Herman Cain may or may not eventually abandon his presidential campaign, but his alleged sexual history predicts exactly nothing about whether he can lead the nation and be an effective president. And that’s one reason he should stay in the race.
You may believe Cain shows poor judgment with women, you may even believe he is a philanderer, you may even believe he once drove business associates home and mistakenly, clumsily thought they wanted to sleep with him, but if you believe that means anything at all about his capacity to lead a nation, you are—from a psychological standpoint--entirely mistaken.
I am not saying that Herman Cain or Newt Gingrich, for that matter, who has publicly admitted to having an extra-marital affair, are the candidates I support for president. I am not saying that people cannot differ about the morality of extramarital affairs. I am simply stating a fact: The sexual histories of political candidates and elected officials have no place in politics because they can distract us from supporting those men and women with the skills to reduce the nation’s debt, create jobs and defeat our enemies.
The world is far too dangerous to exclude from public office those men and women whose sexual histories make us blush or make us sick. We shouldn’t even indulge our obvious, regrettable and seemingly insatiable hunger to peek in on them.
Like it or not, a man can be unfaithful to his wife and a patriot who is faithful to his nation. A man can make horrible, unfathomable decisions about who he goes to bed with and make brilliant decisions about the economy and foreign policy. A man can break his marriage vows in sleazy motel rooms and be willing to die for his country.
The reasoning that suggests that a man who cheats on his wife can’t be trusted with the public till or legions of soldiers or nuclear weapons is naïve to the point of being foolish, and distracting to the point of endangering our national goals.
The sex drive is incredibly powerful, deeply rooted in our personal development histories and tremendously complex. Yet, precisely because it is so shrouded in primal emotion and taboo, it can exist as an island unto itself, entirely encapsulated from everything around it, having no impact whatsoever on our professional lives.
I have treated miraculously talented, married surgeons and researchers who save lives every day, then meet up with escorts by night. Personally, I wouldn’t hazard going under the knife with a less talented fellow who is a paragon of virtue, sexually.
I have treated (or otherwise been privy to the life stories of) military men and business leaders (male and female) who are wholly devoted to their companies, whose stockholders reap the benefits of their extraordinary talents, yet who have had heterosexual or homosexual affairs while married.
I know of award-winning authors (male and female) whose talents and ability to inspire others co-exist with trysts and romps to rival those of Tiger Woods.
I have counseled brilliant teachers, raising their own motivated children, who revealed to me that they were spending a significant portion of their salaries on lap dances at strip clubs and wanted to stop—in order to save money or save face, or both.
Again, I am not condoning or condemning such behaviors. That’s the point: What I think about the morality or wisdom of these sexual indiscretions is extremely important to me as a psychotherapist and not at all important to me as a stockholder or voter. They have precisely no connection to whether these people were able to do their jobs—even perform brilliantly at them.
Our obsession with where politicians have sex and with whom and how frequently and in what positions says more about how much we like to be entertained than anything else. It reveals how addicted we are to catching a glimpse of the erotic--like a bunch of pathetic, repressed Peeping Toms.
If we watch our economy go down the drain or Iran get nuclear weapons, it could be partly because we were busy trying to strip our leaders naked for our own voyeuristic pleasure.
Dr. Keith Ablow is a psychiatrist and member of the Fox News Medical A-Team. Dr. Ablow can be reached at email@example.com. His latest book is "Inside the Mind of Casey Anthony: A Psychological Portrait" (St. Martin's Press)