Do the private lives of statesmen matter? Wikimedia Commons. Wikimedia Commons.Do the details of a statesman’s personal life matter? The classic definition of a “statesman,” which we discussed in yesterday’s column, doesn’t address this point. To be a statesman, a man or woman has to be experienced in the art of government, wise, respected, and nonpartisan. A statesman serves the public good. That’s plenty, but is it enough?

Recent news is awash with politicians whose personal behavior tests the definition of a statesman: former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, former Sen. John Edwards and Rep. Anthony Weiner. Or, think back to Bill Clinton.

Now, I’m not saying that their public lives do or don’t qualify them as statesmen. 

Recall, however, that Schwarzenegger’s election sparked an active discussion about repealing the constitutional stipulation that a president must be a natural-born American. Had that happened, what would the reaction had been when it was learned that he had an illegitimate child and hid the fact for years?

Where do you draw the line in defining a statesman? This week I’m asking to readers: Do you know someone in local, state, or federal office who is a true statesman in the classic sense of the term? You can nominate him or her for the Lincoln Award for Statesmanship. This non-partisan award is given annually by The Statesman Group.

How do you sort out these values of leadership, morality and integrity?

If a leader reveals an affair, does that invalidate statesman status?

How about if the affair is with a staffer?

How about if the leader is caught sharing lewd material?

Do you make distinctions between these kinds of behavior?

Originally published at, an online experiment in civil dialogue on American values.

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