Still, if the narrative had been confined to Petraeus and Broadwell, even with his universally beloved status and his resignation mere days after a contentious election, the nation might simply have shared a raised-eyebrow pause and moved on.
But then we met Honorary Consul Jill Kelley and there was no turning back.
It’s one thing for the head of the CIA to have an affair, even with a woman crazy enough to send anonymous emails to someone she perceives to be a rival; it’s another to learn that powerful generals regularly hang out with a woman who looks like she could go six rounds with NeNe Leakes. It was Kelley and her strange nexus of irritation and influence that lifted the Petraeus scandal out of the ho-hum arrogance/stupidity of men who think they will never get caught and the women who love them.
Reading descriptions of Kelley’s champagne and caviar parties, her Gasparilla Pirate Fest parties and sky diving with the troops, it is difficult not to envision a Lebanese American version of Joan Collins in “Dynasty” or perhaps Madeleine Stowe in “Revenge,” the grasping, scheming lovely who everyone instantly sees through, except whichever schmuck she happens to be making a play for at the time.
Who, in this case, appears to have included some of the military’s top male brass — trained intelligence officers who supposedly are able to spot a potential terrorist across a crowded room but who, apparently, don’t know a nakedly ambitious social climber when they’re posin’ for pictures with her.
This is why we cannot get enough of the Petraeus story: It has something for everyone. A fallen hero, a troubled smart girl, a cast of characters who seem destined for Bravo or Lifetime.
But it’s more than the story’s multiple narrative touchstones that compel us. There is something heartbreaking about it being Petraeus, who, unlike Clinton or Edwards or California's former governor, has not cultivated a noticeable sexual swagger or a million-dollar smile.