By Don Klein
The turbulent combination of power and sex has ruined more political careers than oafish behavior or incompetence can ever hope to, but men of rank and authority never seem to be able to avoid an illicit fling when it presents itself.
They feel that because they are privileged people they have exceptional sexual entitlements.
In the last few weeks the cynics of the world were entertained by the ethical and professional demise of a United States senator, the marriage split of the former governor of the country’s largest state and most stunning, the arrest in New York of the head of the International Monetary Fund.
The hoi poloi could say good riddance to the bums but that would not be fair to all. The case against IMF chief, Dominique Strauss-Kahn has not yet been resolved and he deserves the judicial benefit of the assumption of innocence.
Not so in the cases of Senator John Ensign, of Nevada nor former Governor Arnold Schwartzenegger, of California.
Ensign had to resign in order to avoid expulsion from the Senate on sexual harassment charges. This is a man who refused to resign until the very last minute after facing the Ethics Committee for the sordid circumstances following an affair he had with a staff associate who was the wife of a long-standing friend, chief of staff and political sidekick.
That’s not even chutzpah, that’s beyond misconduct, it’s repulsive. What little respect or loyalty was there for his closest friend if he would schtup his wife behind his back. She said she feared losing her job, and her husband’s, if she didn’t give in.
Good riddance, indeed.
Then we have the Schwartzenegger case. The body builder who became the bad actor who married a Kennedy and who eventually ascended to became perhaps the worst governor of that large state, admitted misbehaving. His life has been marked by two words: infidelity and incompetence.
As governor he exploited with bravado and ignorance the idea that governing was easy. The voters bought the message thinking that a muscle-bound Kennedy-in-law could muscle away California’s fiscal problems. He did just the opposite.
When he took office the state’s debt was $22 billion and its deficit was $14 billion. When he left office just months ago those negative figures had increased to $34.7 billion and $26.6 billion respectively. He was a colossal flop and the people will have to pay for his blundering in the years to come.
One must wonder about the absurdity of the voters electing him after being forewarned about the great Arnold’s sexual propensities. They knew he considered any woman near him fair game for groping or worse. Now we learn that he sired a son by one of his household employees before he ran for governor and kept it secret all these years. His marriage now is in shambles and his renewed film career in question.
Another good riddance.
We can go back further on this sex-power connection to many others, the most notable recently being John Edwards’ fathering a child out of wedlock during his campaign for president in 2008 while his wife was suffering from cancer and New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, the scourge of Wall Street immorality, being caught in a Washington hotel room with a hooker.
Shameful hypocrites both.
All of those mentioned were personal acts of indiscretion and downright bad taste, but not criminal in any way. It falls in the category of what the French like to feel is their national credo -- a person’s private life is his concern and no one else’s. Political transparency is the only sustainable contrary argument
Now we come to what is probably the biggest fish of all. The man who was expected to become the next president of France – head of IMF, Dominique Strauss-Kahn. He has been charged with seven counts of sexual assault.
Even the French are not calling this a private matter. They know the difference between privacy and felony. French society is split in two with the women seeming to want to hear the facts coming out of DSK’s trial and the men demanding that he receive special treatment and not be handled by police like any other criminal defendant.
The alleged attack of a housekeeper in a posh New York hotel is completely out of character for DSK, an acknowledged womanizer but a non-violent man. His previous sexual transgressions have been winked at by the French public since none of his female targets summoned the courage to file complaints.
The New York case is different. The housekeeper was quick to report the attack, police were called and DSK was eventually taken off a Paris-bound flight by detectives who traced him there. The second blow was when the judge refused to allow bail, considering him a wealthy man and the likelihood of him fleeing the country.
Perhaps the Roman Polanski incident played a role in this decision. Polanski was convicted of having illegal sex with a minor – a 13 year old girl -- and fled the country while on bail. He relocated to Paris and the French refused to extradite him to California as a fugitive. The N.Y..court would not want a repetition of that.
No matter, Strauss-Kahn’s political future is in the toilet. He will be replaced as managing director of IMF and he will never be president of France. Ensign’s political career is in ruins, Schwartenegger’s future is cloudy as is Edwards’ and only Spitzer seems on the rebound.
All because of the belief held by powerful men that they had special license that allows them to sexually exploit others.