In the National Post, Kelly McParland contrasts the French reaction to affairs on the part of public officials with the American reaction:
In Paris they must be busily turning the pages now, looking for the rest of the story. Yes, OK, he had an affair … and? You mean that’s it? He didn’t murder her? Have three children that he kept in a secret location away from the press? Involve her in sex games with crowds of similarly liberated-minded partners? They had an affair and he has to quit as head of the CIA? Mon dieu, these Americans. Four hundred years in the New World and they’ve barely moved on from the Puritans. Look, they’re even shocked that the other woman appeared on television “sporting bare, toned arms”. What did they expect, a chador?
France has moved on marginally from the days when President Francois Mitterrand could have a whole secret second family, and no one mentioned it in public because it wouldn’t be polite. Now the press leaps happily onto news of sexual licence in the halls of power. Unlike the U.S., they just don’t condemn it, as long as no one is physically abused. The latest instance – they don’t even use the world scandal, because in France it isn’t — relates to the former justice minister, Rachida Dati, who is suing one of the country’s wealthiest men to try and force him to admit he’s the father of her new daughter. The case is a bit complicated because, as Ms. Dati attests, she has “a complicated private life.” That would include, according to the attorney for Dominique Desseigne, the alleged father, having eight lovers in the year she fell pregnant, “including a television broadcaster, a minister, a Qatari attorney-general and a brother of the former president Mr Sarkozy,” reports the French newspaper Le Monde.
Nicolas Sarkozy was the president at the time, and Ms. Dati’s boss. He wasn’t likely to be butting into her private life, though, having given up his own wife in favour of singer/model Carla Bruni. Ms. Bruni has recently been offering marital advice – as in “get married for Cripe sakes” – to Valerie Trierweiler, current First Partner-for-a-While to President Francois Hollande, who has four children by a previous Main Partner, Ségolène Royal. (Ms. Royal is only a Main Partner rather than a First Partner because Hollande wasn’t president at the time.) Dumping the mother of your four children for an uppity newspaper columnist like Ms. Trierweiler might offend sensibilities, but M. Hollande never married Ms. Royal either, so no big deal. Nonetheless Ms. Trieweiler has become deeply unpopular since moving into the presidential palace, because she refuses to give up her day job as a columnist and because she’s been rude to Ms. Royal. The messy sex stuff has nothing to do with it.
Compared to the Bacchanalia of French politics, the Petraeus “scandal” is like a high-school tiff over who gets to wear the football captain’s pin to the Prom.