All the characters in the Petraeus sex scandal are American and so far as the story has unraveled, none of it took place in France. Yet somehow, the whole thing is being tied to the French.
A letter to the editor in the New York Times yesterday defended Gen. David Petraeus on the grounds that French government officials commit infidelity all the time. “In France, highly placed government officials have mistresses scattered all over Paris,” the letter said. “Americans are prudish and have lost the services of many valuable officials as a result. Utter nonsense!”
A story in the Daily Mail noted that Petraeus is a fan of a famous French general: “Petraeus was a devoted fan of the late French General Marcel Bigeard, famous for his campaigns against insurgents in Vietnam and Algeria. He kept a photograph of the handsome ladies’ man warrior on his desk. But, commenting on Petraeus’s downfall, a French radio satirist sneers: ‘Even the average peasant here knows how to keep a couple of mistresses secret.’”
Matthew Fraser, a professor at American University in Paris, wrote a column for CNN.com on how the French are reacting to Petraeus’ scandal…“As Americans are coming to terms with the revelation of Petraeus’ adultery, on the other side of the Atlantic, the feeling among the French can be summed up by a blasé shrug,” Fraser wrote. “Every time a steamy sexual intrigue is laid bare near the corridors of Washington power, the French don’t see what all the fuss is about. It’s only sex, after all. It’s impossible to imagine a French political leader resigning because of an extramarital indiscretion. If this rule were observed, the French parliament would be nearly vacant.”
Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen began his Tuesday column on the affair with a story about a French diplomat who was blackmailed by a Soviet agent with photos of his extramarital affair: “[O]ur Frenchman nonchalantly put on his glasses and peered at the pictures. He pointed to one and then another. ‘I’ll take this one and that one and, yes, that one, too.’ The shocked KGB agent turned on his heels and left. A Frenchman cannot be blackmailed on account of sex. Oddly enough, David Petraeus is now in the position of that Frenchman.”
As for the people who think the scandal has been timed as some sort of coverup for the Benghazi incident, the Post‘s Melinda Henneberger compared it to the French. “One way in which we are getting more French all the time, however, is in our fondness of a good conspiracy theory,” Henneberger wrote.
Fortunately, the Associated Press is here to bring us back to our roots and remind everyone the scandal is as American as it gets:
One day CIA Director David Petraeus was sending out signals he’d like to stay on for President Barack Obama’s second term. The next he was hurrying to the White House to offer his resignation and remorse over an extramarital affair. In rapid succession, other characters have emerged in North Carolina, Florida and Afghanistan with story lines that resemble the latest installment of “Real Housewives.”