Musing on the recent resignation of David Petraeus, the New Yorker's Jane Mayer writes, "The line of the day on the morning talk shows in Washington seemed to be that Petraeus did the 'honorable' thing, or 'he had to resign.' The old saw that, if he wasn't squeaky clean, he could be subject to blackmail by his enemies, thus endangering national security, was mentioned again and again. To me, the whole Victorian shame game seems seriously outdated. Something like half the marriages in the country now end in divorce, and you can bet a great many of those involved extra-marital affairs. Is it desirable to bar such a large number of public servants from top jobs?"
But I have a different concern.
If it is true, as so many officials in our government and members of our press seem to believe, that an affair by a CIA Director (or presumably by an FBI director or a President) endangers national security, isn't that a sign that we should rethink the extent to which we empower these individuals? The sort of people who rise to powerful positions in Washington DC sure seem prone to cheating. Or if you prefer, holding a powerful position in that town certainly seems to confront a lot of men with confluence of opportunity and temptation that they cannot ultimately resist.