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Sex, Lies and Email

Sex, Lies and Email

Seems like there should be some big fish frying in the national punditry skillet these days: Benghazi, the coming fiscal cliff, a much-needed repeal of MLB’s designated hitter rule, to name a few. But we’re pretty much stuck on the actions of two generals, a woman biographer who has biceps that could crack walnuts but apparently doesn’t understand even the basics of email trails and records, and a Tampa socialite who believes she has diplomatic immunity resulting from some kind of an honorary position with South Korea.

I’m not much into conspiracy theories. Maybe that’s because I was just a kid when Walter O’Malley moved the Dodgers from Brooklyn to LA. I’ve been somewhat skeptical of the good intentions of  people in authority positions ever since. Does any unethical or illegal act on the part of those in leadership positions in business, government or the military really surprise us? That, by the way, is a shame. Those in leadership positions should be models for ethics and personal integrity. I digress.

Still, there are some big questions and issues here in this story about sex, lies and email.

What did the president know? And when did he know it? (Tricky Dick had to swallow those questions like he just ate a shit sandwich? Remember Watergate?)

Is it really a good idea for the FBI to be investigating the head of the CIA? J Edgar must be smiling over this one.

If the head of the CIA can’t conceal secrets and protect email exchanges, what chance do any of us have? (See NYT: “Petraeus Case Raises Concerns about Americans’ Privacy“)

Is it possible for a general who supposedly is leading the war in Afghanistan to still find the time to send Jill Kelley some 20,000 or more pages of emails or other documents? LOL

This is a farce. But at least it has the blood pumping among those in the mainstream media, many of whom sat out the initial coverage of the murders in Benghazi and are mostly good only at reporting about car wrecks, since most of the facts are evident on the street directly in front of them. (Please don’t take that as a criticism of Luke Russert. Clearly his extensive training, background and experience in journalism gives him the right to insult Nancy Pelosi and just about everyone else in this country over 50 or so. Snark intended.)

Here’s the take from Howard Kurtz:

Are the media reveling in the David Petraeus scandal just a bit too much?

The question sort of answers itself.

Journalists are secretly grateful to the former four-star general for rescuing us from six weeks of sober coverage about the fiscal cliff. Not that anyone wants to plunge over the cliff, but daily reports on White House negotiations with John Boehner are no one’s idea of a wild time.

So let’s face it: we are wallowing in the tawdriness of this tale. But are the media losing perspective—and rushing to judgment?

Let’s concede up front that the story is inherently fascinating. A general with a walk-on-water reputation abruptly quits the CIA and admits an extramarital affair. His mistress turns out to be his admiring biographer who hawked her book all over television. Then we learn that she triggered an FBI probe by sending what were perceived as harassing e-mails to a military volunteer in Tampa—and that a friendly FBI agent sent that woman shirtless photos. All of which was a prelude to the reports that Gen. John Allen, who in his spare time is running the war in Afghanistan, exchanged up to 30,000 e-mails with said Tampa woman.

See? It’s hard to keep up. The military sex saga has all the earmarks of a sizzling soap opera.

But let’s take a step back. A couple of steps, in fact.

Those 30,000 e-mails initially described by sources as “flirtatious”? Unnamed defense officials put out the word the next day that there were far fewer—maybe a few hundred, one told the Washington Post—and that there was “no affair” between Allen and Jill Kelley, the Tampa activist. Or perhaps they were “overly flirtatious,” anonymous Pentagon officials told the New York Times, and there were 30,000 pages but some  just contained a single sentence. And Allen may have called Kelley “sweetheart” in the e-mails, reports the Wall Street Journal.

As for the e-mails from Paula Broadwell, Petraeus’ biographer, to Kelley, I’ve seen them described as everything from threatening to harassing to chastising Kelley for acting like a “seductress” toward  Petraeus. Again, we don’t really know.

What about the notion that Broadwell was terribly indiscreet in her relationship with Petraeus? Her ghostwriter, the Post’s Vernon Loeb, says he was “clueless” about any affair.

There is, to be sure, a practical problem here. None of the principals is talking. New information and insinuations tend to trickle out through friends, associates and officials-speaking-on-background, which leaves a sizable void that has sometimes been filled by speculation.

Nor have journalists covered themselves with glory by staking out the women’s homes. Kelley has called local police asking for “diplomatic protection” against the media mob that has camped out near her residence, according to the Fox station in Tampa Bay. What, exactly, did she do to warrant this treatment?

OK. Maybe we need to chill a little about all this.

After all, the Onion essentially got it right, when it opined “Nation Horrified To Learn About War In Afghanistan While Reading Up On Petraeus Sex Scandal.”


Photo Credit: Washington Post

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