Americans transfixed by high infidelity

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Politicians appear to be on a whistle-stop tour of infidelity. It’s the McGreevey-Dann-Spitzer show — and then some.

Infidelity is big theater these days, providing both spectacle and cautionary tale to eager onlookers and press alike. Adultery and its attendant behaviors have created a popular culture and cottage industry all their own, driving political strategy, press coverage and — on rare occasions — a few positive outcomes.

America is along for the ride — and ready to hear more about the greater implications of infidelity.

“We love it. It confirms our worst fears about politicians and confirms our suspicions,” talk radio host Michael Savage said yesterday.

The divorce case of former New Jersey Gov. James E. McGreevey and his estranged wife, Dina Matos McGreevey, got under way yesterday, detailing the story of his homosexuality, extramarital affairs and newfound religious calling.

And so, with a clatter of cameras and the caterwaul of reporters, McGreevey vs. McGreevey embarked upon yet another leg of a very public journey.

Infidelity is the gift that keeps on giving, in the words of pundits and wags. The roster of straying politicians is ever-plentiful: Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann, a Democrat, is refusing calls for his own impeachment from both his own party and Republican lawmakers after admitting Friday that he had an extramarital affair.

The assorted indiscretions of Sens. Larry E. Craig, Idaho Republican, and David Vitter, Louisiana Republican, plus Detroit Mayor Kwame M. Kilpatrick, a Democrat, are among those that have surfaced in recent months broadening the scope of public interest.

Also broadening is the term “infidelity” itself.

Therapists routinely discuss emotional, financial and cyber varieties of “infidelity” among couples who flirt too much, spend money unwisely or go online for their cheating fixes.

The American Sociological Association, meanwhile, has recognized that wives of professional athletes often must cope with “adultery culture.”

Surveys from CNN, the University of California and other sources say about a quarter of men and 15 percent of women have cheated on their spouses.

Some disagree that the nation has devolved. In her 2007 book “Lust in Translation,” author Pamela Druckerman maintains that the nation is willing to accept premarital sex — but “vehemently” rejects adultery. A study published in the May issue of the Journal of Marriage and Family finds that attendance at religious services can prevent marital infidelity because it is a meaningful and reliable “shared activity between spouses.”

Still, infidelity is a fixture on the political landscape.

“It’s entertainment, and it seems OK because all these public figures are doing it,” said Ruth Houston, author of “Is He Cheating on You? — 829 Telltale Signs” and founder of the online relationship site www.infidelityadvice.com.

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