by JD -
One of the ugliest outcomes of the David Petraeus sex scandal is the impact on his wife of 37 years, Holly. We read in reports that she is “furious” about his revelation of an affair between her husband and biographer Paula Broadwell. Well, that seems obvious. The scandal has also shed more light on how admired Holly Petraeus is for her work on behalf of military families.
She was in Connecticut to talk about that work last September, and she appeared on Where We Live. Her lecture was sponsored by the World Affairs Council of Connecticut who arranged the visit to our studio. We spent most of our interview talking about her job with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, helping to advise veterans on their financial lives – both while in the military, and after they’ve left. “What I really want to accomplish is to see service members not get into the bad deals that can set them back for years,” she said.
It was only at the end of the conversation that I asked about her famous husband, who had led military forces in Afghanistan and Iraq and had just started his new job as head of the CIA. I didn’t ask her to talk about him, but instead whether their dinner table conversations ever informed each others’ work. Her answer was uncomfortably blunt:
“Frankly my husband wasn’t really at my dinner table much of the last ten years,” she told me.
I nervously laughed at her response, a reaction to what I saw as deadpan humor. Listening back, that laughter sounds cruel and uncomfortable, but an honest reaction to a surprisingly terse answer. I followed up. I asked Mrs. Petraeus whether the voices she heard from troops dealing with financial troubles could resonate through her to her husband, the highest of military commanders. And, whether the insight he had gained over 37 years in the Army might help her do her job, too.
“Let’s just say we talk, yes. And I think that he would certainly be the first to say that he’s very happy that I’ve turned this into something that I feel I can work on, to advocate for our service members,” she said.
We left it at that.
According to timelines of the scandal, the same month Holly Petraeus was visiting Connecticut, her husband was settling into his new job in DC. And inviting Paula Broadwell to his office.