Archive | November 2012

Sex, Google, and Videotape

The jokes won’t stop coming.  He has an “open door policy” that gives her “full access.”  She’s “all in.”

The FBI investigation of David Petraeus “started with two women.”  Well let’s meet the main one, a soldier-scholar with great arms.

Here she is, waiting for any number of engagements.  The author of All In never knew a book title could become her own personal destiny.  Paula Broadwell showed off her Michelle Obama-worthy uppers on “The Daily Show” with Jon Stewart.

And here is an especially cringe-worthy interview with someone named Arthur Kade who cannot disguise his enthusiasm for sitting next to Broadwell.

Here is a photo of David Petraeus and his wife Holly, who have been married for 38 years.

Where does one begin with the Grecian fall of David Petraeus and his biographer/lover Paula Broadwell?  Petraeus, arguably one of the most highly decorated retired military men in U.S. history, was the civilian head of the Central Intelligence Agency until tendering his resignation on Friday, November 9th.  What seemed to be a simple “head to bed” transition in Petraeus’ relationship with Broadwell does not explain the reason for his resignation.  We live in an age when top government officials (e.g., Clinton, Gingrich) engage in extramarital affairs, but many manage to survive these peccadilloes in our “anything goes as long as you don’t wake up the cows” age.

It is not the extramarital affair an intelligence agency like the CIA cared about in this case.  Rather it was the opportunity by the lover or a third party to breach top security.  The FBI had been contacted months ago by Petraeus family friend Jill Kelley of Tampa, Florida, identified now as an unpaid social liaison to the Joint Special Operations Command, who complained that she was being sent anonymous threatening emails.  It turns out that Broadwell was sending said emails and the trail of threats wound up snaring Broadwell’s lover Petraeus through their Google email accounts.  Let’s hope that Petraeus’ Google email wasn’t something like “I’m too sexy” at Google dot com.  Google, like Yahoo! and other secondary emails that many of us use outside of work, do not have the same firewall protection from hackers of an official account used for formal communications in business, government or the academy.

Oh what a tangled web indeed.

The videotape angle of this story is not a sex tape.  I’m referring to the conspiracy theory that the real reason David Petraeus resigned was to avoid giving testimony to Congress on the Benghazi attacks of 9/11/12.  Remember how the Obama administration originally linked these attacks to the “Innocence of Muslims” video?  Some think that Petraeus wanted to step aside so he wouldn’t have to answer any tough questions related to the Benghazi narrative.  I’m not so sure about that given the power of Congress to subpoena witnesses.

What we have here is an opportunity for political opportunists to run with this scandal while the parties involved just want to hide.  This is so much bigger than any sex scandal, despite the sad wake such an affair leaves with the two married partners, one of whom (Broadwell), has two young children.

David McCullough: America’s Finest Historian

The only way to teach history, to write history, to bring people into the magic of transforming yourself into other times, is through the vehicle of the story. It isn’t just a chronology. It’s about people. History is human.

Well I admit here that I’m gushing.  I’ve got a writer’s crush on the Pulitzer-Prize winning author David McCullough, age 79.  At some point in your life if you are any kind of reader, I guarantee you will pick up a McCullough book.  That is, if you know what’s good for you.  He’s a lover of all things related to American history and culture.  I’m not sure if he thinks our best days are ahead.  After all, historians tend to look back rather than forward.  They are nostalgic, but not to a fault.  In McCullough’s case, he just loves good ole stories of bygone days.  He’s known to feast on the cuisine of the Founding Fathers and Mothers, such as Martha Washington’s orange cake.

I have not read all of McCullough’s books but I do have a fair number in my personal library.  He has penned three presidential biographies (John Adams, Teddy Roosevelt, Harry Truman), and has tackled eclectic topics from baseball and the Brooklyn Bridge to the Johnstown Flood and the Panama Canal’s creation.   One gets the feeling from his TV interview with Morley Safer that McCullough has many books yet to come.

I love McCullough’s schoolboy passion for life.  It’s infectious.  My dream goal is to interview David McCullough about his early writing job at the United States Information Agency.  He was still in his late 20s, the exact age I was when I worked at the United States Information Agency during the Clinton era.  McCullough worked for Edward R. Murrow, Director of USIA under John F. Kennedy.  I worked for Joseph Duffey, the president emeritus of American University, from where I earned my Ph.D. in 1992 (School of International Service).  That’s enough of a common link to bring us together, don’t you think?  That and the fact that I’m publishing the first book-length account on Edward R. Murrow’s tenure at USIA.  Murrow and Kennedy inspired many a young person to do public service, McCullough among them.  I too served in public service as an avenue to give back to causes greater than my individual self.  What’s  not better than USIA’s motto, “Telling America’s Story to the World?”

Obama Wins: A Sure Thing from the Start

Obama wins.  I’ve been telling everyone all year, including my Japanese students at Sophia University this spring, that President Barack Obama would win a second term in office. That is stating the obvious.

Yesterday was a “let’s get this over with” day.  At least for me.

So let’s see here.  What did we get for our $6 billion investment?  I cannot help but think about the budget of the federal government agency where I used to work, the United States Information Agency, responsible for “telling America’s story to the world.”  Our budget was just over one billion.  So for the equivalent of six years of branding America all over the world, we had election results that kept everything the same in Washington.  The Senate is still controlled by the Democrats.  The Republicans still control the House of Representatives.  A Democrat resides in the White House.

Does anyone foresee a new spirit of togetherness arising from the 2012 election?  A dentist who pulls teeth without anesthesia rates higher than the average member of Congress.

Why don’t we have competitive elections that last about two to four weeks and are financed by the government?  I know.  It’s too small “d” democratic to imagine getting this done in a timely fashion that would benefit the majority spectators to this spectacle.  

The real winners of this contest are the local TV networks in battleground states that cleaned up financially and the political consultants and media types who told us what a barnburner we had on our hands.  Really?

I’m disgusted by amount of money it took to conclude the obvious.  Romney was never any formidable competition.  He is the walking effigy of the modern bogey man known as white male privilege.  There’s very little he could say or do that would remove him from this perch.

We’ve not only stated the obvious with this election—Obama never had any competition for reelection—but also we’re just as politically divided, if not more so, then we were before.

Can someone give me a reason to believe that all is not driven by money and special interests?  As the former executive director of the nonpartisan “good government” citizens’ lobby, Common Cause of New Hampshire, I want to believe that our best days are just ahead.

A promising footnote to all the money excess is that Proposition 30 was passed by the voters of California.  It was a good day for public education.

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