This simple Socratic maxim is good advice for anyone. For one in, or seeking, political office it must be priority number one. One must know his or her own strengths and weaknesses. For the novice candidate, it requires a large amount of honest soul searching, which may be a very difficult exercise. For one seeking an office of consequence, it requires even more. I have written in the past of the need for some candidates to conduct opposition research on their opponents. Occasionally, there is a need to conduct opposition research on one self. Anyone investing serious time or money in a candidate is often relying on the candidate to tell the truth, to disclose problems, and to solicit their advice in deciding whether to proceed with the race, or if committed to the race, on dealing with the problem.
Sixty years ago a divorce may have ended a political career before it started. In Ronald Reagan’s 1980 campaign it was hardly mentioned. Today, far too many marriages end in divorce, so many in fact, that divorce no longer even warrants mention. The abuse of another person in a trusting relationship, however, is different. It still speaks to the character of the person, how they handle stress and how they deal with problems and the types of acceptable ways to resolve the problem. If a candidate knows that this may be alleged, or become an issue, and the candidate fails to take steps to address it promptly, the candidate begs to have it sprung at the least opportune time. In any campaign, the candidate wants to control the message, to keep the opponent off balance and dancing to the candidate’s tune. Being caught by surprise by a serious allegation, no matter how unfounded it may be; it makes me question the capacity of the campaign.
One of the fundamental rules of the Watergate Scandal is that the campaign must air the problem immediately, no “modified limited hangout” nonsense. Knowing of a problem, a serious problem, requires the problem to be dealt with now. The candidate must air the problem, acknowledge it directly, and respond to it directly, on the candidate’s time line, not the oppositions’. That a candidate may have known about a potential problem for quite some time and failed to address it publicly, speaks volumes about his political acumen and the advice he is getting.