Whenever a mess like the General David Petraeus affair blows up, I am asked by friends, acquaintances, students and journalists to handicap the state of play. The challenge is that no matter how hard I try, I'm lucky if I can get across one semi-cogent sound bite or bottom-line conclusion in most exchanges.
Seriously? Both political parties talking preemptive smack barely a week after the election. Partisan politics? Again? So soon? Not even time to catch our breath? For crum's sakes, give it a rest, you guys.
How awful, as we enter the great family fun season of sugar cookies, Charlie Brown and battered, beloved board games, to find ourselves suddenly flashing our hands in front of the kids' tender eyes to block them from the latest in the sordid franchise: Real Housewives of Military Bases.
When the match that lights an affair strikes, it tends to strike at work.
We are intolerant of affairs, we North American Puritans. We are not French. This, despite the fact that, statistically, most of us will find themselves inhabiting at least one corner of a love triangle sometime in our lives.
Much of the reporting on now-former CIA Director David Petraeus has been filled with factual detail. But a piece on the front page of the same day's Boston Globe, modeled another side of journalism -- the ugly practice of protecting anonymous cheap shots.
Does having an affair lead you to make bad decisions across the board? Does it impact your ability to lead, manage or govern, or just your ability to stick to your marital vows? And if it doesn't impact your ability to lead, manage or govern, why would you have to resign or be ousted?
Civil libertarians and others who rose to defend President Clinton in 1998 when his affair with a White House intern was disclosed, and led to his impeachment, have been silent with the Petraeus news.
Zero energy goes into the investigation of actual rape in the military, except in rare circumstances. The military's domination culture, personified by Patton, is constructed on the illusion of granite-etched moral values -- "we protect our loved ones" -- and powered by a belief in its own righteousness.
We can't have it both ways, ladies; we can't demand the "right to party" along with the boys then expect to be treated with kid gloves when we're caught with our pants down too, any more than Clinton, Weiner, Spitzer or Petraeus could. Paula Broadwell is no Monica Lewinsky.
The bottom line is this is a man who is very good at what he does professionally, and we need him. It's a major loss for our country. Cheating on your spouse is never a good idea, but what does that have to do with Petraeus' ability to run the CIA?
"Never have an affair with anyone who has less to lose than you do." That should cover hookers who don't play golf when you are the Greatest Golfer who ever lived. It should reverberate in the halls of Congress when congressmen are contemplating another kind of congress. But it doesn't.
The fact that Gen. Petraeus's biographer needed a "ghost-writer" speaks volumes about her lack of qualifications for the task at hand -- save for the fact that Gen. Petraeus could be absolutely certain that every word would be favorable, if not worshipful.
Let's just be honest here -- General Petraeus, his former mistress, Paula Broadwell, and even his jovial wife, Holly, along with the rest of us, are forcing ourselves into a box we don't naturally fit into.