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Petraeus affair a lurid distraction from Benghazi

November 13, 2012 - Andrea Johnson
I have a few thoughts on the alleged affair of former CIA Director David Petraeus, age 60, and his biographer, Bismarck native Paula Broadwell, age 40. Like many, I find the timing of his resignation suspiciously convenient, falling as it did just after the election of President Obama and just days before Petraeus was due to testify on the attack at the embassy in Benghazi that killed four Americans, including the ambassador, and on the security situation there. One news report indicated that higher ups knew about Petraeus's affair in October.

It's also rather ironic that the nation's top spy boss was undone by some indiscriminate e-mails. Anyone who really wants to cover something up ought to know better than to leave a trail of electronic evidence. Of course it might suggest that he didn't really care about getting caught and didn't think it was that big a deal. Considering the number of other top government officials of a certain age who are likely having extra-marital affairs, maybe it wasn't to the people who surrounded him.

I can even understand, on some level, how it might have happened. Petraeus was a man hitting his 60th birthday and had recently battled prostate cancer. He was away from his wife for months or years at a time and worked a hard, dangerous, high pressure job that didn't allow him to share many details of his life with those outside the field. Broadwell is an intelligent, fit, highly attractive woman 20 years his junior who showed great interest in him, maybe even had a case of hero worship.

Meanwhile, his wife Holly is a loyal and hardworking military spouse, raised their children largely on her own and probably helped him rise in the ranks through her family connections. But, as some of the more unkind comments on online forums have noted, maybe "she let herself go" a bit and is now a bit overweight, hasn't fixed her hair and looks her age. So does Petraeus, though he looks to be a fit 60, and that's probably part of the problem. Maybe he can't face being 60.

It's not as though men don't cheat on young, beautiful wives either. Remember Tiger Woods and his betrayed wife, the beautiful Swedish model Elin? None of that really matters, though. This is clearly not Holly Petraeus's fault. The fault lies only with the people who had the affair. A decent, honorable man and woman would have talked to their spouses about their dissatisfaction with their marriages or sued for divorce if they felt there was nothing left to salvage in their relationships. There is something deeply distasteful about people who have affairs, dishonoring their marriage vows, hurting their families and sullying their own reputations. Petraeus's and Broadwell's offense is all the more egregious because their affair led to his devoted wife and her devoted husband being humiliated on the front pages of newspapers all over the world. That is not how you treat the mother of your children, someone you love or at least once loved.

Petraeus and Broadwell deserve anything they get from their wronged spouses. I also hope that this lurid story does not distract our attention from the matter of Benghazi.


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