Even Leaders Make Mistakes

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Thursday's disclosure that the Rev. Jesse Jackson fathered a daughter outside of marriage should be weighed carefully.

Certainly the news damages Jackson's integrity and effectiveness as a Democratic political leader. The reverend has been an outspoken advocate of high moral standards, but we know now that he was counseling President Clinton and his family during the Monica Lewinsky scandal at the same time he was in the thick of his own affair.

It's impossible to ignore such hypocrisy.

However, before the story broke, the issue was a matter between Jackson, his wife, his mistress and their families. And, in large part, it still is.

This revelation is disappointing, but we, as a nation, must keep it in perspective. Although we have every right to expect greatness from our leaders, they are, and always have been, subject to human frailty. It's no secret that some of our finest leaders had extramarital affairs. But the nation would be a poorer place if they had not been allowed to continue to contribute.

The difference is that in today's high-speed world of communication, we're quicker to learn of such indiscretions and much quicker to judge. But we can't expect great people to serve the public good if we do not allow them to make mistakes.

Although this incident stains Jackson's reputation, politicians and commentators throughout the country think it's unlikely to damage his career.

Perhaps that's because Jackson admitted the affair once it became public, unlike President Clinton who dragged the country and his family through a nine-month ordeal layered with lies.

This mistake isn't directly related to Jackson's political position, but it shows poor judgment in his private life, making his public decisions suspect to a certain degree. But we as a nation should give him a chance to redeem himself and salvage what has been a largely positive and meaningful career.

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