My Take

A case study in weathering scandal

PUBLISHED : Friday, 16 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 16 November, 2012, 2:20am

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.