Author Wesley O. Hagood, author of the book Presidential Sex, notes that about a third of American presidents have been guilty of extramarital relationships – think Bill Clinton, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B, Johnson – though not all saw professional repercussions.
In Canada, some of the better known cases include that of retired Brig.-Gen. Daniel Menard, who in 2010 pleaded guilty to having improper relations with a corporal under his command (the affair and cover-up resulted in a $7,000 fine and symbolic reduction in rank); as well as top ministers within prime minister John Diefenbaker’s government, who in the 1960s reportedly bedded a German playgirl in what’s widely referred to as the Munsinger Affair – Canada’s first parliamentary sex scandal.
“When people who we hold in high regard, as the cream of the crop – whether entertainers, athletes or politicians – fall from grace, we find ourselves wondering how they could risk it all,” says Biderman. “I think the only insight it ends up giving us is that no one is immune to this.”
When one of the world’s most celebrated tacticians is undone by an affair, a Canadian infidelity expert says there’s only one conclusion to be drawn: that no amount of professional power inoculates against personal weakness.
Friday’s resignation of Central Intelligence Agency director David Petraeus, over an extramarital relationship with his biographer, is just the latest in a long line of career meltdowns spurred by sexual scandal. But no matter the pervasiveness of these dalliances, the culture at large still struggles to reconcile how leaders who rise to power for their good judgment could exhibit such a blatant lack of it.
“There’s this misguided notion that because they were deceitful to their partner, they can’t be trusted with the public good,” says Noel Biderman, a noted Canadian expert on cheating.
“But if we removed every significant person from public office, throughout history, (for infidelity) – Clinton, F.D.R, J.F.K – you’d be talking about some of the most famous statespersons of their time. It leaves a very shallow pool of talent to draw from.”
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