Saturday, November 17, 2012

David Petraeus's E-mails and The Critical Mom

At times like these, I think of Emily Dickenson:

I'm nobody! Who are you?
Are you nobody, too?
Then there's a pair of us — don't tell!
They'd banish us, you know.

How dreary to be somebody!
How public, like a frog
To tell your name the livelong day
To an admiring bog!

How nice I find it to be nobody.  How embarrassing to be public--as big and ugly and real and loud as a frog croaking: "David slept with Paula! David slept with Paula!"  And just think:  suppose I were to get nasty e-mails from some unidentified and seemingly unidentifiable person.  And suppose I were to contact the FBI and say, "I think I'm being followed!  I think I'm being stalked!  I'm getting threatening emails suggesting that I'm having an affair with a guy who is really just a casual acquaintance!"  They would surely reassure me--by yawning as I was speaking to them--that I am nobody.  They would politely listen, then ignore me, or they would tell me that they'd look into it, or they would ask me to call my local police precinct.   
A friend and I disagree on the David Petraeus case.  She thinks his sex life has nothing to do with the investigation, but that his failure to hide his IP address, his choice of a G-mail account, are all signs that some military secret could be revealed.  
How public, like a frog.
So far, since they are not asking him, in the Benghazi investigation, about his affair, and since they are not publishing those e-mails, I'm assuming that David and Paula were sending each other the same blandishments e-mailed by nobodies who are carrying on an affair.  Photographs of David Petraeus strongly suggest that even if you startled him out of a deep sleep, or whispered sweet nothings into his ear while he was dozing--"Dearest, what was that top secret code you used for the totally classified !@#$%^&UIO plan again?" he'd sit bolt upright and remain silent.  Before you knew it, he'd clap you in irons.  Even if you got him drunk, he'd hold his liquor, get you into a full nelson, and James Bond you out the door.  A soldier is a soldier is a soldier, and you only get as far as he got by remaining closemouthed.  Unlike me.  I like to write.  Love to talk.  Blah, blah, blah, and again, blah!  And everything you say spreads like a bacteria.  "Two may keep a secret if one of them is dead," Ben Franklin observed.  Now, my friend who believes--as indeed many do--that the Petraeus investigation concerns national security--said that the fear of his being blackmailed is realistic, and that looking into her own past, she'd find nothing that would put her in any danger of blackmail.  The critical mom can't say the same.  Not that she's committed any crimes, if memory, an increasingly unreliable source, still serves.  But embarrassing?  The contents of my mind are embarrassing.  Maybe I should stick with my journal and my fountain pen.  No need for IP code hiding and all those technologies I can't even remember.  Just the metal filing cabinet and my key.  But I'm flattering myself.  If I hung every bit of my dirty laundry out to dry, could I get more than the 36 readers I've had today?  Or my total record, 448?  And would any of them give a damn?  I'm nobody!  Oh, joy!


  1. Being embarrassed by events in one's past is a far cry from being open to blackmail....

    Not to mention how she flaunted her access to knowledge she should not have been privy to:

  2. Yes, I've read this, but the whirlwind is not about access--she was always cleared, and he always gave reporters access. The whirlwind is about the affair. I think the rest is smoke, distraction, an excuse for the intense focus on this affair. It's American prurience, aka Puritanism.

  3. sounds to me like the prurience is what you want to focus on.

  4. Hmmmmm. If it is the real story, then yes. It seems to me that it is the real story here. I don't think Paula Broadwell was every remotely a threat to national security--nor was any other friend or contact or reporter with whom Petraeus had any relationship of any kind. I think his career is on the skids in a way that it would never be anywhere in Europe, and that the reason for his fall are deeply grounded in lingering American Puritan ways.