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 11:39 AM EDT, Thu October 30, 2014
Mike Downey says the Giants and the Royals both lived through long title droughts. What teams are waiting for a win?
updated 2:32 PM EDT, Thu October 30, 2014
Mel Robbins says if a man wants to talk to a woman on the street, he should follow 3 basic rules.
updated 5:03 PM EDT, Wed October 29, 2014
Peter Bergen and David Sterman say more terrorism plots are disrupted by families than by NSA surveillance.
updated 5:25 PM EDT, Wed October 29, 2014
Time magazine has clearly kicked up a hornet's nest with its downright insulting cover headlined "Rotten Apples," says Donna Brazile.
updated 4:55 PM EDT, Wed October 29, 2014
Leroy Chiao says the failure of the launch is painful but won't stop the trend toward commercializing space.
updated 7:45 AM EDT, Wed October 29, 2014
Timothy Stanley: Though Jeb Bush has something to offer, another Bush-Clinton race would be a step backward.
updated 8:37 AM EDT, Tue October 28, 2014
Errol Louis says forced to choose between narrow political advantage and the public good, the governors showed they are willing to take the easy way out over Ebola.
updated 2:03 PM EDT, Mon October 27, 2014
Eric Liu says with our family and friends and neighbors, each one of us must decide what kind of civilization we expect in the United States. It's our responsibility to set tone and standards, with our laws and norms
updated 7:45 AM EDT, Mon October 27, 2014
Sally Kohn says the UNC report highlights how some colleges exploit student athletes while offering little in return
updated 3:04 PM EDT, Sun October 26, 2014
Terrorists don't represent Islam, but Muslims must step up efforts to counter some of the bigotry within the world of Islam, says Fareed Zakaria
updated 9:02 AM EDT, Fri October 24, 2014
Scott Yates says extending Daylight Saving Time could save energy, reduce heart attacks and get you more sleep
updated 8:32 PM EDT, Sun October 26, 2014
Reza Aslan says the interplay between beliefs and actions is a lot more complicated than critics of Islam portray
updated 7:19 AM EDT, Mon October 27, 2014
Julian Zelizer says control of the Senate will be decided by a few close contests
updated 8:12 AM EDT, Fri October 24, 2014
The response of some U.S. institutions that should know better to Ebola has been anything but inspiring, writes Idris Ayodeji Bello.
updated 9:12 AM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Sigrid Fry-Revere says the National Organ Transplant Act has caused more Americans to die waiting for an organ than died in both World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT