Even before Paula Broadwell’s affair with David Petraeus emerged this was a point which bothered talk-show hosts, perplexed interviewers and left onlookers faintly bewildered at the string of appearances which constituted Broadwell’s publicity tour for that book, All In.
Her own explanation, such as it was, is glib at best. They met, Paula Broadwell repeatedly trotted out, at a dinner for West Point alumni back in 2006.
After dinner there were drinks and at drinks David Petraeus gave her his business card and they just kept in touch.
Two years later, in 2008, Paula Braodwell was working on a dissertation on theories of leadership and so, she told Jon Stewart: “I shot him an email, and said, <<I’m gonna to go for it>>.”
David Petraeus’ reaction was to invite Paula Braodwell well and truly into his camp. For a man of such experience the extent to which he let his guard down is breathtaking.
But then Paula Broadwell is nothing if not convincing when it comes to outlining her own credentials and, given the glowing portrait of “strategic leadership” she penned as David Petraeus’s biography, nothing if not flattering.
In one television interview Paula Broadwell recalled approaching General David Petraeus and asking him to be a case-study for her dissertation. She wanted to show: “What Petraeus’s role was in forcing the military to adapt to win the wars we were in”.
“There was no room for a conversation of shortcomings of the Petraeus theology. She wasn’t a reporter. She struck me as an acolyte,” one advisor to David Petraeus is quoted as telling the New York Post.
And while Paula Broadwell stroked her subject’s ego with one hand she shored up her own credibility with the other; part Mata Hari, part blue-stocking.
Another in the Petraeus camp noted, on meeting her: “I was underwhelmed. It was surprising to me that she was his official biographer.”
But, when it came to promoting her book, for Paula Broadwell establishing her own academic, military and security credentials came second only to establishing whether General David Petraeus was, as Jon Stewart put it, “awesome or incredibly awesome”.
She dropped academic qualifications and security clearance the way a socialite might pepper her conversation with boasts of parties attended and ‘BFFs made.
According to Paula Broadwell, being embedded in Afghanistan with David Petraeus was not the huge leap many imagined because, she explained: “We had previously met through academia.”
Paula Broadwell herself was a graduate of West Point and a specialist in counter-terrorism with black ops experience, high security clearance, “and then some”.
She was High School Valedictorian, All State Basketball player, top of her class at West Point, holder of a masters from Harvard…and how do we know all of this? Because Paula Broadwell has taken great pains to tell us.
We know that her husband Scott Broadwell is not “just” a radiologist but an “interventional radiologist”.
Writing in The New Republic, Noam Scheiber states: “When my friend met her, she was fond of pointing out that her husband was no mere radiologist but a special breed known as <<interventional radiologist>>. She would draw out the word <<interventional>> for emphasis.”
We know that she can run 6-minute miles and do hundreds of press-ups, that she has 13% body fat and is an ironman triathlete and marathon runner.
We know all this because Paula Broadwell has told us. We know that she hosted a charity BBQ for wounded veterans because she invited Jon Stewart and the assembled press.
Meanwhile, until Paula Broadwell stopped posting, her Twitter feed was a dizzying mixture of her following both world-causes and the world-famous.
According to the Times, Paula Broadwell recently tweeted: “Heading 2 @AspenInstitue 4 the Seucirty Forum tomorrow! Panel (media & terrorism) followed by a 1v1 run with Lance Armstrong.”
The political, professional and academic platform on which Paula Broadwell now teeters is one entirely of her own, formidable, construction: itself an exercise in strategy to rival David Petraeus’s own.
Paula Broadwell has set out her credentials relentlessly with faux humility, referring to herself as a mere “mentee” of David Petraeus on one hand then telling the Charlotte Observer in her hometown in North Carolina: “Petraeus once joked I was his Avvatar” a breathtakingly arrogant aside.
Margaret Thatcher once noted that if you had to tell people you were a lady, you probably weren’t. But self-effacement seems the only class that Paula Broadwell ever sat out.
And the more impressive Paula Broadwell made herself the more flattering her interest in David Petraeus must surely have been. What better way to appeal to a man in power than to appeal to his vanity?
Noam Scheiber, describes David Petraeus as a man of “overachieving impulses and intellectual pretensions”.
Recognizing that, Paula Broadwell seems to have taken those dubious attributes as her own template for what she described in several publicity interviews as her “new path of the soldier-scholar”.
As such Paula Broadwell has been a keen writer of opinion pieces and regular poster on the West Point Alumni Notes page.
Writing in the Boston Globe in 2009, Paula Broadwell tackled the issue of fraternization between the sexes on the front line: “Human sexuality will always present a challenge to organizational discipline. In isolated outposts [it] could create a situation where issues of sex impede an organization’s survival skills.”
Rather presciently she concluded: “Banning sex is futile and impossible; the best approach is to set rules regarding fraternization, maintain awareness of relationships within the command, and strictly and fairly discipline transgressors.”
On many occasions Paula Broadwell has noted of David Petraeus that he “spoke truth to power”.
But if the events of the past week have shown anything it is that the court of the man known as “King David”, lacked anyone willing or able to do the same to him.
Because where David Petraeus “spoke truth to power” Paula Broadwell wanted to dissect that power and to get close to it.
Revealingly, in a recent address to the University of Denver Paula Broadwell claimed to have been drawn to the military as an “instrument of power” and that she wanted to understand how that instrument worked – presumably so she could play it.