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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

EUROFILE: VIEW FROM AMERICA: 'Alpha Males' Are Clinton's Biggest Fans




Jerrold Nadler knew where duty lay Saturday when his colleague, Bob Livingston, resigned from the House of Representatives after confessing to adultery. Nadler, a Democrat from Manhattan, promptly rose on the House floor to denounce "a developing sexual McCarthyism."


His horrified reaction was a faithful representation of his constituents' sentiments - or at least those of the older male ones. Nadler was standing up for an island whose economy would be in shambles if every adulterous male executive had to resign. The only place with a greater need for disaster relief would be Hollywood where movie star Jack Nicholson has been spearheading the president's defense.


Unlike his counterpart in Washington, the New York adulterer is not even required to feign shame. The prototypical image of the Washington alpha male these days is a grim-faced President Clinton contemplating his shoes while his wife stands awkwardly at his side. The New York equivalent is a smiling Donald Trump, sans any of his ex-wives, waving at the cameras as he enters a party with a 21-year-old model.


The city's modern male ethos was summed up in a 1970s drawing by Tom Wolfe titled "The Birds and the Bees." It's a Norman Rockwell kind of scene - a puzzled boy sitting in a duck blind with his father, a square-jawed fellow who looks to be a corporate titan.


"No, no, son, that's not how it works," the father says. "When you're 45 or 50, you'll get a new wife, a young one, a girl in her twenties."


"What happens to the old one?" the son asks.


"Well, she opens up a needlepoint shop and sells yarn to her friends and joins a discussion group."


New York, like Washington and Hollywood, is an adultery capital because it has so many attractive young women and so many successful older men. The New York males who win the struggles for money, power and fame have a sense of entitlement: If you can make it here, you can trade it for sex here.


They have reacted to the Clinton scandal by arguing that adultery should be a private matter, which is reasonable if that means it's not something to be legislated or prosecuted.


But there's no use pretending that adultery is not a social problem, or that the press has been fixated on a "trivial" sex scandal. President Clinton's libido exemplifies what is perhaps the most profound problem facing any society. The male instinct to philander has been a perpetual source of misery for women, children and non-alpha males.


Some groups have avoided hypocrisy by allowing rich older men to acquire young new wives - polygamy, the free-market approach - but that can lead to unhappy older wives and neglected children. It also leaves what anthropologists call bachelor herds: a lot of young, poor men without mates, prone to working out their frustrations through violence and crime.


Monogamy, the socialist approach, has never worked either. As long as men have run societies, they've generally allowed one another to discreetly break the rules. More recently, men like Donald Trump and Ronald Perelman have adopted a new form of marriage, serial polygamy - many wives, one at a time - which is possibly the worst system of all.


To New York's alpha males, Livingston's resignation may seem a mysterious Washington ritual, as exotic as a samurai warrior killing himself over an imperceptible grievance.


John Tierney is a columnist for The New York Times