Is there anything you don't know at this point about the alleged affair between four- star Gen. David Petraeus, married and the father of two, and his biographer, fellow West Point grad and fitness fanatic Paula Broadwell, the married mother of two? The news burst like a bombshell over Washington, D.C., in the aftermath of President Obama's re-election, and more and more salacious - and serious - details are emerging every day, now involving another general and civilian groupies. The story is at the top of every newscast.
Affairs among the high and mighty are nothing new - in fact, they date back more than two millennia to the times of Marc Antony and Cleopatra, whose alliance after her husband Julius Caesar's assassination toppled the triumvirate ruling Rome and ultimately led to their deaths, his a suicide and hers by self-inflicted snake bite. The Petraeus/Broadwell story rears the fears and suspicions of compromise within the U.S. intelligence community and high-level security breaches. Petraeus was the lauded head of the Central Intelligence Agency after an exemplary military career heading CENTCOM and as top commander in Afghanistan. Now now classified documents have been found on Broadwell's personal computer. Petraeus was "encouraged" to resign from the CIA, but he is not the first high-ranking U.S. official to have compromised U.S. security interests.
There was President Franklin Roosevelt, whose affair with wife Eleanor's social secretary continued for 30 years despite his promises never to see Lucy Mercer once Eleanor found out. Lucy was with him when he died at Warm Springs in 1945. During World War II, married Gen. Dwight Eisenhower fell in love with his British driver Kay Summersby and petitioned Gen. George C. Marshall for permission to marry her, it is alleged, but permission was denied. President Warren Harding (1921-23) carried on with at least two mistresses, and while his death in office is attributed to a heart attack, rumors persisted that his wife slowly poisoned him. Tsk, tsk.
Without question, JFK's numerous conquests raised serious security questions. He was rumored to have consorted with a female German spy, not to mention the voluptuous, needy and smitten Marilyn Monroe. The list of illicit lovers, including a gangster's girlfriend, is a long one. Lyndon Johnson's serial indiscretions were known but tolerated - dare I say, barely- by Lady Bird. Bill Clinton, now resurrected as America's favorite former president, risked all for a brief affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky, only one in a long line of "bimbo's," as they were known from the time he was governor of Arkansas.
David Petraeus is worthy of the highest regard for his meritorious service during war and his leadership during times marked by worldwide terrorism. Nothing can undo his prior record, but no man is infallible. The saying goes that "the higher they fly, the harder they fall." He is falling hard, and deservedly so in the twilight of a career dedicated to this country in which he won accolades here and abroad. Both he and his family have sacrificed mightily.
But my heart turns to Holly Petraeus as details of her husband's downfall continue to emerge. Petraeus reported to a friend - and has been quoted in the press - that "furious would be an understatement" in describing his wife's reaction. I doubt if we will ever hear more than that from or about Mrs. Petraeus. She was well bred as the daughter of four-star general and Superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point where she met her husband-to-be on a blind date. Over the years, she moved their two children 23 times during David Petraeus's career. Early on, she latched onto the difficulties faced by young and financially insecure military families and carved out a career for herself as an advocate on their behalf, seeking protection for them from predatory lenders and businesses. In 2011, as her husband assumed the role as head of the CIA, she was appointed to lead the Office of Servicemember Affairs at the newly created Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Her boss was Elizabeth Warren, just elected to the U.S. Senate from Massachusetts.
Neither you nor I can ever, will never and should never know the particulars of the marriage of Holly and David Petraeus. It is not our business, but the story that's playing out in the daily headlines follows the well-known tracks of countless books and movies: High-flying married man pursuing and pursued by good-looking younger woman while dutiful and supportive wife exists in the shadows, until the high-flying man soars too close to the sun and falls to ground. To Holly Petraeus, the general, her husband, has become David Betray-us.
Barbara Morgan is a Covington resident with a background in newspaper journalism, state government and politics.