Karen Heller: Strauss-Kahn, Schwarzenegger, Gingrich: Powerful men doing stupid things

Dominique Strauss-Kahn is a French Socialist not averse to a $3,000-a-night hotel suite.
Dominique Strauss-Kahn is a French Socialist not averse to a $3,000-a-night hotel suite. (RICHARD DREW / Associated Press)
Posted: May 22, 2011

Don't sleep with the help.

And by sleep, I mean nothing of the sort.

This is skeevy.

Don't sleep with the maid, especially when she makes it clear she's not interested.

Signs of no interest: torn clothes, bruised skin, calls to cops, lawyers.

Do be kind to the help. This is an entirely different proposition.

But don't proposition the maid. Or the babysitter.

Paying child support will not excuse the situation. Especially when, for more than a decade, you neglected to tell your wife - the mother of your four other children - whose Democratic politics, family's singular legacy, television celebrity, and charitable work to empower women helped you win the California governorship twice while she gave up her own career.

Consensually consorting with the maid is wrong, an abuse of power and position, petty, and, as I mentioned before, skeevy.

Consorting with the maid without her consent is 100 different kinds of wrong. Doing so can win you an all-expenses-paid trip to Rikers Island, a destination that should not be confused with the Hamptons. Being French and powerful will not improve your stay.

More than half the French surveyed in a recent poll believe former International Monetary Fund chief and Socialist presidential hopeful Dominique Strauss-Kahn - or DSK, as he is known there - was set up.

This rampant belief that DSK is the victim demonstrates that several million Frenchmen can be wrong - as they are about Heaven's Gate, Jerry Lewis, Mickey Rourke, and the pervasive allure of eating animal innards.

Some Americans seem shocked that DSK can be a Socialist yet live extremely well, staying in a $3,000-a-night hotel suite. This astonishment shows a lack of knowledge about European intellectuals and the "caviar left," the do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do proclivities that let nothing, especially political philosophy, get in the way of living well. In the world of men like DSK, it is entirely possible to champion the rights of the less powerful while routinely abusing power with women in subservient positions.

Sometimes - OK, often - powerful men do stupid things. Perhaps power makes them stupid. They operate in an echo chamber of lies from peers and the insincere blandishments of subordinates, which imbues them with a false sense of infallibility - much like a third drink, or, for that matter, wife.

Consider Newt Gingrich. The liaison with his third wife, herself a subordinate (at the office), was initiated while he was still married to his second.

Do not sleep with the office help, either.

His relationship with the second wife began while Gingrich was still married to his first, which he might argue, with complete conviction, shows a pattern of consistency. Then again, when a man marries his mistress, he creates a job opportunity.

Feeling infallible, the powerful man still married to his second wife while auditioning his third might help shut down the U.S. government because he got a lousy seat assignment on the long Air Force One flight home from an Israeli state funeral. Later, he might play a central role in impeaching the president, who lied about adultery, while committing adultery himself.

Most of us call this hypocrisy. Gingrich labels this patriotism. "There's no question at times of my life," the presidential hopeful said this year of his most recent affair, "partially driven by how passionately I felt about this country, that I worked far too hard and things happened in my life that were not appropriate."

Who told a "family values" Republican yet serial adulterer he would make a fine president?

By the way, you cannot claim to be a "fiscal conservative" when you owe Tiffany's as much as half a million dollars on a house charge account.

The perilous fall of powerful men, engineered by their own behavior, seems mythical. Consult Samson, or Icarus. Then again, it's hard to consider these men mythical, even if they see themselves this way - and Arnold Schwarzenegger, a former Mr. Universe, looks that way - because the bad behavior happens all the time. It's comic. A cartoon.

Which is precisely where Schwarzenegger envisioned his next move, serving as the inspiration for "the Governator" cartoon, working with Marvel Comics titan Stan Lee. The children's series planned to "use Schwarzenegger's personal life for comic effect," the Los Angeles Times reported. In addition to crime fighting, the Governator "has to remember his anniversary, his kids' birthdays," while the family adventures would bring "a secondary level of comedy and warmth to the story." Yes, but which family? Which kid's birthday?

Denial is a powerful part of the problem. Even after the scandal erupted, plans were still in the works for Schwarzenegger to continue reviving his Hollywood career. He felt invincible, like the two-dimensional superheroes he's long played. By Friday, Schwarzenegger had put those career plans on hold.

"This could really alienate the female viewing public," University of Southern California business professor Mark Young told the Los Angeles Times. "The whole notion of being a role model seems to have disappeared."

Uh, yeah. Which brings us back to where we started.

Don't sleep with the help.


Karen Heller:

Sex, France, and clues amid abuse of power.

Dick Polman, Currents, C1.

 


Contact columnist Karen Heller at 215-854-2586, kheller@phillynews.com, or @kheller on Twitter. Read the blog "Blinq" at www.philly.com/ blinq. Read her past columns at www.philly.com/KarenHeller

 

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