ARMS AND THE MEN
Chapman Pincher on why so many
scandal-ridden public figures specialise in military matters
MUCH has been made of President Clin- ton's lack of judgment in indulging so dan- gerously in intramural sexual activities, the inference being that, as Commander-in- Chief of the US Forces, his judgment on crucial military matters can no longer the trusted. Nobody, however, seems to have drawn attention to the Freudianesque fact that close association with weapons, either in the political or military field, seems to make men more prone to sexual stupidi- ties. The several previous US presidents, such as John Kennedy, whose promiscuity is on record, were, ex officio, Commanders- in-Chief, and General Eisenhower's open wartime infidelity is well documented, but it is the British evidence which is really compelling.
Prurient public interest in the sexual habits of politicians dates no further back than 1963, when John Profumo became ensnared in the scandal which was to lead to his tragic resignation from political life and has dogged him ever since. He was war minister, as the army minister was then called, and it was this misfortune that led to spurious security allegations which enabled his Labour opponents to pursue him to destruction. With Labour desperate for office, the attack was led by the army- phile Colonel George Wigg, who, because he had a secret mistress, convinced his col- leagues that they must press the case on security, not moral, grounds. Like Miss Lewinslcy, the girl involved in the case, Christine Keeler, was young, unsophisti- cated and likely to talk, so it was a highly dangerous liaison.
Immediately on becoming prime minis- ter, Harold Wilson gave Wigg special access to MI5 to ensure that any Labour sex scandal could be snuffed out at the first whiff, and there was no major case — apart from fictitious rumours about Wilson himself — until 1973. In that year Lord Lambton, who was minister for the RAF, was exposed as having a liaison with a call- girl married to a criminal. His resignation was inevitable.
Lambton's judgment as a minister was regarded as excellent, but he paid for the call-girl's services by cheque with his name on it. Lord Jellicoe, who was caught up in the Lambton scandal for no sensible rea- son, for he had no real connection with it, was Lord Privy Seal but had been navy minister. Being, perhaps, excessively hon- est, he had confessed his occasional use of call-girls to his whiter-than-white prime minister, Edward Heath, who required his departure.
In my recollection, the only senior civil servant to be publicly involved in a sex scandal was the late Sir James 'Ned' Dun- nett, who had been permanent secretary of the Defence Ministry for eight years. As he explained to me, he had only patronised a prostitute for a 'hand job' but, unfortu- nately, had chosen a creature who went straight to a newspaper and — to Ned's everlasting disbelief — turned out to be a man!
I mentioned these cases, one Saturday evening in 1994, in a warm-up speech I made at a fund-raising meeting to intro- duce the newish minister for the armed forces, the charming Jeremy Hanley, who was the main speaker. I also recalled how the incredibly brave Field Marshal Lord Harding, former chief of the Imperial General Staff, had been required to resign as Gold Stick to the Queen in 1964 because of a silly sexual misdemeanour which had made the newspapers. He had been succeeded in that grand ceremonial role by Lord Mountbatten, chief of the Defence Staff, who enjoyed a varied sex life but chose his partners more discreetly. I mentioned too that, while never involved in serious scandal, the self-confessed sexu- al athlete Alan Clark happened to be min- ister of state for defence procurement for three years. Amid some mirth, I warned Hanley of the special danger which his association with weapons might pose. To everyone's astonishment, the following morning's papers were full of the sad but spicy news that the current Chief of the Defence Staff, Marshal of the RAF Sir Peter Harding, had become embroiled with a lively lady who had blown the details of their affair. His resignation smartly, and sadly, followed.
No other field of political endeavour provides so many examples, so, though it might be coincidental, surely this string of evidence warrants at least one PhD thesis into the question 'Do macho men seek association with weapons and, if so, why?' or 'Does association with weapons make men more macho?'
Of course, the fundamental truth under- lying all these cases is that for most of their years many men in all walks, ways and lay-bys of life are saddled with a demon rider whose digs and lashes must be obeyed if the circumstances permit or can be conveniently created. The mascu- line sex urge is capable of cutting clean across intellect and driving even the most intelligent and ambitious to lay everything on the line — a career created by years of effort, a stable marriage, the welfare of children and the entire future — for a triv- ial encounter which promises to be excit- ing yet clearly carries the risk of ruin and public disgrace. While stimulating the brain and sex organs to want sexual activi- ty, testosterone seems able to swamp the critical faculty of even the toughest and most determined man, so that caution may be discarded.
Men with drive who seek and achieve power may be most likely to be most affected because the heady sense of power corrupts their judgment. Indeed, we have just witnessed the most powerful man in the world driven by his demon rider's abrupt commands to international dis- grace, derision and possible dismissal. Maybe power's corrupting influence on judgment is subconsciously intensified by the responsibility for life and death which decisions concerning weapons of mass destruction inevitably carry.
Perhaps the commonest masculine self- delusion promoting such dangerous activi- ty is the fantasy belief that, as a sexual experience, all women are different, the special attraction of the unknown over the familiar being a major cause of infidelity and promiscuity. There is also the sense of conquest with someone new, especially if the female concerned is young and has already been the subject of fantasies, as may have been the case with the buxom Miss Lewinsky.
The element of danger may itself act as a stimulant. I recall that the editor of a Fleet Street tabloid (not my old paper, the Daily Express, which was then a broad- sheet) regarded copulating with his secre- tary with his office door unlocked as a badge of his courage, boldly claiming that a rival editor, whom he disliked, would not have the guts to do it! In Clinton's case the danger was enhanced because his activities were limited by the fact that any presi- dent's life is under such scrutiny, mainly because of round-the-clock security arrangements. His opportunities, there- fore, arose only in odd moments of privacy snatched in or around the Oval Office, which made his offences seem particularly crazy and offensive to the public.
With politicians, the vanity which con- vinces them that they are specially quali- fied to manage other people's lives lays them unusually open to the delusion that they will never be caught out — the 'It could never happen to me' syndrome. Clinton clearly exhibited this and may even have believed that the newspapers would ignore any embarrassing discoveries — not without some reason.
Although John Kennedy's demon rider was even more demanding, American jour- nalists told me in Washington in 1962 that, while aware of his sexual antics, they could see no point in sullying the reputation of
'Sex and violence restored, sir. Would you care to chick for q.ualitY?'. I ti
the man who was their president and chief of their armed forces at a dangerous time of the Cold War just for a 'story'.
Sadly for Clinton — and for all other politicians — media attitudes have changed, the Cold War is over, and in the war of domestic politics no holds are barred any more. So, short of unacceptable radical surgery, what can be done to sub- due the demon rider who causes Homo so- called sapiens to behave so irrationally at such potential cost? As most healthy men would probably agree, the answer to that would be worth a million PhDs.