There have been numerous glaring scandals involving ranking political figures in this country in recent history. The scandal involving David Petraeus, former Director of the CIA, and an extramarital affair helps bring forth some interesting observations. Petraeus resigned last week, citing the affair as his reasoning. But, one might wonder, why exactly is an affair grounds for resignation or removal from such a post? While objectionable, does this moral oversight necessarily make one unable to perform his or her job?
The Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky affair is likely the most popular example of one of these scandals originating from the last 20 years. Following the affair with Lewinsky, the United States House of Representatives impeached Clinton. While charges in Clinton’s impeachment trial were formally perjury, obstruction of justice and abuse of power, it was obvious that the trial was focused more on the sexual nature of the affair than any type of legal wrongdoing.
The United States Senate eventually acquitted Clinton of the charges, but whispers of judgment still remained. Clinton’s actions were certainly improper, but illegal, no. And in no way did they warrant removal from office.
Petraeus’ situation seems no different from Clinton’s. While information is still being gathered on the Petraeus case, it appears that the now-resigned CIA director left his post simply and only because of the leaked story regarding the affair. I by no means condone having an affair, but it seems improper to force a man to remove himself from his job because he made an erroneous judgment in regard to his personal life. No matter how sordid or bland, one’s home life has little, if anything, to do with one’s ability to successfully complete their work assignments.
If Petraeus’ affair was obviously affecting his ability to complete his job, then, and only then, do his actions become grounds for removal from his post.
We are far too likely to equate a man’s relationship failures to his ability to act in regard to his employment. Sexual affairs are surely inappropriate and definitely morally ambiguous, but they are little more than that. An extramarital affair is an event that should be dealt with by all parties involved, not by an employer and a media circus. Bill Clinton was, by all means, an excellent President. The Lewinsky scandal did not seem to hinder the success of the presidency. While it may have very likely hindered the Clintons’ marriage, that is of no interest to me.
I have little room to care about the health of anyone’s “sacred” union. Instead, my attention is on whether or not someone can manage a country or keep a government agency running.