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Hollande’s affair no surprise

Posted: January 23, 2014 9:21 a.m.
Updated: January 24, 2014 5:00 a.m.

In France, where adultery on the part of public officials is often met with a wink and a nod, President Francoise Hollande is under fire after the revelation of his long-term affair with an actress.

In the past, about the only thing the French people would forgive faster than a president’s affair was a soldier who fled in the heat of battle.

Or surrendered.

But now, Hollande, 59, is taking heat for his tryst with 41-year-old actress Julie Gayet.

It’s a soap-opera script:  Hollande’s long-term girlfriend, Valerie Trieweiler, was hospitalized after suffering a breakdown upon learning of the affair, then tweeted thanks to her supporters when she left the hospital.

Trieweiler’s been serving as the first lady of France -- maybe first girlfriend would be more accurate -- but it turns out Hollande and Gavet have been getting it on for a couple years.

French citizens were more upset with Hollande’s indifferent handling of the revelation than with the affair itself. 

After all, it was no big deal a few years ago when it was learned that then-president Francois Mitterand had a daughter with his mistress.

But of course there are lots of wayward men -- and women -- in this country as well as France. Adultery’s about as old as prostitution.

Many of our presidents have strayed, few more often than John F. Kennedy, whose beautiful wife and two little children didn’t deter him from multiple dalliances.

His indiscretions haven’t seemed to hurt him too much in the court of public opinion.

But in general, Europeans have been more tolerant of hanky-panky among their high officials, probably because the tabloids there consider it fair game, whereas here, politicians’ private lives were off limits.

Of course, Bill Clinton changed all that with his escapades, especially the one involving Monica Lewinsky.

Did he commit adultery with her or didn’t he? I’ll let you decide.

Lyndon Johnson was also said to be a lady’s man, and if power is intoxicating, as the old saying goes, it’s no wonder that presidents have often been able to lure lots of women into their beds, though in most cases not much luring was needed.

Charles Lindbergh, perhaps the biggest hero this country’s ever known following his solo flight across the Atlantic in 1927, carried on secret affairs with three European women, fathering seven illegitimate children in the process, while he was married and residing in the states, living a secret life that wasn’t revealed until decades after his death.

Turns out that long term, flying solo just wasn’t in the cards for him.

And speaking of across the sea, affairs among European heads of state have been a long-established tradition which carries on through today.

In Italy, Silvio Belusconi served three terms as prime minster despite all sorts of indiscretions, financial as well as romantic.

Voters there ignored the fact that he was an habitual criminal defendant, convicted tax evader and Lothario. After leaving office he was convicted of paying for sex with an under-aged prostitute.

Noted author Kurt Vonnegut once wrote, “My own feeling is that if adultery is wickedness, then so is food. Both make me feel so much better afterwards.”

Here in the U.S., there’s even a web site, Ashleymadison.com, which helps married people put together adulterous affairs.

One Camden man, who followed his father’s footsteps through multiple extra-marital adventures, once explained to a friend that adultery “is in my genes.”

I’d never heard that explanation before, and maybe there is indeed a genetic disposition towards straying. Don’t know about that.

But in France, President Hollande is finding out that every affair of the heart isn’t routine. Next thing you know, French soldiers will actually be issued bullets.

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