Powerful Men with Powerful Flaws

Arnold Schwarzenegger's revelation about his long-term  affair with his household employee that involved a child being born is the latest in a string of powerful men with career ending flaws.  Add to that the  shocking arrest this week of powerful Dominique Strauss-Kahn for allegedly raping a hotel maid and we must ask, "What the heck is going on with these guys?"

 I can't count the number of heartfelt apologies that have been rendered to the press by wandering husbands, as their beautiful wives stood quietly by.  Think back to a few; Jimmy Swaggert, Ted Haggard, President Clinton, Tiger Woods, Jim Baker, Gary Hart, Gov. Mark Sanford, Cong. Gary Condit, Gov. Elliot Spitzer. Sen John Edwards, Newt Gingrich...the list goes on and on.  What is it about these men of power that they take such risks with their family and career? Are powerful people more likely to cheat than men who aren't in the spotlight?

One study published in Psychological Science claims the likelihood of infidelity increases the more powerful someone is.  The study looked at 1,561 readers of a Dutch business magazine and found that the higher someone was in the hierarchy, the greater the chance that they had cheated on their partner or intended to do so in the future.  The authors believe it is linked to confidence- the more power both men and women had, the confident they were and the more likely they were to cheat.

When powerful men risk everything with careless behavior, it can't be explained away by just saying they were confident.  If you add in arrogance and a sense of superiority, you might be on to something.  Perhaps powerful men believe they can do things that other mortals are forbidden to do.  After all, they are special. Their egos are fed constantly.  Most of them have hoards of hangers-on and "yes-men" around them and where ever they go they are treated with respect and awe.  Power and money go together and these are men that do not worry about things we mere-mortals do.  They go first class for everything and that also can mean taking what they want, when they want it.

The recklessness and risk-taking are beyond the imagination, yet they do it repeatedly, thinking they are above the law.  Breaking the rules may be an immediate thrill, but the long term consequences are felt by their wives, supporters and constituents.

I think John Edwards summed it up in his self-examining statement on ABC's Nightline:

"This is what happened," he told a stone-faced Bob Woodruff. "I grew up as a small town boy in North Carolina. And I came from nothing, worked very hard, dreamed that I'd be able to do something hopeful and helpful to other people with my life. I became a lawyer. Through a lot of work and success, I gained some acclaim as a lawyer. People were telling me, 'Oh you're such a great person, such a great lawyer, such a talent. You're gonna go—there's no telling what you'll do.' And this was when I was 30, 31 years old. Then I went from being a senator— young senator—to being considered for vice president, running for president, being a vice presidential candidate, becoming a national public figure. All of which fed a self-focus, an egotism, a narcissism that leads you to believe that, that you can do whatever you want. You're invincible. And there will be no consequences."


gradydoctor said…
Dang.This really stinks. I guess that's all I have to say on that.

Thanks for this post.
Anonymous said…
The long term affects are also felt by their children. If they have trust or fear of commitment issues when in their own relationships and when deciding on to get married or not and questioning the value of marriage in reality. I wonder after they are caught and it is over if any of them deep down inside regret what they lost?
This world of ours is a huge "Clown Alley" a "Disneyland " for adults .
My advice ....cut them off ...so they can concentrate on serious work
Anonymous said…
Is the Terminator former Governator going to go to sex addiction treatment
therapy now? I'm sure the lack of respect, commitment, morals, betrayal and painful hurt,and disregard, for Maria Shriver feels much deeper then thinking "this really stinks".
mahjong said…
Arnold Schwarzenegger was a truly powerful man in many ways. His personal flaws of fear of failure and uncontrollable anger do not allow him true greatness.
Anonymous said…
While I do believe that power makes it easier for men/women to cheat (power attracts opposite/same sex possible partners), I don't think they cheat more than regular-joes... many should look in their own homes/mirrors before they judge these guys/gals. It is, IMHO, a very small percentage of society that is truly faithful...
One of few comments John Edwards made that I agree with.
Mrs/Dr. T said…
Interesting research study on this topic! It would seem to me that any man (or woman) in the public eye should make a conscious decision to maintain their integrity and credibility by not getting involved in infidelity...given the media seems to sniff out any indiscretion at some point. Perhaps the risk is just worth the potential consequences for these people. Then again, I am not A) a powerful egomaniac, B) unhappily married, or C) with testosterone.
Anonymous said…
I think more along the lines of the "risk is worth it to them". I think the high they get from either the risk or the act itself far outweighs the rational brain's thought of consequences.
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