Power and politics in the bedroom

Caught out: Paula Broadwell was the biographer then mistress of David Petraeus.
Caught out: Paula Broadwell was the biographer then mistress of David Petraeus.

My how chickens - and less lovable life forms - come home to roost.

What trouble Scotland Yard in the UK is in over its undercover agents having affairs with the people they're spying on.

I remember a variation on that theme.

A capable woman in a position of responsibility at the newspaper I once worked for lost her job, back in the time of hippiedom, over a similar ethical conundrum. What seemed to be an injustice then, in the days before the Employment Court existed, looks just as much like one now.

She was, of course, a dope smoker. Most people under 40 were. I never heard her competence questioned, but an undercover cop finally dobbed her in, probably for selling some of the stuff, but certainly not vast amounts of it: people tended to sell dope then, as doubtless they do now, to fund their own use.

The woman had kids, and trusted the wily cop so much that he'd even been her babysitter. Needless to say the cop would have smoked dope with her crowd, otherwise he'd never have infiltrated them. But that was OK, though her use wasn't, a distinction too fine for me to comprehend. If it's a bad thing it's a bad thing, right? Or does it depend on your shoe size?

There've been grumbles here in the past from undercover cops left with drug habits and psychological problems after infiltrating the drug and criminal worlds, and they'd be only human if they had sleepless nights. Nice people wouldn't have the stomach for it and it seems that the Scotland Yard boys have emerged from the experience not nice at all.

Under the guise of being upstanding pillars of law and order they've been having affairs with women in the activist movements they've been paid to spy on.

The women - rightly - are now complaining that they were tricked into sexual relationships with the undercover officers, which has to be a form of sexual abuse, surely. The police hope to manoeuvre the complaints process into a hidden and secretive tribunal, where the women's legal rights would be limited.

Environmental and peace activists are the new hippies, I guess, in terms of their threat to law and order. I didn't admire their vandalism at the Waihopai satellite spy station, but the controversial raids on Tuhoe showed how spying can lead to shameful outcomes.

Yet politics - of Left or Right - always leads eager women into bed. The Swedish women who've laid charges against WikiLeaks sometime-hero Julian Assange are a case in point. Would they have fancied the ferrety egomaniac if he'd been, say, a mere barista?

Yet nowhere in the world of bedroom frolics can be quite as delightful as the current soap opera in Washington, with the once idolised, now disgraced, General David Petraeus, so recently head of the CIA, so recently a cocky boss in Iraq and Afghanistan and now exposed as just another naughty boy.

Men always fall for women who are good listeners and women fall for men who fall for them, so the affair with his biographer was inevitable; she'd have listened to him more avidly than anybody, ever.

Whatever was happening with the Kardashian-type socialite was inevitable, too. There's nothing like grovelling adulation from a woman with thick eye makeup for making a man feel fabulous.

Beside Petraeus in his time of trouble is his wife Holly, a plump, lipstick-less little woman who smiles on, apparently unperturbed. If no man is a hero to his valet, you may be sure that no philanderer, however many medals he has, will be a hero to the woman who, at the end of the day, shops for his dental floss. When the scandal broke she probably didn't bat a weathered eyelid.

Why bother?

The Dominion Post