For a moment, leave aside your emotions. Forget the disgusting character of New York City mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner's sexting. Ignore the maddening hypocrisies attending New York City comptroller candidate Eliot Spitzer's "Client 9" moniker. Dismiss the arrogance revealed in San Diego Mayor Bob Filner's alleged sexual harassment.
Clearly, these men seem to have behaved deplorably – possibly even criminally. It's perfectly fine to be angry, repulsed, and even transfixed by these outrageous scandals. Public servants are not supposed to do these types of things.
And while the media are not wrong for focusing on the shock-value side of these elected officials' transgressions, the most relevant question to the public tends not to get answered: are these politicians just too dumb to be good at their jobs?
Politics requires perception and forethought. One must know the likely repercussions of one's actions before doing them. One must know how others will receive their words before saying them. Understanding "cause and effect" is a necessary political skill.
Yet as someone who has spent more than a decade scientifically researching and writing on the electoral consequences of scandal, I'm still shocked by the glaring lack of judgment displayed by the politicians at the center of these ethical storms. It's not just their immorality (infidelity, etc.), which most of them apologize for and suggest occurred because they were experiencing something akin to temporary insanity. It's the fact that most of these politicians don't even seem to notice that along with their flagrantly bad behavior, they're also making such unbelievably stupid choices.
For instance, inventing the name Carlos Danger (Weiner's alternate identity). Or George Fox (Spitzer's alternate identity). Or allegedly requesting that a colleague "get naked" and work without wearing panties.
Really? Danger? Fox? Naked? These words alone should have clued these politicians into the possibility that they were engaging in activities that might have negative consequences.
And if they weren't perceptive enough to realize this or they were too amused with their own assumed cleverness, then they're too dense to be good politicians. Forgiving a moral failing is one thing, discounting political ineptitude is another thing entirely.
It's the stupidity that's scandalous and the most elementary reason why these politicians should not hold public office.