People want certainty, they want security. They want to feel that someone really smart, really competent, really capable is in charge. They confuse competence with perfection and to compound the error, they confuse personal perfection or presentation skill with professional capacity. Just because someone is a shoddy spouse doesn’t mean he or she can’t solve problems. And just because someone sweats under the TV camera’s lights or stumbles when grilled by a pack of sensation-seeking journalists doesn’t mean that person lacks problem-solving talent.
Feet of clay are the rule, not the exception. We all have issues. George Washington owned slaves, Thomas Jefferson had an African-American mistress, Abe Lincoln was a manic depressive, John F. Kennedy was a philanderer. Heck, Dwight Eisenhower was supposed to have carried on an affair in London during World War II. Franklin D. Roosevelt was confined to a wheelchair and I shudder thinking of what the media would have done with that today. Yet they all served this country well as presidents, each of them successfully steering the country through trying times.
When we ask our leaders to be perfect we ask the impossible and implicitly we ask them not to be real, not to be authentic, indeed perhaps we are even complicit in asking them to lie to us. Competence, even game-changing, championship-winning competence does not require perfection. I’m not saying we should tolerate evil or Richard Nixon-style dishonesty. I’m just saying we are all human and we should tolerate a normal range of human flaws and imperfection.
As the good Lord said: “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.”