As Washington recovers from yet another political scandal in what's now been dubbed by many as the Washington "Massa-cre" the current parlor game is how did this ever happen? How is it that someone seemingly at the height of their powers gets themselves into so much trouble? How is it that a pillar of the community winds up on the cover of the tabloids and publications such as The National Enquirer?
On Sunday there was a long article in The Wall Street Journal that speculated that the reason that guys like Massa, Blagojevich and others put their careers at risk is too much testosterone. That it causes the aggressive sexual and other ego-driven behavior. I think the answer is much more complex than that especially since the behavior might actually increase the signals to the brain to make additional testosterone -- not the other way around.
My speculation is that it is a complex combination of things including early life experiences causing a lack of a sense of positive identity as well as being surrounded by yes men and women.
Believing in one's own press releases can contribute to an overall sense of invincibility.
President Bill Clinton grew up in a home where his step-father was a raging alcoholic. He had to intervene to stop an assault on his mother. I think there would be broad agreement from the psychology establishment that he often felt powerless in that family system. His need to get beyond the family problems was evident even in high school when a classmate wrote in his yearbook "see you in the White House."
Unfortunately, self-destructive behaviors and feelings of inadequacy do not go away as people compartmentalize their early feelings and often act out on them later in life. The Monica Lewinsky sex scandal is a prime example of Bill Clinton's inner demons taking over.
The other reason people get themselves into self destructive behaviors is that they are trying to
overcome internal conflicts -- such as sexual feelings for the same sex feelings. Hoping that a feeling will go away doesn't make it happen and in reading between the lines about former Congressman Massa's revelations it sounds like he has been battling with his sexual feelings for years.
My theory is that the scenario begins when someone runs for office because they need to wipe away the inner gnawing created by a lack of self-esteem coupled with a genuine wish to do something good and redeeming.
When they suddenly they become a success and the inner-self still is wounded the disconnect is too much. Having staff around who never deliver the bad news or putting the brakes on with a dose of reality just increases the disconnect. Disconnection leads to a tiny breaks in the reality of public life and those little breaks of reality lead to the ultimate big break, the one that allows for scandalous behavior and a return to the self-loathing that propelled them into office in the first place. Quite a destructive circle for all involved.
Ellen Ratner is Washington bureau chief for Talk Radio News Service and a Fox News contributor.
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