The David Petraeus scandal is a tragedy of personal and global importance. Who could have possibly predicted such an undoing? None other than fake pundit Martin Eisenstadt... five years ago, to be exact.
More specifically, as part of an elaborate transmedia project involving faux Rudy Giuliani campaign ads that ran in 2007, Eisenstadt portrays a bitter valet who starred in seven such ads during the run-up to the 2008 primary season.
In one episode, the character says:
Who is this guy Petraeus? I want to know who he is and why his opinion matters so much. What happens if tomorrow it's found out that General Petraeus tapped toes in the barracks bathroom?
At the time, ABC News and the New York Times did extensive investigations and never did figure out who was behind the ads (the closest they came were denials from the Giuliani and McCain campaigns -- as well as a virulent denial and cease-and-desist orders from the consulting company that had created the notorious Swift Boat ads).
The ads were in truth an extension of a short film pilot by myself and fellow award-winning director Eitan Gorlin (who portrayed the character). The first in the series had premiered at the HBO Comedy Arts Festival and we were represented at the time by Hollywood's top agency CAA. But no one in Washington or New York ever made the connection.
After the WGA writer's strike, Gorlin and I evolved the bitter valet into a new character, Martin Eisenstadt, in order to pitch a show called The Pundit. During the 2008 campaign, Eisenstadt was widely quoted by the Los Angeles Times, CBS and Time as a McCain adviser and Sr. Fellow at the Harding Institute for Freedom and Democracy (named after the second worst president in American history). After MSNBC reported that Eisenstadt was the source of the rumor that Sarah Palin didn't know Africa was a continent, the New York Times wrote a flattering profile of us, and Farrar, Straus, Giroux gave us a very generous book offer.
The book, I Am Martin Eisenstadt: One Man's (wildly inappropriate) Adventures with the Last Republicans (which just came out as an ebook last week) explains in Eisenstadt's voice how he'd been hired by the Giuliani campaign itself to create the series of bitter valet ads -- ones that would be so offensive that they would be blamed on his rivals' campaigns as negative ads.
There's even a chapter in the book entitled "Surging with Petraeus" where Marty meets General Petraeus at a celebrity-style book signing in Baghdad and asks his help with building permits for a Vegas-style casino in the Green Zone. "What happens in the Green Zone, stays in the Green Zone!" as Marty was prone to say. But even in this satirical novel, hints of Petraeus as a celebrity general -- complete with autograph signings and paparazzi -- emerge.
And like other great men with power and hubris like Petraeus (who fell in love with his biographer) and John Edwards (who succumbed to his videographer), even Marty felt the need to seduce the BBC reporter who was shooting a documentary about him. Of course, this was in a fake BBC documentary called The Last Republican that in truth was a TV pilot we shot four years ago. Oh well, when truth is stranger than fiction, maybe it's best to believe the fiction.