The main thing lacking in the David Petraeus, Paula Broadwell and Jill Kelley sex scandal is... sex

The Pentagon is big and sexy. But this scandal isn't. Also: how marvellous that 'Omnishambles' is word of the year, and advice Pippa could be proud of

Click to follow
The Independent Online

One of my gripes with the Washington DC sex scandal that’s titillating America – David Petraeus, his mistress Paula Broadwell, her rival Jill Kelley, Jill’s admirer General John Allen, and so on – is the distinct lack of “big sex” that seems to have occurred. The Pentagon is a big, sexy place, god damnit, crackling with power and intrigue. I’ve seen James Bond and Homeland, I know what goes on.

By now, due to the amount of Petraeus news on offer, one would think there’d be one startling piece of sexual impropriety. But no, no cigar. Instead it’s the smaller details that fascinate. Did Petraeus really lie in bed telling Popwell about the Benghazi consulate? Why is the FBI searching her house? How did General John have the time to send Jill Kelley 20,000 pages of documents when I can’t even schedule in my annual boiler service?

Why did Paula Broadwell send Jill Kelley emails warning her off Petraeus if Jill was General John’s bit on the side? Can these two women not see that Petraeus looks like Mr Burns from The Simpsons, while they’re both sleek, hot fillies in the prime of their MILFdom and could probably nab the pasty-faced good-looking lad from One Direction?

And what about Holly, Petraeus’s wife – who in the biopic would be played by a slightly careworn Kathy Bates – who’s reportedly livid, but will she leave him? And how much has she turned a blind eye to before? So, yes, lots of questions to be asked, but not a lot of sex. Petraeusgate seems to be a tale of the most pedestrian of trysts.

Washington and the CIA are clearly prone to the same sorts of life-distracting, heart-fluttering office nonsense which is happening the length of Britain, and more so than anywhere in the civilised world that owns a photocopier and a water cooler. “This is like a Greek tragedy,” I heard a US political expert say yesterday. No, it’s not, I thought. It’s like January in a telesales company HQ in Cleethorpes after a very drunken Christmas party.

Sadly, I don’t have access to the email archives, paper trails and mobile phone bills of everyone at Ikea Head Office, or Staples HQ, or IBM or Starbucks, but I wish I did because I’m really bloody nosy and I bet I could find a spider’s web of all sorts of brilliant clandestine extra-curricular longings and vague smut. In fact, the only place I can imagine that this isn’t happening is at Innocent HQ where they make the fruit smoothies, because no set of people who write such twee gubbins on the side of their products can be sending each other shirtless pics and booking into Holiday Inn Expresses on the lunch hour.

What I find fascinating is that office affairs, and namely powerful men wooing women who could jeopardise business, office harmony or people’s safety, cannot be stamped out even when the employers make it literally against the law to dip your wick. Even the threat of Penis-related Prison couldn’t stop Petraeus looking at Paula Broadwell’s finely worked-out biceps and delicate décolletage across the meeting rooms as she took notes on his very big, strong brave military endeavours and thinking, “Oh, I’ll have a bit of that.”

Whether any of what went on after that made a blind bit of difference to foreign policy is debatable, but what we do know is that when one affair is uncovered, it’s like a soggy house of cards. Everyone has less to lose and a bigger axe to grind. Jill Kelley – the other, other woman, do keep up – has responded to questions over why she hosted a party for Petraeus in which he arrived in a 28-car motorcade, and what her job as an “unpaid social liaison” at MacDill Air Force Base actually consists of by hiring DC super lawyer Abbe Lowell and PR person Judy Smith, who looked after, um, the sex scandals of Monica Lewinsky and Kobe Bryant. Meanwhile, Paula Broadwell’s dad has helpfully announced that “this story is about something else entirely” and that the whole truth will eventually come out. There may be nothing to see here, but the world won’t be looking away any time soon.

A word of the year that we can be proud of

“Omnishambles” has been named word of the year by the Oxford English Dictionary. The Thick of It writers should be utterly proud. Omnishambles is a glorious, most British of vocabulary gems to describe what we do best: make something shambolic from every angle. Newsnight’s handling of Savile, The Diamond Jubilee flotilla, the Olympic ticket website – we will take confusing, slapdash and incompetent to new levels of bewilderment.

 Other less appetising words shortlisted were “mummy porn” – an icky way to describe anything post-Fifty Shades of Grey that might make a woman who’s had children feel sexual. Also “second screening” – the art of watching TV while simultaneously using a computer, phone or tablet, or, as your other half might call it, “being an antisocial prat”.

No mention of my pet peeves “awesomesauce”, “cool beans” or “amayonnaise”, all of which said in my vicinity will result in an open-handed slap. However, the OED did shortlist the word “Yolo”, aka: you only live once. Yolo is the perfect British dry reply to being asked to do anything tedious like putting the bins out. Try it. You only live once.

Advice so simple that Pippa could have penned it

Joanna Lumley’s “stay slim” tips won’t make much of a post-Christmas hardback bestseller:  “People are too fat,” she says, “Because they eat all the stuff in front of them. They think, ‘I want a bit of choccie’, and you think, ‘No, don’t have it you fool’.” Long-limbed, skinny-hipped Lumley might be on to something. “People don’t need dieting books” she said, “They should just stop eating so much. There is nothing else to be said.” This is advice so simple that Pippa Middleton could have penned it. I’m completely on board, the moment I finish my Pret Christmas sandwich with the crispy onions and the thick layer of Cranberry.