The General And The Showgirl

Other than the adolescent titillation over the title of the book  “All In,” why am I obsessed with the Paula Broadwell/Gen. David Petraeus scandal?  For one thing, it’s a continuing powder keg on the highest level, with so many plot twists that even one of the writers on “Law & Order: SVU” complained on Twitter that he’s having a hard time keeping up. Others on Twitter are already casting the movie. And the woman who complained about the anonymous emails -- Jill Kelley, the “Honorary Consul General” in Tampa and "Real Housewife" wannabe -- has hired Judy Smith, the fixer behind the TV show “Scandal,” whose former client was Monica Lewinsky.

Yeah, it’s a giant embarrassment. And two of the things that got Petraeus in trouble were his attachments to email and the limelight. Most people were amazed to read that the G-man and his Broadwell-Boswell used a regular old Gmail account as a dropbox, leaving their sexy time notes in the “draft” folder for the other to pick up, so as to leave less of a trail. That’s a trick used by Al Qaeda as well as many American teenagers, the AP pointed out. (You have to wonder what kinds of ads ran next to their posts.) Even weirder was the fact that Broadwell, now playing the part of the paranoid shrew, sent her reported “Back off, hussy -- who do you think you are?”-type emails to the CentCom-centered-Kelley from a joint account that she kept with her husband.



More seriously, this scandal has led several military writers to reassess the General’s general ease with the press, and his penchant for career (rather than nation) building. Military writers formerly drawn into his circle now feel betrayed. Instead of myth building, they will no doubt take the gloves off and offer newly frank views of The Surge, and whether the General’s signature idea of counterinsurgency actually succeeded.

In that context, it’s more understandable that the General, despite his immense influence and august place in history, chose a fellow fitness freak and worshipful West Point graduate with no journalistic experience to be his official biographer. That way, he could ensure that it would be a hagiography.

There’s unintended comedy in the photo promoting “All In.” Staged and awkward, the two aggressively face the camera and smile. Petraeus is in camo fatigues, Broadwell in a tight, shiny blouse, with a tight, shiny forehead. And while the couple are nominally shaking hands, she appears to be crushing his mitt.

On her media tour promoting the book last January, Broadwell dressed the vamp. She appeared on “The Daily Show,” where Jon Stewart (now famously) asked her whether the takeaway of her book was “Is he awesome? Or incredibly awesome?” And it was brought up that in high school, the General was called “Peaches.”

She wore a sleeveless black silk top that emphasized her awesome, triathlon-toned guns and shoulders; thus, Stewart’s interview was mostly clavicle-based. Certainly, for a first-time author appearing on such an important show, she strong-armed Stewart, and didn’t seem nervous at all. Au contraire, she repeatedly gave him two thumbs-up, as if he needed her approval.

The interview includes a moment that in hindsight seems painful, when Stewart asks Broadwell if Petraeus will run for president. Broadwell: “He isn’t. My husband wants me to say he is, because it’ll sell more books. Sorry, honey,” she says to her radiologist husband, Scott, who is in the audience. Could she have made a more public showing of her intimate knowledge of the General -- and choosing him over her hubby? 

In the extra Internet-only part of the interview, Broadwell takes part in a push-up competition with Stewart and her husband, with the loser donating to her charity for wounded veterans. The double emasculation was effortless. Stewart purposely played the asthmatic nebbish to Broadwell’s disciplined Olympian -- but managed to grind out 30-something pushups, and then faux-collapsed and got up, as did Scott Broadwell. Without breaking a sweat on her satin blouse, Broadwell did 60, and then looked up and asked, “Should I stop now?”

On “Charlie Rose,” she wore a pink silk top with one side slipping off her shoulder the entire time. Guests normally appear on this show in business wear, and her gossamer top was very distracting, making it hard not to stare at her shoulder and neck while she was speaking. Was this her M.O. -- to blind her admirers with an unexpected mix of come-hitherishness and military precision?

It  hardly seemed business as usual for Charlie, who had invited a CBS reporter who had interviewed Petraeus to join them, as if he needed a wingman. It didn’t matter -- neither of them got to say much. Broadwell had a never-ending stream of robo-speak, stuff like “So I began to write an intellectual history exploring how he'd developed his role as a maverick who galvanized organizational innovation."

This young woman spoke for him, a commander of 150,000 troops, as calmly and fluidly as if she were discussing what her kindergartner likes to eat for breakfast. Both men seemed stunned, afraid to break her spell. It wasn’t about his leadership in two long and deadly wars -- it was about her shoulder.

What will happen next is anyone’s guess. Conspiracy theories about Benghazi abound.

In the end, they are just two charming, competitive, careerist-narcissists on their own private power trip. Viewed as a clandestine love affair, Petwell (the Brangelina-like moniker my friend Lisa Birnbach has given it) is the oldest story in the book. Except now the book is digital, and the world is one big angry interweb.

22 comments about "The General And The Showgirl".
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  1. Catherine Wachs from Right Brain, November 14, 2012 at 12:53 p.m.

    This is a perfect example of overreach by federal agencies. This is nothing more than a private, extra-marital affair. The only consequences should be for the families involved. The government has no right to pry into people's personal lives. If there was a criminal investigation, a permit for eavesdropping can be obtained from a judge 24/7.

  2. Rick Monihan from None, November 14, 2012 at 1:11 p.m.

    This started as classic overreach, but has morphed into something quite different. I couldn't care about the sex or titillation. To me, this is the press selling a story. But not selling THE story. I have no idea if Benghazi plays a role, or the election, but there is more to this than meets the eye. What started as a simple woman who thought another woman was moving in on her 'man', has become a much larger situation. It's now clear Broadwell was in possession of information which, if she shouldn't have been in possession, she shouldn't have shared and did. So that's clearly a crime at some level. But more importantly, there is the timing - how long does an embattled Attorney General withhold information of such importance before it's deemed 'suspicious' that he's holding on to it at all? If this was just a bunch of oversexed boobs, I'd not care a whit about all this and I'd say the FBI went way overboard. Clearly they stumbled on to something they weren't intended to stumble on to, and it's not just sex. But I doubt we'll ever get to know what it is.

  3. Jonathan Hutter from EMHS (Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems), November 14, 2012 at 1:45 p.m.

    These days, at the top levels, the actual commission of a crime is less important than the perception of capability, expertise and good judgement. The parties involved here developed swollen egos (perhaps other things too) by their proximity to or possession of power. Their behavior was not in keeping with the expectations required of their positions. How it was found out is a happy accident.

    More importantly, what do we think is going to happen on next week's episode? Does Don, seeing these reports, go back after the military accounts that he's excused himself from because of his past? Will Joan once again offer herself to a willing general? Does her background as the ex-wife of a military doctor play into the equation? Does her position as partner change the whole relationship with the general? Perhaps the general in fact is looking for a job post-military service, and sees Joan as a way into the business. SCDH now opens a lobbying division in DC with this general and Joan as the general managers?

  4. Nina Lentini from MediaPost Communications, November 14, 2012 at 3:34 p.m.

    Here's my two cents. Jill Kelley, up to her ears in debt, throws herself into the public limelight in order to become an instant celebrity who will, this time next year, be rich.

  5. Jonathan Hutter from EMHS (Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems), November 14, 2012 at 5:18 p.m.

    After she becomes rich (again) maybe she divorces her doctor husband and she and Jon Hamm become an item.

  6. Barbara Lippert from, November 14, 2012 at 6:01 p.m.

    I agree that it was FBI overreach-- they were the gang that couldn't shoot straight, including an operative who sent shirtless photos of himself to Jill,( who is very much what Nina said and apparently collects Generals for her power fetish) He was then taken off the case. But apparently General Allen called him in the first place when Kelley complained.
    Weird that Paula was told to bring it down a notch when she did not dress modestly in the mideast, and then told the same thing to Jill, in an anonymous email. Meanwhile, the deaths and attacks continue.

  7. Tom Scharre from The Hunch Fund, November 14, 2012 at 8:26 p.m.

    After all this talk of the War On Women, it turns out the real threat is Women On Warriors.

  8. Barbara Lippert from, November 14, 2012 at 10:47 p.m.

    BOTH Generals wrote letters of support for Jill Kelley's twin sister's custody battle, even though the judge said she was a "psychologically unstable person." Really, I mean, what else do they have to do with their time?

  9. peggy moore from freelance producer, November 14, 2012 at 11:36 p.m.

    My head is spinning .

    It's bad enough that another hero has fallen.
    But it's depressing that that, yet again, what started out as your basic sex scandal has morphed into a more glittery version of Bill and Monica. It's no surprise that Jill Kelly hired Judy Smith.

    I hate the fact that all of the sordid details overshadow the real issues at hand ( FBI harassment, potential breach of national security )...

    Is this a screenplay for Aaron Sorkin or a Lifetime Movie ?

  10. Ruth Ayres from DIGO, November 15, 2012 at 7:30 a.m.

    And every one of the players in this drama is a Republican. And the Republicans are riding this train to derail Obama's second term.

  11. Feminista Fan from The Past, Present and Future, November 15, 2012 at 8:13 a.m.

    Lippert's analysis is richer and smarter than anything I have seen on TV or read in the newspaper.

  12. Barbara Lippert from, November 15, 2012 at 10:03 a.m.

    I love that Jill Kelley thinks she should have diplomatic immunity because she is an honorary consul to South Korea!

  13. George Simpson from George H. Simpson Communications, November 15, 2012 at 11:01 a.m.

    This is all pretty simple (and worth a media frenzy) when you think that the head of CIA was "compromised" earlier in his career. If I was say Iran, I'd send in a better looking version of Broadwell and try again, this time with higher stakes.

  14. George Simpson from George H. Simpson Communications, November 15, 2012 at 11:09 a.m.

    Just saw a timeline that shows he was already at CIA when affair started ..even worse...

  15. Marla Goldstein from Around The Bend Media, November 15, 2012 at 8:23 p.m.

    Shiny object over here!

  16. andrew ault from Advertising, November 16, 2012 at 4:38 p.m.

    great read. the whole thing also gives her narration on the audiobook a new slant.

  17. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, November 17, 2012 at 8:18 a.m.

    His frompy, hardly seen wife knew and didn't care - sweet revenge. Wholly moley, as soon as 60 Minutes did a piece on him, it was too obvious that he had harems

  18. Barbara Lippert from, November 17, 2012 at 12:02 p.m.

    @Paula-- Really? I'm gonna look that up. His wife, poor Hollington, was military royalty and very cute and young they married-- her father was the Superintendent of West Point and even then, Peaches was a real careerist!
    I feel bad for Holly. Yes, she "let herself go," but just look at people like Schwarzenegger who really cheated down. Doesn't really matter what the wife looks like.

  19. Michael Porte from The Field (social), WheresSpot, November 24, 2012 at 5:53 p.m.

    Nicely detailed Barbara, I'm looking forward to the update. - or will i have to wait for season 2 ! ??

  20. Barbara Lippert from, November 25, 2012 at 11:29 a.m.

    So Paula and the twins lawyered up;and the one who got the Generals to write the judge on her behalf in her custody case hired Gloria Allred. (All this while having declared bankruptcy for tens of millions of dollars.) But this week, the Paula-Jill trouble machine seems to have died. These lawyers-image consultants need to get paid, so I guess there will be a Chapter 2.
    ! I'd say things are looking up for Patraeus.

  21. Tom Messner from BONACCOLTA MESSNER, November 26, 2012 at 4:21 p.m.

    wasn't this the same guy who was General Betrayus according to the infantile left in the 2003-2004 build up to the grand AlGore-whatziznamelawyerwhosewifesoondiedofcanceraxelrod'sformerclientwhosecampaignwasthetwoamericasno47%justthetwoamericajohnsomethingorother
    campaign against Bush???

  22. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, November 26, 2012 at 8:43 p.m.

    The saying that there are women who men marry - the creds - and then there are the women who men ____ couldn't be reflected more here. He may have even got himself snipped to prevent anything coming out before this to keep him invincible. His peeps, the epitomes of hypocrisies, didn't get the crown in November either.

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