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From Strauss Kahn to Petraeus

Scandals Without Perspective

by CHRISTOPHER BRAUCHLI

It is good it all came to light just after the elections were over.  The media would really not have had the time to simultaneously give the election and sex the extensive coverage they richly deserve.  Elections are, of course, happily behind us and we can focus all our attention on sex.

When last we examined the subject of sex and public faces, we were enjoying the explanations of Messr. Strauss Kahn and his lawyer about Mr. Strauss Kahn’s attendance at assorted sex parties in France and elsewhere.  In explaining that he didn’t realize there were prostitutes in attendance at those gala events Mr. Strauss Kahn explained that he often arrived late when attendees were no longer fully clothed.  His lawyer further explained that “At these parties, people were not necessarily dressed, and I defy you to tell the difference between a naked prostitute and any other naked woman.” Apparently in France, at least, prostitutes wear distinctive markings on their clothing that enable the casual observer-participant to know in what line of work they are engaged.  We have now learned that the pleasures of the flesh enjoyed by Mr. Strauss Kahn have not been strangers to France’s former Minister of Justice, Rachida Dati.

Three days after the U.S. election an Associated Press report described in some detail the love life of Rachida Dati.  While serving as Justice Minister she gave birth to a daughter and is now suing to force Dominique Desseigne, a multimillionaire businessman to submit to a paternity test.  He is resisting her efforts and a hearing will be held in December to determine whether or not he can be forced to comply.  The French paper Le Monde reported that at the same time she was seeing Desseigne, Ms. Dati was involved with a number of other suitors.  In response to those stories Ms. Dati said, appropriately:  I have a complicated private life.”  She went on to say:  “What bothers them about me? That I have a life. .. that I’m a free woman.”  She is of course right and she and Messr. Straus Kahn demonstrate that we in the U.S. are excessively up tight about such matters.

The same day we learned of Ms. Dati’s affair we learned that David Petraeus was resigning as director of the CIA because of an affair he had carried on with his biographer, Paula Broadwell.  That came to light because Ms. Broadwell had sent e mails to Jill Kelley, a woman in Tampa Florida telling her to mind her public manners and stay away from General Petraeus.  Those e mails caused Jill Kelley such discomfort that she reported them to an FBI agent who was also such a good social friend that he had, some months earlier,  sent her e mails of himself shirtless. He caused an investigation into the e mails (not the ones he sent) to be conducted.

A few days later it was disclosed that Ms. Kelley, herself someone star struck by stars on uniforms, had exchanged 30,000 pages of e mails with General John Allen, the general who replaced General Petraeus in Afghanistan and who had been nominated to be the NATO Supreme Allied Commander for Europe.  That seems like an awful lot of pages and some wondered whether they bespoke a relationship that was more than literary. (That very same day it was announced that a much lesser figure, Christopher Kubasik, Lockheed Martin’s incoming chief executive was to be its outgoing chief executive without having spent so much as one day on the job since his new position was not to begin until January 1.  His resignation was effective on November 9, the day it was disclosed that he had had what was described as an “improper relationship” with a subordinate.  Although the word “improper” was not defined, someone familiar with the company said he had been in a long-standing relationship with a female employee who is no longer with the company.) What the United States lacks is perspective.  We used to have it.

The day after General Petraeus resigned from the CIA the New York Times reported that he was not the first CIA director to engage in conduct that didn’t involve spying.  Allen Dulles, who was its director in the 1950s and ‘60s, had, what was described by his sister, as “at least a hundred” affairs.  Although many of them preceded his tenure as director of the CIA he enjoyed at least a few while serving in that capacity.  They included, according to the NYT, Clare Booth Luce and Queen Frederika of Greece.  In those days no one cared.  They didn’t care because it didn’t make any difference.  It still doesn’t make any difference.  It just gives journalists something to write about and famous figures an opportunity to express contrition for the human condition.

The French have much better attitudes about sex than do we.  They also have much better food.

Christopher Brauchli is a lawyer in Boulder, Colorado. He can be emailed at brauchli.56@post.harvard.edu