Posted by: Amelia | March 11, 2008

The European Excuse – Yea or Nay?

Now, it’s not like people are really defending Eliot Spitzer all that much. He’ll resign tomorrow, as he should. But when sex scandals errupt, it’s not uncommon to hear people invoke our friends across the pond, either by saying that Europeans are laughing at us or by pointing out how common extramarital sex is among Europe’s leaders. Take, for instance, one of Spitzer’s few defenders today, Alan Dershowitz:

“You know, big deal, married man goes to prostitute! […] In Europe, this wouldn’t even make the back pages of the newspaper. It’s a uniquely American story. We’re a uniquely, you know, pandering society and hypocritical society, when it comes to sex.”

Whether or not Europeans have a healthier attitude about sex is a debate for another time. But, in the context of excusing political sex scandals, I wonder if the continental tres blasé attitude is really such a good thing. Someone in one of my classes today pointed out that Mitterand and Chirac had mistresses and nobody cared, and that in some South American countries it would barely make page 26 if a leader was caught with a prostitute. I have to ask: is that really a good thing?

I may not be a fan of the who-would-I-have-a-beer-with? school of choosing elected officials, but I do think character matters. A married governor sneaking out of state and secretly ordering a prostitute after having denounced and prosecuted sex rings previously? Yeah, I think that should make it into the newspaper. It’s not just the illegality – it’s the fecklessness, the disrespect, the inability to control his appetites. Call me a puritan, but I’d rather my elected officials NOT have mistresses or solicit prostitutes. Have a little dignity, s’il vous plait.

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