Giambrone’s Mistakes and Our Mistakes

Adam Giambrone
Adam Giambrone would likely have made a good mayor for Toronto.

Adam Giambrone is a smart, young, energetic man who wanted to be Mayor of Toronto. He won’t be, now, because of perceived indiscretions in his personal life. And that’s too bad – partly because I think he would have been a good Mayor, and partly because he was shafted twelve ways from Sunday by a largely undereducated public and fuelled by sensation-seeking media.

Giambrone has a long-term “partner,” and seems to have had one or more shorter term relationships with other women. When his “affairs” became public knowledge, he appears to have tried to lie about it. Eventually, when the public evidence became overwhelming, he apologized publicly and withdrew his candidacy from the Mayoral election.

His fundamental mistake is that he lied to the voting public – this is evident from even the most cursory examination of news reports. I agree. But I would ask you to consider how spectacularly selfish this is of the public. We seem more interested in Giambrone having lied to us that possibly having deceived his partner. Surely the commitment he made to his partner is more important than his having lied to us. The fact we seem more obsessed with his lie to the public tells me we are more interested in our own selfish needs than in assessing his character.

Perhaps we don’t want to talk about his possible personal shortcomings because it would require us to look at our own shortcomings. Throwing the first stone and all that. It’s easier to bitch about a public lie because we’re unlikely to ever find ourselves in similar circumstances. Far harder to assess our own ethics, in which we are constantly immersed – and so by extension the ethics of others.

I’m also very annoyed that Giambrone’s advisors have not been put under the same scrutiny. He lied, they say. He should have seen this coming. He’s not fit to be Mayor. Why only him? Where were his advisors during all this?

Seriously, do you not think that “insiders” in his Mayoral candidacy team knew about this before it made headline news? Can it be that none of them had the cojones to take him aside and explain how this would likely play out? Or is it more likely that he was advised to follow the course of action he took?

I’m not saying anything about his team here and I have no evidence whatsoever that anyone on his team did anything or said anything of questionable ethics. What I’m saying is that surely we cannot focus our anger and disapproval entirely on Giambrone alone – his team must share the consequences to some degree and we should be talking about them at least as much as we’re talking about him.

I also note that Giambrone does not appear to be married to his partner. I do not know the nature of their relationship, and I most certainly do not want to know. Indeed, I’ve intentionally not searched the web for information about this because I just don’t want, or need, or deserve to know.

But having a partner does not necessarily imply monogamy. We cannot know the nature of Giambrone’s relationship with his partner because it is absolutely none of our business no matter what position he holds. In this state of respectful ignorance, we simply cannot pass judgment on his actions because we lack a proper context.  To do otherwise is to commit a cardinal sin of evolved societies: to condemn one whose values aren’t the same as your own only because they are different.

Not that Giambrone is the first to have his political ambitions at least temporarily weigh-laid by personal issues. But this cannot be a guiding rule in our assessment of his capabilities to perform in public service, because there are all kinds of examples of individuals who have contributed significantly to the public good despite having occasionally behaved in ways that some might find questionable.

Bill Clinton is a good example. His indiscretions in no way detract from his very excellent work before or, more importantly, since. Indeed, I would suggest that he’s done more good for more people after his his indiscretions became public than before.

JFK is another good example.  He is still held up as a paragon of leaders, yet it seems he couldn’t keep it in his pants either.  Does his infidelity make him a worse president?

Does Tiger Woods’ “affairs” make him any worse an athlete?

How many public figures have been dragged through the mud? And how many of them have exhibited diminished performance as a result? Does Mel Gibson’s ability to act (such as it is) depend at all on his admittedly screwy worldview? Is John Travolta a worse actor or humanitarian because he is a Scientologist?

How many captains of industry have done things in their personal lives that we might object, yet are still fully able to lead huge corporate organizations? Imagine: you run a multi-million dollar corporation; you’re never home; you’re constantly confronted with new faces, people, opportunities; you exist in permanent jet-lag for all the travelling you do. The personal stress you’d be under would be enormous. And then one day, an opportunity presents itself to do something just for you – selfish, maybe, but also completely natural. How can you focus on your responsibilities with all that pent up energy and frustration? And does succumbing to a temptation now and again make you entirely inadequate?

Note please that I’m not talking about professional misconduct or negligence here. Richard Nixon really was a crook, because he violated the rules governing the actual duties of his job.  Eliot Spitzer was the Governor of New York State, until he was caught involved with a prostitution ring.  Here, a public servant broke laws that directly impinge on his ability to conduct is job.  Charles Smith is a pathologist who appears to have grossly messed up many of his cases.  These are cases really and truly unable to do their jobs; they deserved to have been removed from their public office.  This is not the case with Giambrone.

What I’m saying is this: There is no justifiable connection between one’s private mistakes and and one’s public behaviour, and we can never rationally make a bald categorical assertion if there exists even a single counter-example. And there are plenty of counter-examples.

Now, there have been news reports that Giambrone may have divulged sensitive information to one of his lovers. This is still only an allegation; but if it’s true, then this should be considered in our assessment of his ability to discharge the duties of his Office. But until we know with certainty whether these allegations are true, I refuse to let them bias my opinion. To do otherwise would be rank rumour-mongering, an unfortunate practice in which far too many people participate.

The news media itself is a willing participant in the circus that has sought to crucify Giambrone. Literally every news report I’ve heard on this matter (and I’ve a lot of them) dwelled with morbid curiosity on only the most negative connotations of every statement and allegation. Not once did any report I heard call for calm and rational thinking. No one posed the possibility that this is a tempest in a teapot. No reporter, as far as I’m aware, suggested any of the arguments I’ve proposed here. Gone seem to be the days where both sides of an argument would be presented with equal forcefulness and vigour. News these days seems to be composed of a stream of semantic-free sound bites and op-ed pieces.

And who suffers? The poor schmuck that tried to take on one of the most thankless jobs there is. Well, Toronto, ya really screwed the pooch thus time.

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