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 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 12:41 PM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
Danny Cevallos says families of the passengers on Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 need legal counsel
updated 11:23 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
David Frum says Russia is on a rampage of mischief while Western leaders and Western alliances charged with keeping the peace hem and haw
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
updated 7:55 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
Democrats need to show more political spine when it comes to the issue of taxes.
updated 11:55 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
Donna Brazile recalls the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act as four presidents honored the heroes of the movement and Lyndon Johnson, who signed the law
updated 9:17 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
Elmer Smith remembers Chuck Stone, the legendary journalist from Philadelphia who was known as a thorn in the side of police and an advocate for the little guy
updated 2:56 PM EDT, Sun April 13, 2014
Al Franken says Comcast, the nation's largest cable provider, wants to acquire Time Warner Cable, the nation's second-largest cable provider. Should we be concerned?
updated 11:22 AM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
Philip Cook and Kristin Goss says the Pennsylvania stabbing attack, which caused grave injury -- but not death, carries a lesson on guns for policymakers
updated 3:06 PM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
Wikipedia lists 105 football movies, but all too many of them are forgettable, writes Mike Downey
updated 10:32 AM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
John Sutter and hundreds of iReporters set out to run marathons after the bombings -- and learned a lot about the culture of running
updated 12:49 PM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
Timothy Stanley says it was cowardly to withdraw the offer of an honorary degree to Ayaan Hirsi Ali. The university should have done its homework on her narrow views and not made the offer
updated 10:16 AM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
Al Awlaki
Almost three years after his death in a 2011 CIA drone strike in Yemen, Anwar al-Awlaki continues to inspire violent jihadist extremists in the U.S, writes Peter Bergen
updated 9:21 PM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
David Bianculli says Colbert is a smart, funny interviewer, but ditching his blowhard persona to take over the mainstream late-night role may cost him fans
updated 1:31 PM EDT, Thu April 10, 2014
Rep. Paul Ryan says the Republican budget places its trust in the people, not in Washington
updated 5:28 PM EDT, Thu April 10, 2014
Aaron David Miller says Obama isn't to blame for Kerry's lack of progress in resolving Mideast talks
updated 11:22 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
David Weinberger says beyond focusing on the horrors of the attack a year ago, it's worth remembering the lessons it taught about strength, the dangers of idle speculation and Boston's solidarity
updated 12:32 PM EDT, Thu April 10, 2014
Katherine Newman says the motive for the school stabbing attack in Pennsylvania is not yet known, but research on such rampages turns up similarities in suspects and circumstances
updated 7:03 AM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
Simon Tisdall: Has John Kerry's recent track record left Russia's wily leader ever more convinced of U.S. weakness?
updated 12:40 PM EDT, Thu April 10, 2014
Mel Robbins says Nate Scimio deserves credit for acting bravely in a frightening attack and shouldn't be criticized for posting a selfie afterward
updated 2:39 PM EDT, Wed April 9, 2014
Wendy Townsend says the Rattlesnake Roundup -- where thousands of pounds of snakes are killed and tormented -- is barbaric
updated 9:45 AM EDT, Thu April 10, 2014
Dr. Mary Mulcahy says doctors who tell their patients the truth risk getting bad ratings from them
updated 9:28 AM EDT, Wed April 9, 2014
Peggy Drexler says the married Rep. McAllister, caught on video making out with a staffer, won't get a pass from voters who elected him as a Christian conservative with family values
updated 7:43 AM EDT, Wed April 9, 2014
David Frum says the president has failed to react strongly to crises in Iran, Syria, Ukraine and Venezuela, encouraging others to act out
updated 4:57 PM EDT, Wed April 9, 2014
Eric Liu says Paul Ryan gets it very wrong: The U.S.'s problem is not a culture of poverty, it is a culture of wealth that is destroying the American value linking work and reward
updated 7:51 AM EDT, Wed April 9, 2014
Frida Ghitis writes: "We are still seeing the world mostly through men's eyes. We are still hearing it explained to us mostly by men."
updated 10:08 AM EDT, Thu April 10, 2014
Chester Wisniewski says the Heartbleed bug shows how we're all tangled together, relying on each other for Internet security
updated 3:26 PM EDT, Wed April 9, 2014
Danny Cevallos says an Ohio school that suspended a little kid for pointing his finger at another kid and pretending to shoot shows the growth in "zero tolerance" policies at school run amok
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT