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Four More Thoughts on the Petraeus Scandal from Eric C...and an Apology

(To read the rest of "On Violence’s Most Thought Provoking Foreign Affairs Event of 2013", please click here.)


I don’t want to write about this. Honestly, I don’t. If you’re like, wow, this is the fourth post this week on the sex scandal, these guys are really obsessed with this thing. We’re not. We hate sex scandals. As a nation, aren’t we past this yet?

No, we’re not. So here are my thoughts on a general who put the “biog” in biography. And don’t worry, we’ve got thoughts on Benghazi and the poorly-named “Arab Winter” next week:

Thought 1: The actual Petraeus sex scandal.

Since we began On V, Michael C and I have wanted to write about nepotism in the military. Too many generals just happen to have well-placed fathers and uncles with stars on their shoulders.

Or fathers-in-law. General Petraeus, as I found out when the scandal broke, married the daughter of West Point’s well-connected, four star General superintendent in the early 1970s.

To me, this feels like the real sex scandal.

Thought 2: Why is everyone so surprised?

A number of reporters were shocked (shocked!) that a man of Petraeus’ stature and demeanor could have an affair. I wasn’t. I sort of assume that every mega-successful man (in every nation on Earth) is cheating on his wife...or at least the revelation that he is doesn’t surprise me. There’s not one Senator, Congressman, President, CEO, celebrity or General that, if it came out they were having an affair, I’d be like, “Wow.” (That includes Mitt Romney and Tim Tebow.)

Doubly so if the successful person in question is nerdy. Tiger Woods--a loner, obsessed with sport’s nerdiest game--all of a sudden becomes a multi-millionaire celebrity. Of course he cheated on his wife; he’s making up for a sex-deprived youth. (Girls in high school are not impressed by a star golfer. Porn stars? They love a dude worth over $300 million.)

Petraeus--nerdy, dedicated, obsessed, not exactly the best looking guy in the world--all of a sudden becomes one of the most famous men in America. And he cheated on his wife.

Does this surprise you? At all? It shouldn’t.

Thought 3: The most annoying quote I heard during this scandal.

On Meet the Press, David Gregory said, “I want to return to the personal aspect of Director Petraeus who had to resign because of his affair with Paula Broadwell.”

No, he didn’t. He didn’t have to resign, because he didn’t do anything illegal. He chose to resign, because he was embarrassed. There’s a difference.

Thought 4: I blame partisans.

Honestly? My first reaction to this Petraeus scandal was, “Thank God. Now he can’t run for president.”

And that’s the problem. Republicans and Democrats love taking down their rival politicians. And the media helps them do it. That’s why these scandals keep continuing. Democrats delight in taking down Republicans (Newt Gingrich, Chris Lee, John Ensign, David Vitter, Mark Foley, Mark Sanford and most famously, Larry Craig.) Republicans delight in taking Democrats down (the ur-sex scandal Bill Clinton, John Edwards, Anthony Weiner, John Wu, Gary Condit and the entire Kennedy family).

In our modern, politicized media, each side of the aisle now has news channels, magazines and websites chasing, promoting and reminding us about the sordid details. Both sides need to knock it off. In the end, it doesn’t make the country or the government any better, and that’s the real problem.

Finally, an apology.

Frankly, I didn’t want to write about this scandal. I hate the media’s obsession with sex scandals. And I’d write about that, except that’s pretty well-worn ground as well.

Yet, as we wrote last Monday, there weren’t that many interesting events in 2012, and the Petraeus scandal does have a lot of interesting angles to it, like over-classification to warrantless FBI searches to military morality. Since we’re spending a few weeks discussing a sex scandal, I just just wanted you to know that I’m aware of how cliched the whole thing is and how, by extension, we’re perpetuating this cycle.

I’m sorry.

three comments

Eric C, do you have a solution for any of this?

Not really. My best advice would be to ignore the scandals, but this is our fourth post covering it.

Human frailty on display. Sometimes you ignore it. Sometimes you don’t. It depends, mainly on what other things are done that go along with it.

Why be sorry? It’s your blog. Write what you want to please yourself.