Letter: Consider: Is marital infidelity incompatible with public trust?The recent disclosure of marital infidelity and subsequent resignation of respected CIA Chief and retired four-star Gen. David Petraeus prompts reflection on ethical standards today and yesterday, here and around the world.
By: David Harris, The Republican Eagle
To the Editor:
The recent disclosure of marital infidelity and subsequent resignation of respected CIA Chief and retired four-star Gen. David Petraeus prompts reflection on ethical standards today and yesterday, here and around the world.
Did Petraeus’ private indiscretions make him inevitably unfit for public trust? Was President Obama’s unquestioning acceptance of his resignation, after overnight consideration, really necessary? Are soldiers less likely to follow the commands of an officer if they know he has committed adultery?
At a time when most Minnesotans are celebrating the defeat of the “Marriage Amendment,” is faithfulness to one’s spouse, regardless of sex, seen as a necessary qualification for public office?
In one sense, these questions were answered for observant Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Americans by the double Biblical injunctions in the Ten Commandments: “Thou shall not commit adultery” and “Thou shall not covet thy neighbor’s wife.”
And yet King David remained in power despite consummating his lust for the married Bathsheba, not to mention arranging the death of her husband. And Jesus said, “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.”
Despite the general willingness of Americans to put to rest the argument that descendants of once-polygamous Mormons are not true Christians, the broader tendency to deny public office to those whose sex lives do not conform to Puritan standards persists.
In 1973, early in the women’s liberation movement although late in the long struggle for women’s equality, Erica Jong wrote, “Fear of Flying,” a novel about women’s sexuality and their right to enjoy sex. The real issue with sexual relationships, as with all human interactions, is that no one must be hurt while another is pleasured.
Petraeus deceived his wife. So did Bill Clinton and innumerable other public figures throughout history. But these indiscretions are private and have no direct bearing on their competency in public service, as the Clinton impeachment hearings exemplified.
It would have been wonderful if Petraeus and Mrs. Petraeus could have handled their problems without involving others. No one but President Obama knows exactly what went through his mind before he decided to accept Petraeus’ resignation. Perhaps he could have refused.
No one but CIA subordinates and the soldiers formerly under his command can speak for them as to whether Petraeus’ adultery compromised his effectiveness as a leader. I oppose all war-makers, including our own, but we must not condemn public figures because of private actions.