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November 16, 2012

Fall of the Mighty

Roy Meachum

There’s a Biblical phrase in the Gospel of Luke: “He hath put down the mighty from their seats and exalted those of low degree.”


Army Gen. David Petraeus, of course, fits that description. One week ago he resigned as chief of the Central Intelligence Agency. The future of Marine Gen. John Allen is at stake: he was on the verge of being anointed the supreme commander of America’s NATO forces in Europe.


Lyndon Johnson once said “the two things that make leaders stupid are envy and sex.” That quote is from the much admired Maureen Dowd in her New York Times column: “Reputation, Reputation, Reputation.” She goes on to point out: “Macbeth kills a king out of envy. Egged on by envious Iago, Othello smothers his wife out of crazed fear of her having sex with his lieutenant.”


Sex was preeminent with Mr. Petraeus. There were plenty of reasons: prolonged proximity with his attractive biographer who also graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. His 38-years-married wife came down with cancer, therefore incapable of satisfying his virile needs. Holly Petraeus came out the supreme heroine of the whole shebang.


Marine General Allen was linked to the affair by his electronic correspondence with the woman who started the scandal, a Tampa socialite who received several threatening messages from the Petraeus biographer. But the sins belong to the men who were “mighty,” in the word from the gospel.


My youngest son thinks they were egregiously “stupid.” Mike Meachum reasons that these men were modern, as he holds his father “old.” They must have known, he said, that e-mails remain forever in the electronic universe. He pardons the women as not recognizing the true situation, in their passion.


For the men, there are no excuses – including the FBI agent who transmitted to the Tampa socialite a photo in which he wore no shirt; she approached him first, starting the entire scandal. The envy in this regard was with the women in the form of jealousy.


A mess all around.


But history records the perplexment is ancient, dating from the Garden of Eden when Adam took a bite of the apple Eve offered. Whatever solution can only be transitory. As the French say: Vive La Différence!


The prospects are bleak: David Petraeus lost all his “Reputation, Reputation, Reputation,” as Maureen put it. General Allen may get the European Command, after all – but an enduring blight on his record will remain. The FBI agent might stay but advancement will be hard to come by. As for the ladies involved, the cloud over their lives could be temporary. Their husbands – they each are married – will forever be known as cuckolds, or by some other appropriate tag.


Socrates purportedly said, on turning 60, thanks be to the gods he had lost the sex drive that bedeviled all his life. The next day he was spotted chasing a boy down the alley.


Quel dommage! Wie schade! Ya hosarra! What a pity!


But it happens.


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