The whole country is talking about David Petraeus and the recent events that led to his resignation.
In not so original fashion, Petraeus became one of many public figures that has been caught having extramarital affairs. To name a few, there’s Bill Clinton and John F. Kennedy. America is no stranger to cheating men.
The interesting question is whether or not our country is handling these situations properly. In general, these men that are caught are shunned from society. They are publicly humiliated and forced to leave their respective position. While marriage is a sacred thing and in all fairness anyone who cheats on his or her spouse deserves humiliation, do they really need to step down from their duties?
If every man that ever cheated on their wife left his job then the unemployment rate would skyrocket. But why is it so important when a public official cheats that he resigns?
The answer that is most plausible is that the country tries to save face. What kind of society would we be if we allowed unfaithful men to keep their highly respected positions? The answer is a rational one.
The idea that Petraeus must step down from his CIA director position really has no merit behind it. Patraeus served the United States military for over 37 years, ending as a 4 star general who oversaw all alliance forces in Iraq as the 10th Commander, U.S. Central Command and Commanding General, Multi-National Force-Iraq. His accomplishments and accolades are too numerous to list in a weekly editorial, and cover his chest almost entirely in uniform. Patraeus had been a refreshing realist during his time in Iraq, careful to make the distinction between victory and progress, and carried out his job with a sense of humanity that is often overlooked. He served the U.S. as Director of the CIA beginning in early 2011 and did so with the same work ethic and attention he showed the Army.
Given all that Patraeus has done for the nation, and even some would say the world, can we say that it is in the U.S.’s best interest to have him step down from the CIA? He did send in his own resignation to President Obama, but under immense pressure and scrutiny, not to mention what was said behind closed doors in the Pentagon and White House that we will never hear.
Our society needs to ask itself if one’s personal life should really have as much bearing as it does on their profession. Does the fact that Patraeus cheated on his wife influence his ability to direct the CIA? No.
Yet every time a public figure is involved in some sort of scandal the first reaction from the public is that he should step down or be fired. What Patraeus did was clearly wrong. But his punishment should solely be dictated by his wife. If she chooses to divorce him then that’s her business. If she decides to stand by him as Hilary Clinton did then, again, it’s her decision.
It isn’t in this country’s best interest to get involved with the intricate details of every public official’s personal life, that’s why it’s called personal. If we continue to force overly qualified officials to relinquish their title, we face the risk of the replacements we are left with failing to fill their shoes, all in the name of an intact marriage.