A media narrative is beginning to emerge around the extramarital affair that has ended the career of former CIA director and General David Petraeus, and may indeed tar the reputation of other top military officials including General John Allen.
There are three men and three women in the love-and-betrayal triangle — err, quadrangle, err, hexagon thus far. There’s Petraeus, his biographer-turned paramour Paula Broadwell, Jill Kelley, a Petraeus friend who received threatening emails from Broadwell, and Allen, a general who apparently flirted over email with Kelley. Also among the cast of characters is a “shirtless FBI agent” and Petraeus’s wife, Holly.
The parties involved come off as immature, maybe a little pathetic, and the “scandal” is far more deliciously weird than sordid. Meanwhile, dozens of real unanswered questions about the investigation into the love shenanigans remain.
But Petraeus, this central character, is a military man with whom the corporate media had been accused of carrying on a love affair — a love affair now cut short by his love affair.
Something important has gone unnoticed amid the chatter about the titillating revelations of an affair between four star General David Petraeus (he of the name worthy of the leader of ancient Greece’s military forces, never mind the United States’) and his fawning biographer, Paula Broadwell.
And that is the fact that there was a tremendous power imbalance inherent in the relationship between Petraeus, who on November 9 stepped down as head of the Central Intelligence Agency as a result of his affair coming to light, and Broadwell, a lieutenant colonel in the army reserves.
New York Times columnist Frank Bruni astutely observes journalists’ tendency to describe the women in these all-too-familiar tales as the temptresses who no man could truly resist. He points out that The Washington Post wrote of Broadwell’s “form-fitting clothes” and The Daily Beast of her “expressive green eyes.”