But, as Shakespeare would understand, tragedy sometimes requires comic relief. Other players in this scandal have added that. Instead of a clumsy and villainous Iago to push the plot along, the FBI appears on the scene. And in pursuit of villainy, the agents look less like Sherlock Holmes and more like Inspector Clouseau. The agent assigned to investigate harassing emails from the mistress to a suspected rival becomes so obsessed with the case that he sent the complaining witness photographs of his topless physique; even the bumbling Clouseau never bumbled so recklessly.
Tragedy becomes farce. Gen. John R. Allen, the tough Marine who commands U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan, falls under suspicion, fairly or not, when the FBI uncovers between 20,000 to 30,000 pages of documents he forwarded to Jill Kelley, the other "other woman." These are described as inappropriate, the Washington euphemism for anything from bad manners to explicit sex.
What is not clear, though many have their suspicions, is why the investigation was revealed so conveniently after the election after the FBI had lingered over it for months. The investigation is now holding up Gen. Allen's nomination as commander of the U.S. European Command and Supreme Allied Commander in Europe.
When you can't follow the money, the usual key to following Washington investigations, you can usually follow the sex. Who knew these officers had so much time on their hands for these skirmishes in the endless war between the sexes?
We're all titillated by an entertaining soap opera, but the Petraeus affair holds deadly serious peril for the Obama administration and, more important, the country. The Washington Post says the president is unscathed by the scandal: move along, there's nothing to see here. But we still don't know what happened in Benghazi, where the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans, pleading for help, were murdered by terrorists. We don't know why the general at first backed up the White House version of events and why Team Obama went to such lengths to sell the silly story that it was all about Muslim anger over a video that almost nobody had seen.
One of Shakespeare's characters asks Othello how he will be remembered. "I have done the state a service, " he says, but concedes that he had "loved not wisely but too well." David Petraeus has also done the state noble service, and like Othello loved unwisely. But his story is not over yet.
Write to Suzanne Fields at: firstname.lastname@example.org. To find out more about Suzanne Fields and read her past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
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