WASHINGTON, November 13 (By Suleiman Wali for RIA Novosti) - The sex scandal that brought down America’s spy chief certainly doesn’t read like a James Bond thriller.
On the surface, the story of David Petraeus, America’s four-star general, whose illustrious military record in Iraq and Afghanistan led President Barack Obama to appoint him as Director of the US Central Intelligence Agency, is a seemingly atypical addition to the pantheon of philandering politicians and celebrity cheaters.
Unlike President Bill Clinton’s self-tortuous denial claims in the Monica Lewinsky scandal, Petraeus abruptly stepped down and admitted guilt when news of his affair with his biographer-turned-lover, Paula Broadwell, became public last week.
And unlike Bond, whose suave and charming seduction skills have become iconic film images of a sexy spy, Petraeus, at least on the surface, appears to be a squeaky clean military man who married young at the age of 21 and who, according to one former aide, would never comment on a woman’s good looks.
So what could have led these two to have an extended affair?
“For her, it definitely may have been the prestige of having access to an incredible amount of power. And for a woman, power and prestige trump good looks,” said Dr. Eileen Crawford, a Washington-based psychotherapist.
“A man’s intellectual capacity becomes more interesting for a woman as she gets older,” she added.
Petraeus, 60, and Broadwell, 40, also came from strikingly similar backgrounds.
They were both married, had two kids, enjoyed long jogs, celebrated November birthdays that were just two days apart, and graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point in the state of New York.
“There was a lot there for a strong friendship to form, especially considering that they worked together in a war zone. Working as his biographer, she may have been one of the very few people that he could confide in,” Crawford said.
Petraeus, whose last name is derived from the Greek word “petros” meaning “stone” or “rock,” may not fit the physical image of past American political philanderers such as Pres. Bill Clinton, Pres. John F. Kennedy, Sen. Gary Hart, Sen. John Edwards or Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. But according to Crawford, typical physical characteristics are not good indicators of sexual promiscuity.
“There is no one definition of what is sexy to a woman. And even if Petraeus does not have the typical good looks, don’t forget that he is an incredibly fit man who takes very good care of himself,” Crawford said.
While Petraeus may not possess the physical attributes of a “hunk,” his intellectual capacity has been noted by political figures across American political parties.
“Most impressive guy I’ve met, seen in action in a long time,” Republican Sen. John McCain said after meeting with Petraeus in 2007. “Charisma, a lot of charisma.”
In 2007, Petraeus was a runner-up for Time magazine’s “Man of the Year” award, which ended up going to Russian President Vladimir Putin, a world leader who likes to wear his ruggedness on his sleeve and his bare chest.
A year later, Britain’s Daily Telegraph described Petraeus as a “spry and youthful [man] … of medium height and build.” The article went on to say that his stoop and slight physical awkwardness may have been caused by two accidents in his army career: getting shot in the chest during a military exercise and a smashed pelvis after a parachute jump.
“Whatever the case, Broadwell certainly seems to have committed a lot of her emotions to this man. A woman would not expressly send angry emails to another woman she thought was threatening her territory unless she was deeply emotionally committed,” Crawford said, referring to Broadwell’s alleged emails to a Petraeus female family friend who she reportedly thought was becoming her romantic rival.
Those emails led to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) probe that caused Petraeus to resign and end a storied military and intelligence career that would have made James Bond proud.