Skip to main content

Are men stupid?

By Frida Ghitis, Special to CNN
updated 5:40 PM EDT, Mon April 23, 2012
Former Sen. John Edwards leaves the courthouse after the first day of jury selection in his trial in Greensboro, North Carolina.
Former Sen. John Edwards leaves the courthouse after the first day of jury selection in his trial in Greensboro, North Carolina.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Frida Ghitis: Secret Service scandal is latest example of career-ending misbehavior
  • She says men in positions of power and prominence risk everything
  • John Edwards, a former presidential candidate, is on trial due to his misjudgment
  • Ghitis: The common cause is arrogance, the belief they can get away with it

Editor's note: Frida Ghitis is a world affairs columnist for The Miami Herald and World Politics Review. A former CNN producer/correspondent, she is the author of "The End of Revolution: A Changing World in the Age of Live Television."

(CNN) -- Are men stupid? How else can we explain the endless parade of otherwise successful individuals, who by all appearances seem intelligent and competent, and yet risk destroying their careers and their personal lives over the chance to have a sexual escapade?

John Edwards crashing from the heights of promise to infamy, from presidential candidate to defendant in a trial after a secret affair; Secret Service agents ending their careers in disgrace over dalliances with prostitutes in Colombia, all join that long procession of men who managed to self-destruct, pulling a pin on the grenade of their careers and perhaps their personal lives for the sake of a little fun.

The pageant of legacy-killing misjudgment includes a president, several might-have-been presidents, a few governors, a World Bank director, a former Dutch prime minister, an Israeli president and one of the top golfers of all time. And that is only a partial list.

Frida Ghitis
Frida Ghitis

How to explain it?

The question has baffled women, mostly, since biblical times.

Perhaps the Secret Service agents thought their behavior, if discovered, would raise no eyebrows. But the stupidity was in evidence when one of the agents, who had earlier "protected" Sarah Palin, posted on Facebook that he was "checking her out." Sounds like the claim of a 13-year-old boy. And the decision to post the comment displays the common sense of an 8-year-old.

But that level of maturity and judgment shines compared to the decision of, say President Bill Clinton, who risked his presidency to have an affair with Monica Lewinsky, and then lied about it repeatedly.

A brilliant man, everyone said about the president, but also one of only two presidents in American history impeached.

The Clinton experience almost numbed us to the epidemic scale of the problem. Over and over we hear stories that defy belief.

Men whose lives are filled with gifts and opportunity, men who have worked hard to achieve, risk it all and sometimes lose it all.

There's Edwards, of course, he of the winning smile, the heart-warming marriage, the beautiful children, and the gorgeous hair, still young enough to contemplate another run at the White House, now facing prison time after revelations that he had an affair, a child, and a complicated and foolish coverup during the last campaign

Another who might have reached the presidency, had he not succumbed to the same meltdown of reason is former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, the law and order guy who threw it all away to cavort with prostitutes. He might have known someone would take relish in turning him in.

Some try to explain it as biology, testosterone's fault, they say. Others blame complex psychological needs. "The appeal of hookers lies in the temporary psychic relief they supply to men struggling with conflicts about guilt and responsibility," wrote psychologist Michael Bader.

But I believe the common denominator, the proximate cause of the irrational behavior, is arrogance; the belief by some powerful men that they can get away with it. That the world is still their unchallenged domain, as it was years ago, when few people knew about a president bringing women to the White House to have sex, as John F. Kennedy did, or pressuring his secretary to yield to sexual advances, as was common. It is willful ignorance that the world has changed.

The sudden-IQ-drop syndrome affects Democrats and Republicans, Americans and Europeans, people of all colors and professions.

Did Tiger Woods think nobody would even learn about his affairs, with more than a dozen alleged relationships?

Did former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, a Republican, who couldn't come up with an excuse so he simply disappeared to meet his Argentinian lover, think no one would find out?

Then there's the Democratic congressman who might have become mayor of New York. Anthony Weiner's tweeting ranks near the top of the stupidity charts.

But the competition is arduous. Republican Christopher Lee answered a Craigslist ad with a photograph of his flexed biceps, describing himself as a "fit fun classy guy."

Across the Atlantic, the man who almost everyone expected to become the next president of France, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, head of the International Monetary Fund, married to a multi-millionaire, may or may not have assaulted a maid at his New York hotel. (DSK denied the charges and the criminal case against him was dropped by prosecutors. He is seeking dismissal of a civil suit.) He now is under investigation in connection with procuring prostitutes for parties, a crime under French law.

The former Dutch Prime Minister, Ruud Lubbers, called it a "friendly gesture" after a woman accused him of "grabbing her behind." Lubbers had served as prime minister of the Netherlands, crowning a stellar career with a post as U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, when the accusations came. A U.N. investigation found no proof, but discovered a pattern of sexual harassment by the commissioner, which he also denied.

That we're finding out about these men, and that their political careers are in many cases ending, is a sign that society is changing. That it continues to happen, to seemingly intelligent, disciplined individuals, is a sign that the process will be slow. And that, in the final analysis, if it has to do with sex, some men really are stupid.

Follow us on Twitter: @CNNOpinion

Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Frida Ghitis.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 9:11 AM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
John Sutter: Bad news, guys -- the pangolin we adopted is missing.
updated 8:52 AM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Ben Wildavsky says we need a better way to determine whether colleges are turning out graduates with superior education and abilities.
updated 6:26 AM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Charles Maclin, program manager working on the search and recovery of Malaysia Flight 370, explains how it works.
updated 8:50 AM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Jill Koyama says Michael Bloomberg is right to tackle gun violence, but we need to go beyond piecemeal state legislation.
updated 2:45 PM EDT, Thu April 17, 2014
Michael Bloomberg and Shannon Watts say Americans are ready for sensible gun laws, but politicians are cowed by the NRA. Everytown for Gun Safety will prove the NRA is not that powerful.
updated 9:28 AM EDT, Thu April 17, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says Steve Israel is right: Some Republicans encourage anti-Latino prejudice. But that kind of bias is not limited to the GOP.
updated 7:23 PM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Peggy Drexler counts the ways Phyllis Schlafly's argument that lower pay for women helps them nab a husband is ridiculous.
updated 12:42 PM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Rick McGahey says Rep. Paul Ryan is signaling his presidential ambitions by appealing to hard core Republican values
updated 11:39 AM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Paul Saffo says current Google Glasses are doomed to become eBay collectibles, but they are only the leading edge of a surge in wearable tech that will change our lives
updated 2:49 PM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
Kathleen Blee says the KKK and white power or neo-Nazi groups give haters the purpose and urgency to use violence.
updated 7:56 AM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse and Rep. Henry Waxman say read deep, and you'll see the federal Keystone pipeline report spells out the pipeline is bad news
updated 7:53 AM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Frida Ghitis says President Obama needs to stop making empty threats against Russia and consider other options
updated 5:29 PM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
Peter Bergen and David Sterman say the Kansas Jewish Center killings are part of a string of lethal violence in the U.S. that outstrips al Qaeda-influenced attacks. Why don't we pay more attention?
updated 7:56 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
Most adults make the mistakes of hitting the snooze button and of checking emails first thing in the morning, writes Mel Robbins
updated 1:54 PM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
David Wheeler says as middle-class careers continue to disappear, we need a monthly cash payment to everyone
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT