• Fri
  • Dec 26, 2014
  • Updated: 1:46am
My Take
PUBLISHED : Friday, 16 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 16 November, 2012, 2:20am

A case study in weathering scandal

If you had two minutes to pitch turning a hit television show into a movie to a Hollywood honcho, what would you sell? Here is my bid: Desperate Housewives do the CIA. Oh, Oh wait! How about doing both the Pentagon and the CIA?

I am sure if I'd pitched it before l'affaire of ex-CIA director David Petraeus, I would have landed on my behind in less time than I could say the title. But reality has a way of trumping even the tawdriest imagination. The sorry saga of Petraeus who has resigned over it - and the top US commander in Afghanistan, General John Allen - is the best sex scandal at least since the lawyer of former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn said it was impossible for his client or anyone else to distinguish a proper lady from a paid escort at a party when they were all naked.

The South China Morning Post had to run a two-column graphic to explain all the ins and outs, starting with Petraeus' hanky-panky with his official biographer, Paula Broadwell, who sent allegedly threatening messages to Jill Kelley, a long-time family friend of the Petraeuses. Kelley, it transpired, was in turn exchanging naughty e-mails with Allen. And when she filed a complaint about Broadwell's alleged threats to the FBI, an agent took up the case, took off his shirt and sent half-naked photos of himself to her.

So here, I can make this Hollywood blockbuster even stronger now: Desperate Housewives do the CIA, FBI and Pentagon. How's that? Seriously, these men are setting a gold standard of sex scandals that puts our local colourless officials to shame. Some mainland officials, though, might rival the Americans when the state-controlled media become freer.

Truth be told, I am actually sad to see Petraeus go. He was a brilliant general. The sex affair broke about the same time as the 18th national congress. And that just gives me an idea for a Harvard Business School case study: How some of the world's most hated and feared institutions survive and prosper. Think about the Chinese Communist Party after Tiananmen; the re-engineering of the US military engulfed in the chaos following the Iraq invasion; and the tobacco industry, my favourite sin stocks.

Now, out of a job, maybe Petraeus will have time for an interview.


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This article is now closed to comments

I’m not sure I can agree with your assessment of Petraeus being a “brilliant general”. Anyone who needs to cover his chest with such an absurd number of boy-scout badges has clearly got an inferiority complex or identity problem. We used to laugh at the Soviet era Russian army generals with their chests festooned with so many dangling medals but this guy has taken medal ribbon display to whole new heights, almost like the birds of paradise during their mating display. Do these US military officers get to award these medals to themselves? And why do the US forces have to give so many of these distinguished service awards out? They obviously get one gong just for being able to polish their boots and put their berets on straight. And was another I could see, a ribbon for the Guinness Book of Records award for the highest number of secret love emails ever sent undetected by senior defence chiefs?
Current score FBI : 1 CIA : nil. However standby for a possible last minute equalizer from a penalty during extra injury time play.
a behemoth of due-process infrastructure is no vaccine or antidote against human failings, bureaucratic stalemates and abuse of power. New revelations disclosed that Petraeus' mistress had access to sensitive information. Seems the hallowed military institutions have failed to instill discretion and common sense in their star graduate. Nonetheless, agree that the PRC should stop playing Big Brother
If one follows the Petraeus saga carefully, one must admit the tremendous strength and resiliency in the US government, despite frequent dysfunctions and gridlocks. This report, ****www.nytimes.com/2012/11/12/us/us-officials-say-petraeuss-affair-known-in-summer.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20121112, shows US institutions and due processes at work. Americans should be proud. No FBI agent or operative had to run for cover to Chinese Embassy for whistle blowing.
President Hu is right. China should not copy Western systems of government, but there is plenty to learn from this example and the US crisis management by default processes.
Many unflattering stories abut the US high military command have since leaked out. Sex scandals are as ineluctable as God and apple pie among the upper echelon of officers. Groupies of army generals are entirely new to me. That's ok. It makes for good, tawdry entertainment to a public yearning for reality shows like New Jersey Housewives, now into its umpteenth season.
Why can't Hong Kongers learn from this and start garnishing their political hate passions with a pinch of Western humor?
I can see how powerful and rigid one's mind frame is. If a man is perceived to be a good man and he does something wrong, the "wrongdoing" would be re-framed unconsciously to be good, or rationalized. On the other hand, if a man has a bad record of behavior, ....


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