Compared with Marine Gen. John Allen, who currently commands U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, Petraeus may be a paragon of virtue.
Not sexual virtue. Petraeus is an admitted adulterer. But while he was playing hide-the-bazooka with Paula Broadwell, he appears to have been trying to do his job as director of the Central Intelligence Agency and allegedly was not fooling around when he was Allen’s predecessor.
While in Kabul, there is no evidence that Petraeus ever took his mind off his primary job of propping up a corrupt and detested regime.
Gen. Allen, on the other hand, seems to have found time to exchange 20,000 to 30,000 allegedly inappropriate emails with Tampa “socialite” and “society hostess” Jill Kelley. (An FBI agent allegedly emailed a shirtless picture of himself to Kelley, a risky act. Risky not so much because it endangers his career, but because few guys I see on the beach should immortalize their chests in a database.)
In fairness, both the number and nature of the Allen emails is in dispute. Allen’s defenders are now saying the 30,000 figure may not refer to the number of emails, but merely their page length.
Fox News has reported that one “official described some of the emails as sexually explicit and the ‘equivalent of phone sex over email.’”
But The New York Times quotes a senior administration official as saying: “If you know Allen, he’s just the kind of guy to respond dutifully to every email he gets — ‘you’re the best,’ ‘you’re a sweetheart,’ that kind of thing.”
Other officials, however, told the paper that the emails were “overly flirtatious.”
But it is not the nature of the emails that bother me as much as their sheer volume. Gen. Allen has one giant bandwidth.
We are talking about 30,000 emails (or 30,000 pages) over a two-year period. If I wrote emails about every sexual encounter I had in my life — with others or alone — I am not sure it would add up to 30,000. Even if I threw in every pre-teen fantasy starting with Hayley Mills in “The Parent Trap,” I am not sure it would hit that number.
If Gen. Allen and Jill Kelley had engaged in just one inappropriate act or fantasy a day, it would have taken them more than 82 years to reach 30,000.
Where did Allen find the time to do it in two years? I hope our troops were not waiting in line trying to send emails to their spouses and kids while Gen. Allen was hogging the broadband.
Even if you accept the best-case scenario that Allen merely exchanged 30,000 pages of emails, who in his right mind exchanges 30,000 pages of emails with a Tampa society hostess while holding the fate of 87,000 U.S. troops in his hands?
Didn’t he have more important stuff to do? Stuff that dealt with troop deployments and helicopters and artillery and all those other piddling details he had to fit into his life in between sending emails saying “you’re the best” and “you’re a sweetheart”?
And, by the way, what on earth is a Tampa society hostess? What on earth is Tampa society? Are these the people who get to go to the head of the line at Busch Gardens?
But you can see the enticements that Jill Kelley offered. She held parties for military brass that appear to be the I-4 corridor version a Caligula romp. At one, as The Tampa Bay Times reported, “Petraeus and his wife arrived escorted by 28 police officers on motorcycles to a pirate-themed party ... Guests dined on lamb chops and crab cakes, beside hot dog and funnel cake carts.”
Personally, I wouldn’t sell my soul for anything less than pigs-in-blankets, but that’s just me.
Who are these silly people? I know that “society” folk are snobs trying to look more important than they really are. But in Washington, we just call that reporters going on TV.
Jill Kelley took herself seriously, however. Why shouldn’t she? She has one general coming to her pirate parties and another exchanging thousands of pages of emails with her, while somehow getting herself the honorary (and meaningless) title of “honorary consul to South Korea.”
Roger Simon is editor of Politico.