Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Dangerous Liasons: Sex and the Powerful Man

Unless you have been living under a rock for the last few days, you have by now heard about CIA Director General Patraeus and his mistress, Paula Broadwell.

But for those of you who have made their abode in a subterrean cave, here is the rundown in broad strokes.  General Patraeus was the man who was put in charge of the surge in Afghanistan and until very recently was the Director of the CIA.  Well liked by members of both parties, he was supposedly on the short list that Romney was considering for vice presidential picks.  Patraeus met Broadwell in 2006 when he was still a member of the armed forces.  Broadwell was working on a biography of the general, and was given unusual access to the general. Their relationship was seen as cozy, going out for morning runs together, and she was given special rooms not normally reserved for members of the press.

With a fine pair of crazy eyes...
Broadwell went a just a wee bit crazy sometime in May of this year.  She began sending vaguely threatening emails to a woman named Jill Kelley, a family friend of Patraeus, whom Broadwell saw as a romantic rival.  Kelley became worried over the contents of the email, and gave them to a another friend, who was a member of the FBI.  The FBI managed to trace the emails to Broadwell, and other emails implicated Patreus in an affair.  (ETA: compromising emails between Kelley and another general have now become the focus of a separate investigation.)  When confronted by the FBI, both Patraeus and Broadwell admitted to the affair.  Both stated the affair started after Patraeus left the army, thus leaving him immune to military criminal charges.  FBI agents also seized low-level secret documents from Broadwell's computer, though once again, both she and Patreus deny that the documents came from Patraeus.

So other than salacious details, why do we care? 

Republicans keep trying to spin gold from straw on the Benghazi incident.  Obviously bad things happened, but what and why?  Was it an intelligence failure?  Deliberate negligence on the part of the State Department?  Or was it that Obama just didn't care enough in the aftermath?  There has been no coherent narrative on this.  The broader public hasn't shown a lot of interest on this subject, but the interjection of a sex scandal helps keep people more interested than they otherwise would be.

"It wasn't the crime, it was the cover-up."  Some people are trying to spin it as the White House covering up the sex scandal until after the election was over.  However, they are having some difficulty with this narrative, as Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor knew of the investigation sometime in October, and also did not publicly reveal that information, allowing the investigation to continue without undue politicization.

Powerful man caught by his own penis...again.  The press can never get enough of these stories, though the situation is timeless.  Just in the recent past we have Anthon Weiner texting photographs of his weiner, Eliot Spitzer with a prostitute,  former South Carolina governor Mark Sanford "walking the Appalachian Trail", David Vitter and his diaper fetish, and "the Big Dog" himself, Bill Clinton, and his bimbo eruptions.  What does this say about the judgment of the people that we elect?  Or does everyone do this, and no one talks about it?  If so, why do we continue to make such a huge fuss over these extramarital liasons?  Should Patraeus have been forced to resign?


  1. I wonder if it's the "extrovert +" thing that lots of politicians have. I also wonder if there is a special type of self-delusion that happens when you are powerful that makes you think you won't get caught like ordinary humans. But the CIA Director post is a pretty important place to have somebody with more discretion than this. One might argue president is, too. But then the personality type it takes to want to run for president is often extroverted and tending towards arrogance...

  2. And yet it can't just be that. For all of my many, many complaints against Bush and Obama, I have no reason to believe they aren't good, faithful husbands.

    I also don't understand Patreus's actions, since he of all people (as head of the CIA) should have known of the danger of blackmail and compromising positions. Was he not thinking rationally? Did he think he would not get caught?

    I was wondering what you guys would post about after the elections :>

  3. There's always politics, even between elections :-)

    Here's a Slate writer taking on the same question - http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2012/11/david_petraeus_s_affair_with_paula_broadwell_why_did_an_accomplished_and.html - this is a guy writer, who is also writing a book about Patraeus' leadership style, and who knows both people. But it sounds a little naive to me. It sounds like Patraeus and Broadwell were attracted at the start, then she kept trying to get near him, and he let her. But workplace attraction happens all the time. It doesn't have to lead to cheating.