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Sex Affairs and Public Figures

 
 
Thomas
 
Reply Sat 9 Aug, 2008 08:37 am
John Edwards's recently discovered affair with a campaign worker reminds me that here is a feature of American culture I just don't get: Why are sexual affairs still such a big deal in your country's public life?

Okay -- I'm not sure that question came out right, so let me distinguish it from some points I do get.

For one thing, I understand why American voters get annoyed by the part about betrayal. If, in this example, the deal between Elizabeth and John was for exclusivity rather than open marriage (do we know that it was?), John's affair broke that deal. Who knows what other deals he might break once in public office? So, fine -- as American voters put together the mosaic representing Edwards's fitness for public office, that's one pebble they might reasonably use. I get that.

Another point I would get if it came up is about abuse of power. Rielle Hunter was a campaign worker; Edwards was the campaign's boss; his political success was the only reason the campaign existed and employed Hunter. Obviously, then, there must have been a great inequality of power between him and her. If Edwards abused that power (do we know that he did?) who knows what other powers he might abuse in public office? There's another possible pebble for our reasonable voter's mosaic.

But the point of power abuse hasn't come up as far as I can tell. And while some press reports do mention that Elizabeth Edwards wasn't happy, that doesn't seem to be what the fuss is about. Most of the fuzz seems to be about the mere fact that a politician is having sex with a woman he's not married to. In fact, the National Enquirer's favorite word about this affair is "love child". It seems that in the Enquirer's view, Edwards's most scandalous act is that he spread around love. Evidently love is unacceptable in the process of fathering out-of-marriage chldren. And because "love child" is such a powerful allegation, the Enquirer's current edition is accusing Obama of one, too.

Why? I mean, when Francois Mitterand was president of France, he would bring both his wife and his mistress to official banquets. His wife would sit to his right, the mistress to his left. I don't know anyone in Europe who found that particularly remarkable at the time. And contrary to popular prejudices, neither are French people sex machines, nor are Americans nimby-pimby Victorians anymore. So if America is ready for a black president (which it apparently is), if it ready for a woman president (which it apparently would have been), why shouldn't it be ready for an out-of-the-closet swinger president? For Murphy's sake, this is the baby boomer generation of politicians we're talking about!

So with all of these qualifications and explanations out of the way, let me repeat my question: Why are sexual affairs such a big deal in America's public life?
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Chai
 
  1  
Reply Sat 9 Aug, 2008 08:50 am
I can't answer that really.

But, I do know I got a chuckle over this situation.

To me, personally, John Edwards seemed like such a goody two shoes. I'm not going to deny it, I always find it humorous when someone like that gets caught with his pants down.


On their personal relationship level, I have no interest, except to momentarily wonder how good someones marriage must have been if they chose to break their vows.

Politically wise, I think it's just stupid.
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OGIONIK
 
  1  
Reply Sat 9 Aug, 2008 08:54 am
because americans like to judge. IMO.


who cares tho really? NOONE!
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dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Sat 9 Aug, 2008 09:01 am
Fucked if I can grasp it.


Our PM, Bob Hawke, eg, was a well-known lecher and drunk.


To be fair to the US, he was about to divorce his wife and marery one of his mistresses, (according to her) when he decidedc to go into parliamentary politics, with a view to becoming PM, and stuck with his wife for the period of his rule...so I guess he must hav efigured Australians wouldn't cop it...but then, his wife was a loved public figure in her own right....
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PDiddie
 
  1  
Reply Sat 9 Aug, 2008 09:29 am
Because this country was founded by Puritans, Thomas. Because in the past ten years this country has become even more puritanical, more prudish, and altogether far too conservative for its own good.

And finally because our corporate-owned media relishes the ratings and corresponding profits associated with the salacious and sensational.
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jespah
 
  1  
Reply Sat 9 Aug, 2008 10:35 am
I think in the case of Edwards it is truly fatal to his career because of his wife's fatal illness. It just seems skeevy for him to be frolicking while she's barfing and losing her hair from chemo, regardless of whatever their personal arrangement may have been.

Sorry if that was graphic but I feel extremely strongly for cancer patients and the last thing Elizabeth Edwards (or any other such patient) needs is agita. And now she's got it in spades.

I doubt that is the main reason why it's an issue for most people (after all, that was not the issue for Gary Hart, who was also slaughtered by his affair) but this one resonates with me a lot more.
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Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Sat 9 Aug, 2008 10:39 am
dlowan wrote:
**** if I can grasp it.

I'd love to, darling, but doesn't that take two?

OGIONIK wrote:
because americans like to judge. IMO.

PDiddie wrote:
Because this country was founded by Puritans, Thomas.

I hate to sound like Rush Limbaugh, but here I think you two are victims of Anti-American prejudice on this point. At least you're being too hard on your compatriots. Personally, face to face, I have generally found Americans less judgmental, less puritanical, more generous, and more tolerant than the Germans I know. Publically, it's a mixed bag. On the one hand, your saunas are gender-segregated, towel-over-genitals encouraged. Your beach ettiquette is clothe your boobs, and don't wear speedos unless you're a professional swimmer or really good looking. On the other hand, your military parades tend to be followed by half-naked cheerleader-type marchers (not sure what their name is). They would be unacceptable in France and Germany.

So even in your public mores, I'm not sure Americans are overall more judgmental and puritanical than other nationalities. On matters of private etiquette, I know you aren't.
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Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Sat 9 Aug, 2008 10:43 am
jespah wrote:
Sorry if that was graphic but I feel extremely strongly for cancer patients and the last thing Elizabeth Edwards (or any other such patient) needs is agita. And now she's got it in spades.

I doubt that is the main reason why it's an issue for most people (after all, that was not the issue for Gary Hart, who was also slaughtered by his affair) but this one resonates with me a lot more.

Absolutely -- I understand that. Betrayal is one of the two exceptions I made in my initial post, and her cancer aggravates this problem.
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Bi-Polar Bear
 
  1  
Reply Sat 9 Aug, 2008 10:46 am
I feel badly for Elizabeth Edwards and knowing how puritanical the USA is about such things it was stupid... but I personally don't give a rat's ass about what politicians do off the clock as long as they run the country well....people are people and people are horny a lot of the time.... that's just how it is...

If you were about to go under the knife and had the world's best surgeon working on you and then found out at the last minute that he f*cked around all the time..... would you let him operate? Hell yes.... you'd be interested in his skill and what it could do for you and who cares about his personal life.

What's the difference if it's a politican?
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mushypancakes
 
  1  
Reply Sat 9 Aug, 2008 11:12 am
I don't know.

A fascination with sex gossip and celebrities?

Politicians are celebrities of sorts to a lot of people.

It's something I've heard discussed more than once. Can't remember the last time I heard a fellow Canadian fretting over who is screwing who or their indiscretions (would barely get paper time).

Maybe it just has to do with how overactive American media is.
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hawkeye10
 
  1  
Reply Sat 9 Aug, 2008 11:28 am
mushypancakes wrote:
I don't know.

A fascination with sex gossip and celebrities?

Politicians are celebrities of sorts to a lot of people.

It's something I've heard discussed more than once. Can't remember the last time I heard a fellow Canadian fretting over who is screwing who or their indiscretions (would barely get paper time).

Maybe it just has to do with how overactive American media is.


The days of the media doing what they think is right over providing the content that the consumers want have been long gone. A media somewhat removed from consumer control would be a good thing. Lacking that, it must be asked why people gobble up this stuff. It has been argued that most people lack much inner life, that they they live vicariously through celebs, and this argument is convincing. If so the problem is us.
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High Seas
 
  1  
Reply Sat 9 Aug, 2008 11:29 am
Thomas wrote:
jespah wrote:
Sorry if that was graphic but I feel extremely strongly for cancer patients and the last thing Elizabeth Edwards (or any other such patient) needs is agita. And now she's got it in spades.

I doubt that is the main reason why it's an issue for most people (after all, that was not the issue for Gary Hart, who was also slaughtered by his affair) but this one resonates with me a lot more.

Absolutely -- I understand that. Betrayal is one of the two exceptions I made in my initial post, and her cancer aggravates this problem.


"Having strong feelings about cancer patients"?

Here's what Mrs Edwards had to say about her husband's affair:
Quote:
And we began a long and painful process in 2006, a process oddly made somewhat easier with my diagnosis in March of 2007. This was our private matter.........


Perhaps Jespah's post was written prior to Elizabeth Edwards' statement confirming she knew all about it since 2006, so the idea of cancer making things easier for Mrs Edwards didn't occur to her.

Nobody can be more royalist than the king.
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jespah
 
  1  
Reply Sat 9 Aug, 2008 11:45 am
I'm not talking about Elizabeth Edwards when I say I have strong feelings about cancer patients. And no, I am not going to clarify that statement any further as the person I am referring to has a right to medical privacy.
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High Seas
 
  1  
Reply Sat 9 Aug, 2008 11:54 am
Jespah - it was hardly clear from your original post that the comment referred to a party other than Mrs Edwards. Obviously there's no need to clarify anything about the 3rd party, nor did anyone ask about it.

Sympathy for Mrs Edwards (this being the original topic) is somewhat restrained by the fact she spent the last couple of years lecturing anyone who would listen on her husband's unimpeachable morality and principled stand on all issues pertaining to the presidency - knowing full well his, shall we say, faux pas in 2006. His hypocrisy is impossible to overlook, but so is hers - unless somehow linked to cancer drugs she was on, as they've been known to affect judgement.

One thing I'm not clear about, though, is why Bill Clinton, after countless affairs while married, and after demonstrably lying to the country about at least some of them, can be the keynote speaker at the Democratic convention in Denver, while Edwards won't be allowed to take the floor. More hypocrisy?
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High Seas
 
  1  
Reply Sat 9 Aug, 2008 12:02 pm
jespah wrote:
I think in the case of Edwards it is truly fatal to his career because of his wife's fatal illness............. I feel extremely strongly for cancer patients and the last thing Elizabeth Edwards .......needs is agita. And now she's got it in spades.


I'd like to know how, exactly, anyone reading this post is supposed to guess that the above commentary did NOT refer to Mrs. Edwards, but instead referred to some 3rd party which shall remain nameless.

Personally suspect that the hypocrisy of the Democratic Party in general may be at work here Smile
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mushypancakes
 
  1  
Reply Sat 9 Aug, 2008 12:11 pm
Ok, and some of it is just agenda pushing at the expense of someone else.

Nothing new under the sun.
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ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Sat 9 Aug, 2008 01:07 pm
Rather than try to work out a refinement of my previous words, I'll just post my previous words, from this thread -
http://www.able2know.org/forums/viewtopic.php?t=120000&postdays=0&postorder=asc&start=0




post 3341239

Let's assume for argument purposes that she wouldn't have been for the affair in the first place, say as a concept. Though some marriages are different, I'll propose that as a given.

But given the reality of a child - if the child being his is a reality and we still don't know that, do we? - she might be for a) his responsibility to care for the child, or, b) his need to make payments to mollify the situation, re the child's care and the woman's support.

All pretty nightmarish for any couple, and in particular for them, given her health situation and his fame, with privacy hard to obtain. Not to even get into the probably multiple emotions.

Let's say I think he was a cad, if all true, re the affair. I still don't know that this meeting, assuming the meeting is true as well, was a so-called assignation. I'd think of it as equally likely to be taking care of business and visitation of child.

Most of us have been cads at one or another time in our lives, in some way or another. It's too bad, I think, for all involved except the Enquirer to have it play on the world stage.

Re Edwards possible career as AG, that seems like no dice, but it might have been no dice anyway.

If true, it reminds me a little of Spitzer, the NY Governor. And to some extent Bill Clinton. And others across party lines. Some playing with fire for fun. I think that penchant will always be with us, whatever the decrying. It might even make the world go round part of its route.


post 3342561

So? You'll vote for X horrible if he (usually he, re who is the nominee) is the one of the two possible electable nominees who hasn't had an affair that you know of at the time of the election? Will sixteen affairs in younger days fall to three significant ones over time? Want to work up charts?


post 3342662

That's an old crutch, re homosexuality or bisexuality or marital affairs. Consider the book Advise and Consent by Allen Drury.

Blackmail is, thank goodness, growing passe re at least those aspects of life.. Ok, maybe not, but should be passe any time now.

A lot of people would have been better off if they just said, yes, and so? It's all the hidey hidey routine that is goofy. And yes, I'll say that about Edwards as well, based only on the conjecture flume. I don't pretend to understand him or know his personal moves.

Transgression and repentence, a longtime Washington dance. How about 'some things are none of your business'?


post 3342669

Please elucidate on my shortsightedness.

I see no relevance re affairs and government and politics except for citizen hysteria.


post 3342681

But blackmail is interesting. I've toyed with the idea for a bit that blackmail may be part of this, whatever This is, but it seems unlikely.. But that scenario would fit with a society which cares about these matters so strongly, so freakily, re its leaders.



(after the explanatory speech)
post 3350518

I remain confused - re the hotel visit, for one thing.

On his telling the truth now, possible. I understand not thinking he is; I presently think it is some of the truth.

I still think it's none of our business, though I get the hypocrisy charge. It's a kind of catch 22 for politicians in this american puritan culture. They say "no, I didn't" in instinctive self defense to a question that shouldn't be asked in the first place.. kind of like we're all four years old, and sometimes I think we are. We "feed" the tabloid culture, the scandal hunger/thrill.

I'm sorry we in the US care so very much about marital fidelity in the face of all the other matters of import re who would be our president. This is not to say that I don't generally regard marital fidelity well. But not all great men and women stay within the hopscotch lines. Lie detector tests for all candidates about everything ever?

On Gary Hart, I brought him up in this regard a long time ago. I think we lost a good man over that rigamarole, although it's been a while, and I'd have to review to make sure I mean that.


post 3350539

I see what you're saying, Cyclo. But blackmail about things like homosexual activity, extramarital activity, is in itself a retrograde system.

On his knowing this and running anyway, given it is none of our business, and probably in many other countries, no one would give a damn:- That he puts such a good family picture out there, as most people running for president simply have to make part of their show, accompanied by what could be taken as hypocritical word - I get your point of resentment. But I still maintain it is not our nosy business.

Yes, I admit a made a conjecture about money passing hands, a few pages ago, because I am now curious re the hooplah and hooplah's meaning.
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sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Sat 9 Aug, 2008 01:57 pm
I see two separate issues here:

1.) The affair itself.

I think less of him (especially the cheating-on-Elizabeth part, which from what Elizabeth has said seems to have clearly been hurtful and difficult, purely within their marriage) but I don't think it necessarily adversely affects his ability to be an effective politician, in and of itself. However, it's impossible to truly treat #1 as its own thing, because

2.) For whatever combination of reasons, it is a Very Big Deal for an American politician to have an affair.

It was extremely idiotic for him to have an affair in the current American political climate. I agree that the climate is itself idiotic. But he's lived through Bill Clinton and the rest of it, he KNOWS that it was career-destroyingly dangerous to have an affair, and he did it anyway. And he ran for president after doing it.

Imagine if he'd won the nomination and this came out now. The chaos!

It was extremely irresponsible for him to have taken that chance, and I do hold that against him. This aspect actually upsets me more than the affair per se.
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Lash
 
  1  
Reply Sat 9 Aug, 2008 02:13 pm
I think we're the ones (ultimately) who decide how big a thing this is. I think it is a bit archaic to continue to act surprised when these things happen. From now on, I'll consider the circumstances of the affair (how injurious/the lengths they will go to maintain deception) and not bail on someone because of sex.

This and capital punishment keep us in the Dark Ages...
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hamburger
 
  1  
Reply Sat 9 Aug, 2008 02:20 pm
i'm reading again "ambassador to india" by j k galbraith .
jkg was a good friend of president jfk - who appointed him ambassador to india .

he writes about the extensive vetting process for the various appointees to government positions :

"the president said one of the rare and unexpected pleasures of his post was reading the fbi reports on his appointees . no one could imagine how many seamy things were reported about even the MOST SAINTLY of his men . and no one , he asserted , would ever go into public life if he knew what some second person would eventually be reading about him in these documents " .

btw "ambassador to india" has given me many pleasurable (!) hours to read over a number of years - always another tidbit to be enjoyed - and it cost me all of 99 cents to buy the 650 page tome . Shocked :wink:
hbg
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