"You are obsessed," said my publisher, my fellow journalists, my family, when I covered the 2004 election campaign for the next U.S. president - George W. Bush or John Kerry - for my newspaper Liberation, and ended up writing a book called "Chronicles of the Sex War in America." Obsessed? Not me. America was at war (in Iraq ), in depression (unemployment rising ), had not emerged from its post-traumatic stress disorder after 9/11, yet what were political speeches, live TV debates and newspaper editorials talking about? Sex.
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Sexual issues such as for/against gay marriage, for/against abortion, for/against embryonic stem cell research, for/against showing Janet Jackson's breast at the Super Bowl. Politics had been invaded by sex.
It had happened before, of course, in 1998, with the brilliant Monica reality show featuring Bill Clinton, sitting next to Yasser Arafat (yes! ) at a news conference at the White House about the Middle East peace process, forced to deny he had a sexual relationship with the young intern and asked her to lie about it. Sex was not the problem, lying under oath was - totally illegal for a president.
In America at the beginning of the 21st century, the dividing line was not Democrat or Republican, rich or poor, white or dark, but for or against so-called "moral values": America for families and religion and conservatism and prudishness on one side, America for sexual freedom and individual freedom on the other.
Poor John Kerry did not get it and kept talking about unemployment while George W. kept using the red flag of gay marriage. Kerry lost and Bush junior spent another quiet four years in the White House.
Puritanism striking back? Not really. America has long been suffering from a serious case of moral schizophrenia. It always seems shocked to discover that the political leaders of the Moral Majority have adulterous affairs, or that Mr. President has time to have sex in the Oval Office, but afterward the wives look sorry, smile at the cameras and political life resumes as usual.
And now for the latest famous Manhattan sex court case. America (and not only America ) loves to follow one more sex-and-politics drama, this time not involving a real president, as in the Clinton episode, but a future president - almost as exciting, especially if it is the future president of those arrogant Frenchies (more interesting, it seems, than a president of Israel being accused and convicted of rape ).
The first stage of the trial in Manhattan hardly started 10 days ago, and right away a new political sex scandal pops up on the American media scene: Rep. Anthony Weiner, a Democrat, candidate for mayor of New York, is accused of sending "explicit" pictures of himself to female internet friends he is having "e-relationships" with. On top of that, Weiner just married Hillary Clinton's closest aide, Huma Abedin - who, irony of ironies, supported the then-First Lady through the troubled times of the Monica reality show. But ultimately Americans are more entertained than offended by the long series of "fatal attractions between politics and sex" - good stories without dramatic endings. As long there is no crime in the script.
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