Skip to main content

A Private Affair?

Knowledge of public officals' personal lives is frequently thought to tell us something useful about their moral fitness to hold their jobs. But there is often little correlation between the two.

Can a public figure have a private life? Recent events in three countries have highlighted the importance of this question.

In the French presidential election, both candidates tried to keep their domestic life separate from their campaign. Ségolène Royal is not married to François Hollande, the father of her four children. When asked whether they were a couple, Royal replied, “Our lives belong to us.” Similarly, in response to rumors that President-elect Nicholas Sarkozy’s wife had left him, a spokesman for Sarkozy said, “That’s a private matter.”

The French have a long tradition of respecting the privacy of their politicians’ personal lives, and French public opinion is more broad-minded than in the United States, where an unwed mother of four would have no chance of being nominated for the presidency by a major party. Indeed, last month, Randall Tobias, the top foreign aid adviser in the US State Department, resigned after acknowledging that he had used an escort service described as providing “high-end erotic fantasy” – although Tobias said he only had a massage.

We hope you're enjoying Project Syndicate.

To continue reading, subscribe now.

Subscribe

Get unlimited access to PS premium content, including in-depth commentaries, book reviews, exclusive interviews, On Point, the Big Picture, the PS Archive, and our annual year-ahead magazine.

https://prosyn.org/xPNcviE;
  1. bildt69_DELIL SOULEIMANAFP via Getty Images_syriansoldiermissilegun Delil Souleiman/AFP/Getty Images

    Time to Bite the Bullet in Syria

    Carl Bildt

    US President Donald Trump's impulsive decision to pull American troops out of northern Syria and allow Turkey to launch a military campaign against the Kurds there has proved utterly disastrous. But a crisis was already inevitable, given the realities on the ground and the absence of a coherent US or Western policy in Syria.

    2

Cookies and Privacy

We use cookies to improve your experience on our website. To find out more, read our updated Cookie policy, Privacy policy and Terms & Conditions