It’s Wednesday and I’m writing this post completely over again. The first draft, written last Sunday, was all about two people falling in love when they knew they shouldn’t. I almost felt sorry for them. I don’t anymore.
This version is about sex, power and stupidity. If you haven’t heard the story by now, which I am about to summarize, you will be thinking what I’m thinking: What were THEY thinking?
We start with two ultra competitive over achievers: our hero – a four star General turned CIA Director turned Ex-CIA Director turned in-the-doghouse husband/father: 60 year-old, six-minute mile runner, David Petraeus.
And in the scarlet trunks, weighing in at 110 pounds, Dave’s mistress – Army Reserve Major, highest security clearance biographer, Harvard Ph.D. grad student, wife and mommy: the beautiful but evil, 40 year-old Paula Broadwell.
Just for fun, we add another four star General, top commander in Afghanistan and married man, John Allen. John sent alleged ‘flirtatious’ emails to a Tampa, Florida wife/mom/socialite, the 37 year-old social liaison and honorary ambassador of Central Command, the fabulous but debt-ridden Jill Kelly.
Then we add Jill’s guy-friend, a still un-named FBI agent who helped blow the whistle on everyone while sending shirtless snaps of himself to the woman he wanted to help but instead wrapped Jill Kelly in scandal.
THE CONVOLUTED STORY
Dave and Paula have an affair when the general takes over the CIA. (Could have been earlier.) But General Dave is also friends with Socialite Jill and Jill’s surgeon husband. David frequents their power parties when he’s in Tampa.
General John Allan and wife also attend, because that’s what generals do at Tampa’s MacDill Air Force Base.
Now Mistress Paula doesn’t like the idea of Socialite Jill moving close to her CIA bedmate so she emails anonymous back-off threats to Jill in Tampa. Jill tells her FBI shirtless guy-friend about the stay-clear-of-Dave emails and that starts an investigation which traces the emails back to Paula and Dave’s secret Gmail account with their How-much-do-you-love-me? letters, all chronologically stored on the Gmail servers.
Real smart. No encryption! No firewalls! NO deletes!
And these people work in the spy business? What were they thinking?
They were thinking:
Level one security is GOOD ENOUGH. We’ll never be found as long as we don’t bring attention to ourselves.
Actually, that was David Petraeus’s thought. What Paula Broadwell’s thought was:
He’s mine! ALL mine! And I’ll be damned if I’m gonna let a Florida housewife muscle in on my man and all the stuff he can do for me!
Or something like that…
That prompted Jill Kelly’s thought:
I don’t know who this email bitch is, but nobody tells me to stay away from my generals. I’m taking her down!
And Jill did take Broadwell down, along with Jill’s own husband and kids, Paula’s husband and kids, David’s wife and sons and the collateral damage of General John Allen! The Pentagon started it own investigation and uncovered John’s you’re-so-hot emails to party-planner Jill.
Don’t ask me what General John was thinking. I can’t imagine. Jill and her husband are buried in law suits and foreclosures. What happened to background checks? Didn’t the General have the Afghan War to attend to? Where did he find the time to write 20,000 flirty emails? And who was the poor soul who had to read’em all? That dude deserves a promotion.
But back to our two over-achieving adulterers who weren’t so adult.
THEY SAY POWER CORRUPTS. SURE DOES, DECIMATING JUDGMENT FIRST.
What did CIA Director Dave say when he was forced to resign? He said:
“After being married for over 37 years, I showed extremely poor judgment by engaging in an extramarital affair.”
Now my wife and I have been discussing the scandal and she thinks that Dave and Paula tested their limits of getting caught because subconsciously it added to the excitement of the affair, like screwing in the bushes.
I’m not so sure about that. I think Dave and Paula were full of false confidence because they are both alpha winners. Exposure was never considered.
But let’s go deeper. Why did Dave and Paula risk everything for so little?
Paula’s motives (and Jill’s for that matter) are becoming more obvious: opportunities and access to more power. At first I thought Broadwell loved Petraeus. Now I don’t. Now I know it’s about WINNING. Period.
But David’s misjudgments are more complex. And we writers need to understand them if we are going to write complex characters interacting in complex ways.
Why was the CIA director taken down? The obvious reason first: Great sex! You put two hyper athletic aggressive hard-bodies in one bed, anything can happen.
But what about that universal need to be GOOD ENOUGH?
With movers and shakers, it’s all about being WAY better than good enough. It’s about being better than you and me.
I’m not talking about heroes. That’s a whole different animal. That’s about humility, not dominance.
With alphas, life is about leadership and continually promoting it. This begs the question: When does the Ego believe being good enough, really IS good enough?
When do YOU believe it?
You believe you’re good enough when somebody tells you so, when you score big time and everyone’s looking. You’re good enough when a smart and gorgeous partner twenty years younger than you whispers into your ear, “It was the best lay ever!”
So when you’re David Petraeus and your wife of 38 years says you’re special with the words, “I love you,” that’s nice, but it’s not good enough. You spent that validation years ago in your first years of marriage.
So many of us devalue our partner’s devotion. But that’s another post.
Okay, so David and Paula came together because their meetings made them feel better about themselves. They both considered the other “High Value Targets” and they impressed the hell out of each other. And I’m sure, after each climax, they told each other how good it was. And then Paula wrote a gushy book about her man. That really scored points!
It just doesn’t get any better. She made him great. He made her great. And the sex was great…until that got old too.
In my first draft I speculated that David Petraeus needed a place to hide from the constant pressure of being the Man of All Men, the guy always in charge, the guy that ends wars and protects us from more of them. I thought he wanted to sneak away from all that, to be comforted like a boy in the loving arms of Paula Broadwell. I imagined that she was his secret sanctuary, soothing his tired soul, assuring him, “It’s all going to be okay.”
And then Dave would leave her embrace, venture back into the world and repeat it to us. “It’s all going to be okay.”
I’m a romantic by nature and so this scenario made all kinds of sense, until I read that David Petraeus had been questioned by the FBI weeks ahead of the election and at no time did he warn the President.
But thinking about it, staying silent saved Obama from having to hide a possible security breach before the election, and that’s a good thing. Congress doesn’t think so.
So I don’t know if David Petraeus and everyone else deliberately waited until after November sixth to release the story, or if the General was just praying it would all go away.
It doesn’t matter. Everyone is sorry to watch the man burn, and I am too. We all hope our leaders set examples for doing the right thing. Too many times they don’t.
Which means we have to make up for that. We have to do the right thing, even when nobody’s looking.
If we want truth and honesty in this world, WE have to put it there.
I don’t know about you, but I’m going to use these headlines as another reminder: Keep it honest.
Keep it honest all the time and I promise you, you’ll be much more than good enough. You’ll be exceptional.
First published on Curiosityquills.com.