Eliot Spitzer and wife: Why Americans have punished Spitzer but

rewarded the prostitute he broke his legal vows with, is just as

puzzling to Europeans as Monica Lewinski was during the 1990s.



Le Monde, France

Infidelity: An American Social and Political Obsession


"Americans should be urged to take lessons in civilization from the Old world: on this side of the Atlantic, as shown in cinema, literature and theater, everyone cheats and is cheated on, and people survive the infidelity of their partner."


By Pascal Bruckner


Translated By Kate Davis


April 30, 2008


France - Le Monde - Original Article (French)

A few weeks ago when the new Democratic governor of New York, David Patterson, a blind man, succeeded the once-incorruptible Eliot Spitzer who was found guilty of frequenting call girls, what did he do first? He called a press conference to confess to having cheated on his wife several times with colleagues from his office.


Politics in America: New York Governor David Patterson and his wife issue preemptive confessions of infidelity.

His wife, in turn, acknowledged some escapades of her own, and swore that she and her husband had overcome these challenges. This stupefies Europeans, who still remember the outrageous Lewinsky affair: instead of announcing his political program, here is an official repenting out of fear that his exploits will one day be exposed to the public. In short, the world's leading power, which is currently losing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which has revived the practice of torture and twice in-a-row elected one of the most incompetent heads of state in modern times, is up in arms over these measly tales of sleeping around!


What's going on when the entire press, from the gutter papers to the very serious New York Times, covers this private matter ad infinitum? Let us recall the disappointments of former Democratic Governor Eliot Spitzer: a destroyer of financial corruption and a champion of the fight against prostitution, he himself frequented a ravishing 22-year-old brunette, Ashley Youmans, alias Kristen, for whose services he was paying between $1,000 and $5,000, drawing on, it seems, money from his campaign fund.


Ashley Youmans, alias Kristen ...

Here again, nothing out of the ordinary for an old European with broad experience in the unpredictability of human nature: like Captain Haddock , blind drunk and chairing a meeting against alcoholism, the fathers of modesty in the United States, the enemies of  vice, of feminism and of the freedom of morals, invariably end up in the arms of prostitutes, their nostrils filled with cocaine and their hands in the safe. Every moralist eventually ends up falling one day into the sin he denounces: isn’t the Catholic Church itself, which advocates chastity and subjects homosexuals to public obloquy, covering up the actions of thousands of pedophile priests who rape and abuse children?


The first lesson from old Europe: Beware of any virtuous discourse. Eros takes revenge on her critics and delivers a formidable kick in the nose to the prevailing Puritanism. What should we think about these American family therapy associations that explain that “the reactions of a betrayed wife resemble the symptoms of post-traumatic stress shown by the victims of traumatic events,” like September 11, 2001? What can be said about the seminars for unfaithful spouses who are reeducated like dissidents in the former Soviet empire?


For a European, confusing a love affair with a collective catastrophe is an outrageous comparison. Americans should be urged to take lessons in civilization from the old world: on this side of the Atlantic, as shown in cinema, literature and theater, everyone cheats and is cheated on, and people survive the infidelity of their partner. Real fidelity is far more demanding than strict physical abstinence, and if the love is strong, it will overcome these episodes.


Better yet: the adulterer, over here, has almost become an object of veneration, the protest of the oppressed creature against matrimonial convention – from the utopian Charles Fourier , who in the early 19th century established a humorous “hierarchy of cuckoldry” that ridiculed all the “cuckolds;” to Labiche , Feydeau , Guitry , who sparked laughter using the misfortunes of cuckolded spouses, turning violations of the marriage contract into occasions for hilarity.


Europeans lampoon the wedding contract, from left to right:

Philosopher Charles Fourier; writers Eugène Marin Labiche;

Georges Feydeau; and Sacha Guitry.


More modern still, didn’t Jean-Paul Sartre  and Simone de Beauvoir  distinguish between contingent and necessary loves to justify affairs with other partners that they had on occasion? As far as customs are concerned, Europe is infinitely more wise than the New World and its hideous obsession with transparency. Even in a marriage of love, strict monogamy is an inhuman ideal and it's better to work with human weaknesses than contain them at any price, including at the price of unnecessary drama.


Bertrand Russell , in his 1929 essay on Marriage and Morals, recommended a French-style solution: great tolerance in regard to adulterous liaisons, for both men and women, as long as they don’t interfere with the life of the couple and don’t disrupt childrearing. In short, conjugal tranquility that allows for little arrangements between spouses are the hallmarks of a refined society.


More recent European writers who espoused a

more casual approach to marriage, from left to

right: Jean-Paul Sartre; Simone de Beauvoir;

and Bertrand Russell.


Looking more closely, however, the Spitzer-Kristen episode provides other lessons. What is the former governor of New York being punished for? The hypocrisy of a man who swore to bring down human trafficking and who frequented The Emperor Club, a network of high-class prostitutes for a distinguished clientele? It is thus Tartuffe  who falls, but it's the call-girl who rises to a surprising notoriety: suddenly, she is propelled to the summit of glory, inundated with film offers, photo spreads, advertisements for beauty products and fine lingerie. Two songs that she recorded and sells on a musical site make $200,000 within just a few days.


Is this Puritanical: the society that punishes the preacher and rewards the sinner and makes her an instant star; which puts the stamp of vice on a representative of the moral order and one of candor on a “pretty woman” from New Jersey? One might wonder whether the obsession with infidelity on the other side of the Atlantic isn’t a product of the artificial nature of the American social contract, the pact inaugurated in 1787 among men of all means, races, origins and religions. Consensual marriage complemented with the possibility of divorce is thus the mirror, the microcosm of this founding principle of the nation.


When one thoroughly examines such transgressions, it becomes much easier to verify this standard: doesn’t infidelity in conjugal love challenge the original alliance that binds all Americans? If the small homeland that is the family wavers under the caprices of spouses, what will happen to the greater homeland in the event of danger? Where Europe, composed of ancient nations rich in tradition shows a certain casualness, the United States shows rigidity and intransigence: when the most fundamental of all links, that of the couple, is undermined, it is the future of the country itself that could be shaken. A recent creation, America is exorcising its own fragility through the conjugal offences of its leaders. The stakes are only superficially moral: they are above all, political.













































[Posted by WORLDMEETS.US May 4, 6:00pm]