The Petraeus Scandal Barely Merits the Word "Scandal"

What Women Really Think
Nov. 13 2012 11:27 AM

Sad Man Does Something Stupid

152307730
David Petraeus, man of the moment

Photograph by Spencer Platt/Getty Images.

In light of the hourly rollout of new revelations and accusations clustered around CIA Director David Petraeus, I have a simple plea to the denizens of Washington D.C.: Have sexier sex scandals. If all of my trusted news outlets are going to spend days screaming acronyms like "CIA" and "FBI" mixed with the words "sex" and "scandal" at me, I'm going to expect some James Bond-level intrigue. Think: Seductive international spies creating a web of informants, one orgasm at a time. Instead, so far all I've gotten is a pathetic, aging man who is easily swayed by cheap flattery, a grown woman acting like a high school mean girl who leaves snotty Facebook messages for a perceived rival, and now a professional member of law enforcement sending shirtless pics to a woman for no other apparent reason than he's decided there's a possibility she does it. It's all very not Sean Connery, and strikes me as an embarrassing display of what happens when sexually repressed people try to let loose a little.

Like a lot of other liberal writers, I'm more than a little unnerved by the way that state power is being brought down on the individuals in question for behaviors that are really none of our business, and in some cases, as with the investigation of Gen. John R. Allen and Jill Kelley, seemingly the result of nothing more than a prudish hostility to men and women having friendships outside of their marriages. (Yes, I realize there could be more to it, but I'm going on what we know now.) It's hard to feel sorry for Petraeus in light of his obvious lack of judgment, of course, but it's also appalling to see the government and the news media running with this story as if it's actually titillating, instead of just kind of sad. This isn't Kate Moss sleeping with Jude Law to calm down his griping about how much she's getting it on with Sadie Frost, people. This isn't even a tragedy. This is a farce, and one with actors so pathetic that even Todd Solondz might not be interested in the movie rights.

Advertisement

If the lesson in all this were, "Most adulterers are kind of sad," it would be easier to deal with the wall-to-wall coverage, but instead I get the distinct impression that many journalists working this beat actually think what happened—a lot of emails—is tawdry enough to earn the name "scandal." Take this Reuters headline: "Three women intertwine in downfall of David Petraeus." If only it were that interesting a story. I prefer my headline, because while it won't attract all the readers looking for some good soul-sucking jezebels, it does have the benefit of accuracy.

Amanda Marcotte is a Brooklyn-based writer and DoubleX contributor. She also writes regularly for the Daily Beast, AlterNet, and USA Today. Follow her on Twitter.

TODAY IN SLATE

War Stories

The Right Target

Why Obama’s airstrikes against ISIS may be more effective than people expect.

The One National Holiday Republicans Hope You Forget

It’s Legal for Obama to Bomb Syria Because He Says It Is

I Stand With Emma Watson on Women’s Rights

Even though I know I’m going to get flak for it.

Should You Recline Your Seat? Two Economists Weigh In.

Doublex

It Is Very, Very Stupid to Compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice

Or, why it is very, very stupid to compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice.

Building a Better Workplace

In Defense of HR

Startups and small businesses shouldn’t skip over a human resources department.

Why Is This Mother in Prison for Helping Her Daughter Get an Abortion?

Use Facebook to Reconnect With Old Friends, Share Photos, and Serve People With Legal Papers

  News & Politics
Foreigners
Sept. 23 2014 6:40 PM Coalition of the Presentable Don’t believe the official version. Meet America’s real allies in the fight against ISIS.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 23 2014 2:08 PM Home Depot’s Former Lead Security Engineer Had a Legacy of Sabotage
  Life
Outward
Sept. 23 2014 1:57 PM Would a Second Sarkozy Presidency End Marriage Equality in France?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 23 2014 2:32 PM Politico Asks: Why Is Gabby Giffords So “Ruthless” on Gun Control?
  Slate Plus
Political Gabfest
Sept. 23 2014 3:04 PM Chicago Gabfest How to get your tickets before anyone else.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 23 2014 4:45 PM Why Is Autumn the Only Season With Two Names?
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 23 2014 5:36 PM This Climate Change Poem Moved World Leaders to Tears Today
  Health & Science
Science
Sept. 23 2014 4:33 PM Who Deserves Those 4 Inches of Airplane Seat Space? An investigation into the economics of reclining.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 23 2014 7:27 PM You’re Fired, Roger Goodell If the commissioner gets the ax, the NFL would still need a better justice system. What would that look like?