The most important lesson of life is failure.
The measure of a person is not how many times they are knocked down, but how many times they get back up.
It's important that the best among us fail. It gives them perspective on the rest of us. When the best fail, they judge those who come before them in the light of their life's experiences. We're not just talking about judges here. Parents who see their children repeating the mistakes they made thirty years ago; the politician who knows failure and humiliation and even personal indiscretion, who is given a second chance. And yes, the prosecutor who fails and commits a crime.
We live in a time of instant information, where failures are recorded on the internet for time immemorial and where the politics of absolutism demand that leaders, officials, candidates, presidents, judges, et.al, all tow the religious, moral and philosophical line of their constituents without error or deviation.
General Petraeus was forced out of the CIA because of an affair he had in Iraq during his leadership of the surge that finally ended the fighting.
Dwight Eisenhower, a lowly Lieutenant General from Kansas was plucked from obscurity by George Marshall to become the Supreme Allied Commander of the Armed Forces in Europe for World War II. It was upon Eisenhower's shoulders, and his alone, that he made perhaps the momentous decision of the 20th century, when on June 2, 1944, he postponed the invasion of Europe from June 5 to June 6. On June 5, he gave the final go-ahead, sending 4,000 warships and 160,000 men into battle. On May 30, 1944 the British Commander of the entire Airborne Operation asked Ike to cancel the paratrooper drop of 18,000 men, arguing that he would lose 90% of them. Eisenhower needed the airborne to control the bridges and access to the beaches and keep the German army from throwing the invasion back into the sea. Eisenhower called the decision to go with the airborne assault the toughest decision of his life.
Eisenhower had a mistress throughout most of WWII. And yet he performed his duties superbly, and became president of the United States.
Would Eisenhower be court-marshaled today?
Several Presidents had mistresses before and during their time in office.
Lincoln, surely our greatest president who suffered the most in office and made the most difficult and loneliest decisions of any president, was most certainly manic-depressive. And yet Lincoln saved the Union. The greatest figure of the 20th century- Winston Churchill also suffered from depression. Would we be better off today if Lincoln and Churchill were disqualified from service?
Franklin Roosevelt served almost sixteen years as President, taking the country from the depression to the edge of victory in WWII. Roosevelt had a mistress. His affair was discovered by his wife well before he became president.
None of these great men would have withstood the intense scrutiny today.
Our scrutiny of leaders, achievers, and those who dare, weeds out the best, and leaves us with the most mediocre. Perhaps they've never had an affair or a bout of depression, but they are deemed "morally pure"- the only crucible that now seems to matters.
Given the choice, the last person we would ever want to sentence us would be a judge who has never failed or erred in their personal choices. It's their life experience and not their pretense at perfection that gives them the perspective to do their job.
How many Supreme Court nominees in the late 1980's and 1990's were disqualified because they may have smoked marijuana?
Would a brilliant female jurist who had an abortion be disqualified from service today?
"Let he who has not sinned cast the first stone."
Wise words from a failed carpenter. The son of a single woman. A man who consorted with a prostitute.
See you in court.
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