Why Adultery Sinks
American Leaders - but Not Italian Ones (La Stampa,
"In our country,
no one noticed that Petraeus was found guilty of adultery, and can you imagine
an unfaithful Italian leader apologizing to his wife? Not to mention that
adultery in Italy has not been a crime since 1968, when the Constitutional
Court removed it from the penal code. ... while in Italy we don't look at the 'private
sphere' of an individual, leaving it in the hands of the courts if necessary, Americans
believe that a leader who is married and has public responsibilities, but who
is having an adulterous affair, is unreliable."
The ingredients are all there: the heroic general, his
biographer and lover who sends minatory e-mails
to another woman for forcing her attentions on her man. The threatened woman
who reports this persecution to the CIA, which in opens an investigation. And so
General Petraeus - who is in fact chief of the CIA - is forced to resign.
Obviously the comments on the media were different depending on which shore of
the Atlantic they came from.
Of course, comments in the media were different depending on which side of
the Atlantic you are on.
Take one of the legal touchstones that are often ignored in
the country. As The New York Times reported a few days ago, Washington Law
School professor Peter Nicols quickly noted that the
word "adultery," derived from "to adulterate," indicates a
pollution of the "marital bloodline" which can occur when "a
married woman has sex outside of marriage, running the risk" the professor
notes - "of having another man's child." [translated quotes].
[Editor's Note: There is
no "Washington Law School" and there is no sign of an article in
The New York Times by Professor Peter Nicols].
Others noted that in Virginia, where this Old Testament approach
is still followed and Petraeus lives - and in 22 other states, adultery is
still considered a crime; sometimes a "felony," i.e.: a serious crime
punishable by imprisonment.
In reality, it doesn't seem anyone in the United States is
going to jail for adultery, but the fact that several states still have the
offense in their criminal codes suggest that the classification serves as a
"moral guide" so no one gets the impression that "adultery is
It's no coincidence that in his statement, Petraeus said:
"After being married for over 37 years, I showed extremely poor judgment
by engaging in an extramarital affair," adding that, " Such behavior
is unacceptable, both as a husband and as the leader of an organization such as
ours" - that is, the CIA.
In our country, no one noticed that Petraeus was found
guilty of adultery, and can you imagine an unfaithful Italian leader
apologizing to his wife? Not to mention that adultery in Italy has not been a
crime since 1968, when the Constitutional Court removed it from the penal code.
This overturned its previous 1961 ruling that affirmed its constitutionality, citing
the mental disturbance that the thought of a mother in the arms of a stranger causes
in her children," who, of course, the judges assumed wouldn't be at all perturbed
by a possible adulterous affair by their father.
And again - this is how they thought back then - the judges
reasoned, "the fact that the wife embraces a stranger appeared to the
legislator as a more serious offense than that resulting from the isolated infidelity
of the husband" because of "the risk of introducing into the family
offspring that don't belong to the husband." But please note - this is
Professor Nicols' prose, who wrote the other day about
the "risk of having another man's child" on The New York Times.
It seems clear at this point that the American view, in terms
of marital fidelity, is quite different from the currently held Italian view, but
as we just saw, it isn't so far from that of our constitutional judges temporibusillis [of the
But this diversity, especially from a legal point of view
(let's imagine a Greek tragedy full of lawyers …) must not prevent us from
looking at the substance of things. That is to say, even in hindsight, and
beyond the amorality of his conduct as a “husband,” the fact remains that Petraeus'
resignation as CIA chief was "graciously accepted" by Obama - not as
a sign of obedience to a moral code, but for the very obvious reason that the
general had jeopardized the national security for which he had been entrusted.
Posted by Worldmeets.US
Ultimately, this is the aspect on which American and Italian
approaches differ the most: while in Italy we don't look at the "private
sphere" of an individual, leaving it in the hands of the courts if
necessary, Americans believe that a leader who is married and has public
responsibilities, but who is having an adulterous affair, is unreliable. Not so
much because he is guilty of adultery, but due to the loss of accountability, which
consists of the capacity to answer for his actions in every field, and having the
confidence of his stakeholders - in the case of Petraeus, beginning with his
wife and ending with the president of the United States.