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Fall of the House of Petraeus?

It was in the middle of a breaking news story and MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell sounded like she was going to cry. It had to do with CIA Director David Petraeus. She was ticking off his accomplishments one by one, the words “personal tragedy” ringing forebodingly like church bells over the satellite radio airwaves.

For the love of Mike, was he in a coma? Dead? I needed to know. Something bad had certainly happened to David Petraeus, but it took a few more painful moments of this boilerplate obituary and Mitchell’s palpable grief to figure it out: the once “King David” had done something bad — an extra-marital affair! — for which he apparently took responsibility, and immediately resigned his post.

First thought: Oh, snap! The Teflon general/CIA director gets out of another assignment just when it looks like thescheisse is about to hit the fan.

Second thought: The scheisse has already hit —splattering across the folds of the fine green drapery from which a small figure sheepishly emerges. “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!” someone cries. But for the first time in America’s love affair with Petraeus, that might be asking too much. However prudish it might sound, it’s going to be very difficult for many Americans to reconcile our battle-weary soldiers and failed war with the unwanted visage of Petraeus in his tighty whities, leaping into bed with his biographer in some love nest carved out of the ISAF headquarters in Kabul (okay, so the papers say the affair with Paula Broadwell started aftershe spent a year following him around like Cameron Crowe and Led Zeppelin, but you get the picture).

Like it or not, we are the land of the crooked moral compass: oversee the torture of innocent men, encourage sectarian cleansing and raze villages to get at a few militants — all good. Find out the Howdy Doody general is really a lyin’, cheatin’louse of a husband, well, just stop the presses, let’s give this thing a closer look. That’s not to say Petraeus is finished — not yet — but there’s a lot of confusion where there is normally clarity, at least where his legendary perfection is concerned.

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