Why watch TV shows when I have the news? Name one drama right now that’s as salaciously twisty as the David Petraeus affair.
Many people I talk to can’t believe I’ve never seen a single episode of “Desperate Housewives” or “Revenge.”
They’re gobsmacked that I’ve never spent so much as a nanosecond visiting Wisteria Lane or trying to unravel Emily Thorne’s true identity. And I know that much only because I read recycled Entertainment Weekly magazines.
But why watch those programs when I have the news? Name one drama right now that’s as salaciously twisty as the David Petraeus affair.
Lest you think it’s yet another sign of our godless times, consider that Grover Cleveland, Dwight Eisenhower, FDR, the Kennedys and Ohio’s own Warren G. Harding all had, shall we say, female trouble.
That’s because power is a pheromone. If it isn’t, then you explain how Henry Kissinger was once the Warren Beatty of the Beltway.
Some observers — mostly people who don’t know anything about the Petraeuses — are suggesting it happened because Holly Petraeus wasn’t fetching enough to keep him happy. So what if she devoted her entire life to husband and country? In other words, men just have to be clean but women have to be beautiful.
VA VA VOOM
Others pin Petraeus’ ex-mistress, Paula Broadwell, for seducing a good man in a weak moment. Were she not such a social-climbing Jezebel, such a gun stroker, so va va voom, we wouldn’t be witnessing the kind of hot mess that Spanish telenova writers only dream of.
Some people are mad at President Barack Obama, too.
We know this much is true:
First, David Petraeus chose to cheat. Does the “why” even matter?
Second, heroes are as flawed as the rest of us are. It helps to explain how a soldier whose entire career was based on precision and minimized risk failed to understand that emails are fingerprints — electronic calling cards that can be unraveled by one of his grandkids. He might just as well have left a voice-mail message, a la Tiger Woods: “It’s me, David. David Petraeus. You know, the head of the CIA.”
In a country frantic for heroes, Petraeus fit the bill. Accomplished but unassuming, disciplined but personable, his patriotism beyond politics, he was straight from Central Casting. All he needed was a cape.
But it’s hard to be merely mortal when everyone around you begs to differ. The warrior king Odysseus had himself bound to the mast of his ship so he wouldn’t crash it into the rocks when he heard the Sirens’ seductive song. He knew that buying into your own awesomeness is an invitation to disaster.
The scandal is taking up so much oxygen because the media aren’t dumb. The people who also brought you all-Monica-all-the-time know that sex and gossip sell even when they involve someone who looks more like an actuary than an action hero.
Page 2 of 2 - There are other national security stories equally deserving of our attention, such as the Army’s suicide epidemic and the rapes and sexual assaults that have plagued its ranks for years. Or the troops who endure multiple deployments to Afghanistan and the struggling families they leave behind. Or the 2,137 people who are never coming home.
But producers know we’d rather not be reminded.
Ratings don’t lie. It’s not morality, it’s math.