interest…or people thought it was. We don’t know if it was a good idea or not. You can’t know things like that.
“Besides, people come to believe what they need to believe in order to play their roles in history. The people of a great empire have to believe that sending their armies all over the world is worth the cost. Europeans are very much against war…and afraid of it. They’ve had their imperial ambitions…and the inevitable disasters that follow. But Americans are not. Most have no regret about the war in Iraq except they wish it had gone better. And the argument among America’s politicians is not about whether it was right or wrong, but about whether it was pursued effectively.”
Markets and Money