Opinion: I Don't Care about the Petraeus Scandal, and Neither Should You

Thursday, November 15, 2012 - 04:32 PM

David Petraeus speaks during his CIA Director confirmation hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee June 23, 2011. (Getty)

The only thing that bothered me about David Petraeus’ affair was that you would have expected some better clandestine moves from the spymaster general of the United States. Other than that, I couldn’t care less, and neither should you.

He’s a four-star general, graduated from the top of his class at West Point, and has a PhD. from Princeton. By all accounts, he made Iraq and Afghanistan less of the total debacles than they were before he got there. He’s smart, qualified, and knows what he’s doing.

But he did what I would imagine almost every single person on earth currently drawing breath has done: He accidentally climbed into bed with crazy.

Was our national security in any way threatened by what he decided to do with his John Thomas? Was he meeting up with Natasha Badenov at the Courtyard by Marriott in Reston? Was he giving away the names of undercover operatives in his sleep? Was this writer a Chinese plant, or does she write harmless, People Magazine-style glowing biographies?

No? Ok then. This officially falls under the “none of our damned business” column.

I only get interested in sex scandals when there is hypocrisy involved. When the head of the National Association of Evangelicals had a tab going with a Craig’s List rent boy, or when it turned out that some of the sanctimonious busybodies over at that condo on C Street were mostly praying that they wouldn't get caught sleeping with women other than their wives—that was interesting. But if at no point in your career have you made monogamy and Christian values a big selling point of your candidacy, then SportsCenter is on. Leave me alone.

All I need from my politicians, generals or spymasters is competence at their jobs. Come to think of it, that’s all I really need from anybody. I don’t care if my plumber is happily married, is having an affair, is barely on speaking terms with his wife or has a porn collection that you can see from outer space. Did my sink stop leaking? Yes? Good. That should about cover any and all of my concerns. The rest of it is completely irrelevant. 

Can we stop to think for a second about how staggeringly pointless it is to expect sexual and moral purity from the head of the CIA? Or, for that matter, sexual and moral purity from our politicians? It’s self-defeating, incredibly hypocritical, none of our business, and, I think, utterly naive.

At what point did we decide that our politicians and civil servants needed to be exemplars of sexual morality for all of us? Your average politician has to do dozens of morally shady things on a daily basis in order simply to do his job properly.

He has to beg for money, take credit for things that he had nothing to do with, and shift blame to others. He has to vote for things that he either doesn't believe in or knows absolutely nothing about. He has to make big deals out of nothing and nothing out of big deals. He has to squeeze every nickel he can out of the federal coffers to bring home to his districts.

Anybody who expects those working on or around Capitol Hill, the Pentagon, or Langley to be paragons of personal virtue at all times needs to drop back down to earth.


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Comments [7]

Adam Dawson from DC

Jack, I understand your point. I just think your point is pointless. There was an OpEd in the Post recently by Richard Cohen, and he tells the story of a KGB agent who walked into the office of a French Diplomat with pictures of the diplomat having sex with a woman who was not his wife. The diplomat looked at the pictures and said "Ah! I'll have that one, and that one, and that one. You can keep the rest."

In other words, he was beyond blackmail because nobody in France gave a damn about such things.

Nov. 19 2012 11:42 AM

The incident has many facetts. Yes, mostly the media has another items to try and make moeny on, and there are issues of whether it matters or not; but there are the important factors that the media is apparently incapable of comprehending or understanding, that the political powers that be are to distracted by self-promoting opportunism to even attempt to consider, and that the intelligence and military communities have not figured out are an opportunity to secure and improve America's security.

I don't really care about Patraeus' personal life, that he was foolish is not exactly a recommendation for his position but that he didn't know how to use it to his and our advantage is even more so.

I do think that the cultural dynamics that it has illuminated, and which are being naively given little attention from a vulnerability perspective, is much more important, news worthy and of more significance to Congressional investigation than the idiocy that they are attending to.

If there is a issue or a problem then there is an opportunity for improvement; why not focus on how to use the event to make such lapses of judgement something that can strengthen our security not impair it.

Nov. 18 2012 08:08 PM

You're missing the goddamn point.

Presumably, Patraeus had an interest in keeping his affair with a younger, hotter woman secret from his wife of 37 years, and thus this conduct subjected him to blackmail by whomever became aware of his actions.

And, it's not just foreign actors, either. Should the head of the CIA be vulnerable to blackmail from within the organization? An underling who became aware of the mistress could leverage the knowledge to a promotion and position otherwise unattainable.

This isn't a matter of assailing Puritanical notions of sex. It's not surprising that Patraeus would prefer to have sex with a woman not his wife, and in truth Broadwell was gave him a tacit offer almost no man could refuse: sexual favors in return for a hagiography of your heroics.

In short, quit missing the damn point.

Nov. 18 2012 04:13 PM
RUCB_Alum from Central New Jersey

Two issues here...Can someone be blackmailed by evidence of infidelity? Some yes...Some no.... Since 'infidelity' is technically a crime under UCMJ the risk of prosecution makes blackmail more effective than it would otherwise be. If Obama had decided that Gen' P's effectiveness was not hindered and kept him on, how much time would FoxNews have spent jumping on his case. That's politics and ours, right now, are poisonous.

The second issue is the military's apparent expansion of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" to all aspects of sexual relations in the service. I agree with Adam that what somebody does outside of the workplace that does not affect me is none of my business. Asking Americans that what happens when someone else takes their pants off is none of their business seems to go against the current way of living. C'mon...We spend nearly half our day bathed in celebrity gossip.

A third issue (and more important to me) is 'non-consensual sex' i.e. rape and its prevalence in our military. As many as one out three of the women and 1 out of 8 men have been sexually assualted. We agree that "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" needed to go...but what about 'No means No'.

Nov. 16 2012 09:16 AM
ano from nyc

well said

Nov. 16 2012 12:24 AM
Adam Dawson from DC

The only reason blackmail is efficient is because of shame, which in this case is an entirely artificial construct. If we as Americans weren't slackjawed yokels enough to expect moral purity instead of just proficiency at their jobs, then it wouldn't be an issue.

Nov. 15 2012 06:42 PM
David from Long Island

It may be none of anyone's business unless of course the need to keep a secret secret opens the individual to blackmail or other pressure.

I won't tell anyone about your world class porn collection if you use my lower quality sealant when you fix under sink leaks. Sure it will fail sooner than the better sealant, but nobody will know.

Nov. 15 2012 05:33 PM

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