Emmett Tyrrell
Sex remains the surest prop for all that is funny ... and sad. In the first instance, we often call the result ribaldry. In the second instance, it is always called tragedy.

General David Petraeus has, in war, been a hero. In public service, too, he was a national asset. But toward the end of his soldiering, his life is now cast in doubt. As the head of CIA, the doubt has increased. Almost certainly, as director of central intelligence, he was no Dick Helms or Bill Casey. Those names from a better era illuminate the dreariness of this tawdry episode, and I hope it is merely tawdry, not anything more than that. Certainly, it could not be the national betrayal spoken of by Ben Stein this week at Spectator.org, could it?

For now, at least in the case of General Petraeus, this leggy scandal is a tragedy, particularly when it comes to his children, his wife and his, as the news accounts term it, "storied career." In the case of Paula Broadwell, the general's inamorata, it was a disaster waiting to happen. All that running, performing push-ups (partial), graduate work in a fictive study at Harvard University, stylish dress (usually out of place), "competitiveness" -- egads! I could have put General Petraeus in touch with a seasoned international playboy who would take one look at this perfumed stalker and counsel caution. Get out, general, while you can. This woman is trouble and, not to betray my sources, she has been trouble for years.

We live in an era awash in sex or what another generation called sexual hygiene. There is sex education at an early age. Continuing sex education goes on through adolescence. When life begins for young adults, Americans have more information about sex than almost any other discipline, and most of it is useless. They still get pregnant in vast numbers out of wedlock, have abortions and suffer all the other calamities associated with sex. Who doubts that General Petraeus, when he is asked to reveal the details of his sexual adventures in public, will get the shouted question, "General, did you practice safe sex?" The question has been asked before.

Frankly, I relish the American educator or health professional -- usually female -- serving as the know-it-all advisor to society on sex. Remember Dr. Joycelyn Elders, Bill Clinton's surgeon general? She was agog on the topic of sex. One of her forward-looking specialties was masturbation. She thought it should be taught in schools as an alternative to, I am not sure what, group sex, sex with a household pet, his and her sex? At any rate, her pontifications on masturbation got her fired from her job as surgeon general but not before she had held forth on contraception too.

Emmett Tyrrell

R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. is founder and editor in chief of The American Spectator and co-author of Madame Hillary: The Dark Road to the White House.
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