Roger Simon uses the Strauss-Kahn affair to say something very profound about a society that condones cheating:
I won’t get into the sad details, but some time ago I had an affair with a married French woman — I was single then — that went on for a couple of years.
I’m not proud of it in the least. It was stupid, immoral (yes, that) and eventually sheer emotional Hell. Besides hurting other people, most of them innocent, it drastically affected my work in a negative way and made me a liar on frequent occasions. In sum, I was despicable, weak, selfish and destructive of myself and others to do it.
But I did learn something about the French. Pace Edith Piaf and Yves Montand, there is nothing chic or hip about their adultery. After all the shared Gauloise and baiser volé, it’s just cheating. People don’t respect each other. People don’t trust each other. Indeed, they begin to hate each other. Life is wretched. It’s like a game of ritual self-and-other torture played out by a significant sector of their society — particularly in the elite classes — into oblivion.
I’ve long said that the trust issue, not the morality issue, is why we care about our politicians’ affairs. If our elected officials think nothing about lying to and cheating on those who are, presumably, nearest and dearest to them, what are we to expect when it comes to the politicians’ relationship to us, the public? That is, a politician’s immorality is a personal matter that goes to each politician’s relationship with his family and his God. But the lying — that’s about character, and that should matter to the voting public.
UPDATE: Jonathan Tobin has more on how the French system enabled a known sexual predator to rise so high. (Of course, the Arkansas/America system did too, but at least we Americans were shocked when we learned about it.) I guess the bottom line, always, will be that, if you’re a politician helping the right people, you can trust them to turn a blind eye whether you’re committing minor peccadilloes or major crimes.