well-intentioned political leaders necessary in order to further the public's ultmaate interests.
Nevertheless, we must not allow our political leaders undue freedom to with-hold information,
otherwise, we risk sanctioning demagoguery and undermining the philosophical underpinnings
of any democratic society.
One reason for my fundamental agreement with the speaker is that in order to gain the
opportunity for effective public leadership, a would-be leader must fzrst gain and maintain
political power. In the game of politics, complete forthrightness is a sign of vulnerability and
naivete, neither of which earn a politician respect among his or her opponents, and which
those opponents will use to every advantage to defeat the politician. In my observation some
measure of pandering to the electorate is necessary to gain and maintain political leadership.
For example, were all politicians to fully disclose every personal foibles, character flaw, and
detail concerning personal life, few honest politicians would ever by elected. While this view
might seem cynical, personal scandals have in fact proven the undoing of many a political
career; thus I think this view is realistic.
Another reason why I essentially agree with the speaker is that fully disclosing to the public
certain types of information would threaten public safety and perhaps even national security.
For example, if the President were to disclose the government's strategies for thwarting
specific plans of an international terrorist or a drug trafficker, those strategies would surely fail,
and the public's health and safety would be compromised as a result. Withholding information
might also be necessary to avoid public panic. While such cases are rare, they do occur
occasionally. For example, during the first few hours of the new millennium the U.S.
Pentagon's missile defense system experienced a Y2K- related malfunction. This fact was
withheld from the public until later in the day, once the problem had been solved; and
legitimately so, since immediate disclosure would have served no useful purpose and might
even have resulted in mass hysteria.
Having recognized that withholding informarion from the public is often necessary to serve
the interests of that public, legitimate political leadership nevertheless requires forthrightness