With Digital Trail, an End to the Hushed Affair

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Alexander Hamilton, Warren Harding, F.D.R., Ike, L.B.J., Representatives Mark Souder, Chris Lee and Anthony Weiner, Senators Gary Hart, John Ensign and David Vitter. Maybe a first lady, Grace Coolidge. And now, David H. Petraeus....

“Power attracts hangers-on,” said Stephanie Coontz, a historian at Evergreen State College. “It makes people more confident that they are attractive to others and more able to collect followers. And it also seems to undermine people’s otherwise very careful judgment about what they can get away with.

“It’s kind of shocking, really,” she said.

Once, sex scandals did not become scandals until their participants died. The affairs of Nelson Rockefeller, the former New York governor, became public only after he died while having sex with a girlfriend. The Washington press corps is famous, or infamous, for declining to report on the serial extramarital couplings of President John F. Kennedy....

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