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David Simon: Media's Petraeus Sex Obsession Is Dangerous, Destructive

Enough. This is just sex. This is just people.

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And there it is: Not only is Petraeus dumb, he’s easily expendable.  Bring on the next hump and let’s see if he keeps it in his pants.

But here is the real world in proportion:

David Petraeus has had sex outside his marriage, as have many men and many women. Human sexuality and compulsion are not in any way related to intelligence.  It’s not that the dumb or powerful are more prone to fucking around, or that the intelligent and powerless do it to any greater degree.  It’s that men in general are hopelessly and permanently prone to contemplate sex and furtive romance and, sometimes, to act on it.   The reasons they do so are crude, ordinary and inevitable.   Women are also hopelessly and permanently prone to contemplate furtive romance and sex — and yes, I changed the order, I know — and the reasons they do so are only marginally less crude, ordinary and inevitable.

Professionally, David Petraeus understood a helluva lot more than John McCain conveyed to Roger Simon in two minutes of conversation.  For one thing, if Mr. Simon wanted to be honest, he might acknowledge that it was Petraeus who saw the morass that was Iraq even as it began, who famously turned to a journalist on the march into Baghdad with the 101st Airborne and declared openly:  I know how this begins, but explain to me how this ends?  That alone makes the man more astute and more valuable than an entire White House, most of the Pentagon, and much of the American press corps, which itself failed to raise much worry when war in Iraq was being debated, or rather, not seriously debated at all.  It certainly makes Petraeus smarter than most of America, which largely supported that disastrous intervention.

To characterize Petraeus now as having failed to save either Iraq or Afghanistan is facile and dishonest and, of course, necessary to Mr. Simon’s argument that the sexual misadventures of a human being can then reveal that perhaps this fellow wasn’t smart enough in the first place.  After all he got caught, didn’t he?  A smart fellow would have taken more care.  No emails.  Only whispers.  And affections only for cunning and discreet ladies.  No undue emotions, please.

Having had a sexual misadventure, this guy can’t be smart, and therefore, let’s make him completely clueless by dint of a solitary, second-hand conversation with one distracted politician.  No other context is required.

It would be one thing if this were a scandal that could have compromised the CIA or American intelligence, if this were some honey trap set by foreign entities.  When politically-connected columnist Joe Alsop was famously lured into a homosexual liaison by Russian intelligence, which then attempted to turn Alsop, he rightly marched into the CIA headquarters and revealed the ploy, rendering it moot.  And if there were indications that Petraeus was vulnerable to being so blackmailed, this mess might have actual import.  But no, upon being confronted with his paramour’s indiscreet emails, he confessed all, resigned, and returned to private life to attempt, no doubt, to salvage his marriage or at least deal with the personal implications of it all.

More incredibly, Mr. Simon argues the general’s stupidity in not lying to federal investigators. He is, at that moment, not merely callow and sneering, as much of the press is apt to be in such a circumstance, he is, himself, grandly idiotic.  The penalties for lying to an FBI agent are profound.  Just ask Henry Cisneros.  Or Martha Stewart for that matter.  Or Bill Clinton.  No doubt if the general did lie and was later charged with a false statement, or worse, lying to a grand jury, Mr. Simon and his like would rush to declare that it wasn’t the marital infidelity that we care about, but the perjury and dishonesty.  As if it isn’t entirely rational for any human being — caught and shamed for thinking with their genitals as ordinary mortals are often apt to do — to lie and avoid not only the public shaming, but the private harm to other loved ones inherent in that public disgrace.  Nice for the press to have it both ways:  Shame them when they tell the truth about their private indiscretions, or stand self-righteously and defend the public trust if they don’t. Christ.  It’s enough to make even a half-honest man vomit.

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