When the Director of the CIA gets caught in flagrante delicto, the story is too juicy to ignore.
The timing is suspicious. A mere three days after the presidential election David Petraeus has resigned his office because, he wrote, he had engaged in an adulterous affair.
Adultery subjects the adulterer to blackmail; thus, for the Director of the CIA, it’s a firing offense.
Since Petraeus was scheduled to testify before Congress next week on the events surrounding the death of Ambassador Stevens and three other Americans in Benghazi on September 11, everyone speculated that the resignation was part of a larger cover up.
The logical question is: Why did he not offer his resignation with that of other members of the president’s cabinet?
As of now we do not have a good explanation.
The speculation might be correct, but, as best as I can ascertain, being the retired Director of the CIA does not in any way preclude being subpoenaed and testifying before Congress.
We do know that Petraeus, in his letter of resignation, announced to the world that he had conducted an adulterous affair for more than a year. The object of his amorous attentions, Paula Broadwell is a married mother of two young boys.
A friend pointed out to me that the Petraeus statement humiliates his wife gratuitously. Surely, it does.
It also tells us more than we need to know. Politicians resign for personal reasons all the time. If Petraeus had expressed a desire to take up a position in the private sector, no one would have blinked.
Was he taking a cheap shot at his wife? Or did he want to announce to the world that he was sacrificing his position for the woman he loved. Eerily, it felt like the abdication of King Edward VIII.
Yet, it seems unworthy that a man of Petraeus’ stature would be emulating a man who gave up the British throne for the love of a Wallis Simpson. Of course, stranger things have happened.
This morning Ron Kessler reported that the Petraeus paramour, Paula Broadwell had broken up with him when he became Director of the CIA. That would have been in September of 2011.
By Kessler’s account, Petraeus he took the break-up badly and was avidly pursuing her.
Again, it feels unworthy for a married commanding general to be acting like a lover-struck puppy around a married woman, but it has certainly happened before.
One thing is certain: now that Petraeus is no longer Director of the CIA he is free either to continue or to rekindle his affair with his Paula.
If she told him that she could not have an affair with the Director of the CIA, she might have forced his hand.
Under the circumstances you have to question how both the Petraeus and Broadwell marriages can survive. And you have to ask yourself whether that was the purpose behind the unnecessary disclosure of the affair.
Kessler’s report seems to contradict the following: last July someone wrote an anonymous letter to The New York Times Ethicist column that corresponds very closely to the Petraeus-Broadwell affair.
Blake Hounshell, the managing editor of Foreign Policy first noticed the coincidence.
We can call the letter a cuckold’s lament. The cuckold in question wrote to the Times to explain that his wife was having an ongoing affair with a high government official and that he did not know what to do about it.
Here is the letter:
My wife is having an affair with a government executive. His role is to manage a project whose progress is seen worldwide as a demonstration of American leadership. (This might seem hyperbolic, but it is not an exaggeration.) I have met with him on several occasions, and he has been gracious. (I doubt if he is aware of my knowledge.) I have watched the affair intensify over the last year, and I have also benefited from his generosity. He is engaged in work that I am passionate about and is absolutely the right person for the job. I strongly feel that exposing the affair will create a major distraction that would adversely impact the success of an important effort. My issue: Should I acknowledge this affair and finally force closure? Should I suffer in silence for the next year or two for a project I feel must succeed? Should I be “true to my heart” and walk away from the entire miserable situation and put the episode behind me? NAME WITHHELD
Note this: if the name of the letter writer was withheld, then presumably the Times possessed it. Therefore a reporter could fairly easily figured out the identity of the wife’s presumed lover.
Did columnist Chuck Klosterman know the names of the people involved? If he did know, did his knowledge influence his opinion?
After all, revealing scandalous information about Barack Obama’s CIA Director in the middle of a presidential campaign would not have been anodyne.
Whatever the case, Klosterman offers good advice:
Don’t expose the affair in any high-profile way. It would be different if this man’s project was promoting some (contextually hypocritical) family-values platform, but that doesn’t appear to be the case. The only motive for exposing the relationship would be to humiliate him and your wife, and that’s never a good reason for doing anything. This is between you and your spouse. You should tell her you want to separate, just as you would if she were sleeping with the mailman. The idea of “suffering in silence” for the good of the project is illogical. How would the quiet divorce of this man’s mistress hurt an international leadership initiative? He’d probably be relieved.
The fact that you’re willing to accept your wife’s infidelity for some greater political good is beyond honorable. In fact, it’s so over-the-top honorable that I’m not sure I believe your motives are real. Part of me wonders why you’re even posing this question, particularly in a column that is printed in The New York Times.
Your dilemma is intriguing, but I don’t see how it’s ambiguous. Your wife is having an affair with a person you happen to respect. Why would that last detail change the way you respond to her cheating? Do you admire this man so much that you haven’t asked your wife why she keeps having sex with him? I halfway suspect you’re writing this letter because you want specific people to read this column and deduce who is involved and what’s really going on behind closed doors (without actually addressing the conflict in person). That’s not ethical, either.
Klosterman is correct to say that the man should not expose the affair. Our nation could do with a lot more discretion, and I applaud any efforts to point us in that direction.
Yet, Klosterman correctly sees that the man is doing just that by writing to the New York Times. At the very least, Scott Broadwell was threatening his wife and David Petraeus with public exposure.
Perhaps Scott was trying to save his marriage by exposing the affair while not exposing the affair. If so, his plan might just have backfired.
As of now, the story is still unfolding.