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Jack Knox column: Petraeus can't hold a candle to Clinton affair

Nov 18 2012
FBI Special Agent Frederick W. Humphries — a.k.a. Mr. Shirtless — poses with target dummies after SWAT practice. Humphries triggered the Petraeus investigation. 

FBI Special Agent Frederick W. Humphries — a.k.a. Mr. Shirtless — poses with target dummies after SWAT practice. Humphries triggered the Petraeus investigation.

Photograph by: Via Seattle Times

Glad to see the Taliban has weighed in on the Petraeus scandal.

Without the gravitas offered by those grim-lipped fun-suckers, the whole affair of Agent Shirtless of the FBI and General Pantsless of the CIA might have taken on an air of farce. (Pause here to suppress smirk.)

We now even have a Victoria connection, as tenuous as it might be: The FBI agent who triggered the Petraeus investigation - the aforementioned Shirtless - turns out to be the same one who handled the case against the Millennium Bomber, Ahmed Ressam, after he was arrested in Port Angeles, Washington, coming off the Coho ferry with a trunkful of explosives with which he planned to blow up L.A. International Airport on New Year's Eve, 1999. Small world, eh?

Still not sure where the actual news is, though. Been trolling through story after story for proof of meat in this sandwich, but can't find anything but cheese, tomatoes and hot sauce.

The Petraeus Affair: A Lot More Than Sex, read the headline on CNN.com. Really? Could have fooled us. Without proof of a pillow-talk security breach, this just looks like another tawdry affair - albeit one straight out of a Telemundo soap opera - dragged into the Entertainment Tonight spotlight for the public's enjoyment.

To maintain at least a veneer of respectability, a good political sex scandal should have implications beyond those that could be found on an episode of Jersey Shore. We're not supposed to care about what Newt does with Snooki unless Tehran ends up with the launch codes as a result.

Canada's first political sex scandal erupted in the 1960s after it was discovered that Gerda Munsinger, a suspected Soviet spy, had slept with several government officials, including a couple of John Diefenbaker's Conservative cabinet ministers, before being quietly deported to East Germany. Among her partners was the associate defence minister, Pierre Sevigny, the sound of whose wooden leg - he had lost the real one in the war - hitting the floor was said to be clearly audible on RCMP surveillance tapes. Canadians were shocked: They couldn't imagine Diefenbaker Tories sleeping with anyone at all.

In 2008, Stephen Harper's foreign affairs minister, Maxime Bernier, resigned after it was found he had left sensitive NATO documents in the home of his then girlfriend, who had had ties to the Hells Angels. (The girlfriend, Julie Couil-lard, was back in the news last month when it was ruled she broke lobbying rules when she talked to a senior Conservative aide about a multimillion-dollar construction contract.)

At least those cases involved potential security leaks. Not so the greatest political sex scandal of them all, the Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky affair, which outraged Americans and confused the French, the drama finally ending when Clinton narrowly escaped impeachment on perjury charges.

Close But No Cigar was the headline in the New York Daily News. (And let's not forget Ed Bain's joke: "Bill Clinton has taken up curling. He's having trouble with the out turns, but he's nailing the interns.")

More recently, the U.S. had New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer and his taste for $1,000-an-hour call girls (jeez, was he hiring prostitutes or plumbers?) and the appropriately named Anthony Weiner, a Congressman whose pioneering use of Twitter, graphic self-portrait division, proved his undoing.

The look-at-my-pecs photo sent to socialite (and gosh, who wouldn't like to be described as "socialite") Jill Kelley by Agent Shirtless was tame by comparison. In fact, it appears to have been sent to several of his friends, Kelley included, as a joke.

And to repeat, no one has shown that the rest of the story goes any further than an unfortunate bit of cot-hopping by the general in particular and, according to the Taliban, the U.S. in general.

"This shows how shameless all the American troops are, starting from the top commander to the soldiers," an Afghan spokesman was quoted as saying. "Having unlawful relations with a woman is very normal in America."

Yes, and so is using said relations as a source of public titillation, under the guise of significant news.

"There's no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation," Pierre Trudeau said. Does the nation have a place in the bedrooms of the state?

jknox@timescolonist.com

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