November 17, 2012 4 Comments
I was on my way to a writing group meeting a week ago when I saw a certain young city Councillor get on my bus. I suddenly remembered his abortive mayoral campaign a couple years ago; the one abruptly ended when an affair he’d had came to light. I have to admit that when Adam Giambrone’s mistress came forward and effectively put a stop to his political ambitions for a while, I kinda thought he deserved what he got. While he did end his bid for the mayor’s seat he did not resign as Councillor, despite some public cries for blood, including my own. But now, as this same type of scandal erupts south of the border around David Petraeus, my thoughts on his resignation? What a waste.
Petraeus didn’t legally have to resign. Initially the president didn’t accept his resignation. But ultimately, resign he did. As did Eliot Spitzer, who, whether you agreed with him or not, was incredibly talented. As did Mark Sanford when it became clear he had not been hiking the Appalachian Trail. As do a lot of public figures in the US when their private affairs come to light. And every time these situations come up, we have this big debate around whether or not a lapse of judgment in someone’s private life really makes a lick of difference in their ability to do their public job.
On some gut level my answer to that question is generally no. It doesn’t matter. People have affairs and pay for sex and hide their true sexuality every day of the week and they still get their jobs done. If every person on earth experiencing some major snafu in their personal life wasn’t functioning in their job, the world would come to a grinding halt.
Putting aside our weird societal need to have our government officials act as standards of moral perfection, I’ve been wondering why I have this double standard around what should happen to people when these affairs are found out. Why do I care if some local city Councillor wants to carry on with someone besides his girlfriend (now wife)? Why do I not care about the head of the CIA doing so? I remember when I heard about the Giambrone affair I thought to myself “what an idiot.” I thought that because the girl involved was so young and immature and it seemed like there was no way he was going to come out of that unscathed. It seemed like he was bound to be outed, and I made the leap that if he was dumb enough to get involved with this particular girl then he was too dumb to do his job and should be replaced. It seemed to indicate a general tone deafness around what you can and can’t get away with. Petraeus’ affair with Paula Broadwell, though, seemed less likely to cause such blow back because, ostensibly as a successful and married woman, she had as much reason to keep their affair under wraps as he did. But having thought more about it, I realize it’s not the underlying reason for my double standard.
Ultimately I think men like Petraeus are wildly talented and with obviously talented people, it seems absurd to me to put them out to pasture because of a lapse in their personal lives. And with people who strike me as less talented, well they can burn. It’s that someone like Giambrone strikes me as expendable while men like Petraeus and Spitzer don’t. That’s why it always seemed absurd to me to bother about Clinton’s affair with Lewinsky. These men had proven on a pretty big stage that they could git ‘er done while gittin’ ‘er done, as it were. Maybe if the TTC ran like a well-oiled machine I wouldn’t have given Giambrone’s dalliance a second thought.
I recognize that my feelings aren’t rational and yours don’t have to be either. What’s your gut reaction when these affairs come to light? Let’s all move on or that guy/gal should burn or something in between?
**In other news, I got a full time job! Yay universe!