On the way home from the Y after my near-daily swim, I couldn’t resist a little side trip to see the house shown so often on local TV lately as the home of Gen. Petraeus’s biographer, author of “All In,” Paula Broadwell. On a beautiful street in an historic district amid 80 year old oaks, sat a nicely kept brick house where she lived.
The saga that led me to take the detour had begun last week like so many do, one person who loves being around power hooks up with one who has it and, voila!, sparks fly and people get burned. The one who, in this case, desired to be closer to major power, turns out, lives less than a mile from me. As I approached the house the street was blocked by tree pruning trucks, which I immediately assumed were secret agents up in the trees.
Paula Broadwell is herself a very accomplished and powerful person but the cult that has grown up around the upper echelons of the military elite is legendary and often scandal ridden. David Petraus represented the pinnacle of this military power. His biographer purportedly became his mistress, and the powerful general became just another man.
The bright, shininess of power contains within itself the dark, sinister seeds of its own destruction. It is the basis of many of the oldest stories and myths of humankind. Perhaps it’s even happened to you and certainly to someone close to you.
Years ago, a new senator was sworn in in North Carolina. He was a family friend and he signed the Bible he used in the ceremony and gave it as a gift to my father. The inscription read, “There are two very difficult things to do in life, one is to make a good name for yourself, the other is to keep it.” He then said my father was a man who’d done both.
Later, while in office for many years, the rumors flew about our friend and the affairs he famously had. The temptations are legion, as they say. The thrill of power and access to power are intoxicating. I can’t really blame anyone else for their indiscretions, we all must live with the consequences of our words and actions. And, if we didn’t have our own faults, we couldn’t recognize them in others.