The flesh is weak, but the spirit of commerce is willing.
The sexy part of Washington’s newest sex scandal has waned. The crass part is cranking up.
As The New York Times’ Scott Shane writes: “The major players have hired high-profile, high-priced representatives to manage the fallout, watch for legal trouble, police the press and massage damaged reputations.”
And, no doubt, pave the way for book deals, cushy jobs and TV apologias in honeyed light with Diane Sawyer and Barbara Walters.
The tears and lip gloss started flowing Tuesday at a press conference at the Ritz-Carlton here featuring a distraught twin, a befuddled press corps and Gloria Allred, the feminist avenger last seen tormenting Herman Cain over sexual harassment charges.
One minute you’re the Boy Scout CIA chief, or the Dudley Do-Right general poised to be the next Supreme Allied Commander in Europe. The next you’re in trouble with your wife, your career is a late-night chew toy, and you’re headed to Allred’s Wikipedia page to join such headlines as: “Gloria Allred: Tiger Woods’ True Opponent?,” ”Roman Polanski Hit by Fresh Sex Allegations,” ”Gloria Allred Seeks Rush Limbaugh Prosecution,” ”Porn Star Says Representative Weiner Asked Her to Lie,” and “Attorney Gloria Allred Now Connected to Causeway Cannibal Case.”
The news conference with Allred and her latest curvy client, Natalie Khawam, Jill Kelley’s identical saturnine twin, was so weird it was hard to figure out if it was real, a Bravo pilot or a Lifetime Christmas movie in search of a good miracle.
”My sister Jill and I aren’t just twins, we’re best friends, literally inseparable,” said Khawam, wearing a demure navy dress and navy suede 4-inch heels with gold trim.
She continued: “We played varsity tennis together. She played net and I served.” (Don’t you have to alternate?)
With tears streaming down her cheeks, she went on: “We also played softball together. She was the catcher and I pitched. We love to cook together. I usually bake and she sautes. We used to study together. I loved math. She loved science, and she excelled in chemistry. We love to play piano and play chess.”
It was not clear why the twin, described by Allred as “a whistle-blower attorney,” was oversharing and then withholding. The two women called a press conference to not comment on the scandal that is the only reason anyone turned up at the press conference.
The soap opera Stephen Colbert calls “General’s Hospital” was sparked by Kelley, who got an FBI friend in Tampa to pursue an investigation of Paula Broadwell’s taunting, jealous, anonymous emails, and who sent thousands of pages of emails herself to Gen. John Allen – a handful of which were sexually explicit enough to hold up his promotion.
Natalie had a cameo role, voguing with the generals and their wives and persuading “King David” Petraeus and Allen, the top NATO commander in Afghanistan, to write letters in a bruising custody case as she fought her ex-husband – a honcho in the Iraq occupation – over their baby son.
Reporters, trying to fathom why they were there, asked Khawam and Allred a plethora of questions. But it seems that Natalie, who gingerly entered arm-in-arm with Gloria, just wanted everyone to know that she has filed an appeal to try to reverse a decision giving sole custody to her ex, after a D.C. judge deemed that Natalie had lodged “sensational accusations” against her former husband and was “a psychologically unstable person.”
In the “Military-Adulterous Complex,” as Time called it, the twin sisters and Broadwell were not shy about using their access to top generals to advance their own agendas.
Adam Victor, CEO of TransGas Development Systems in New York, told reporters that Kelley – who swanned around Tampa and the MacDill Air Force Base, home to Centcom, as a trompe l’oeil diplomat for South Korea – had offered to set up a natural gas deal in South Korea in return for an $80 million commission.
“Kelley made it clear to me that Gen. Petraeus put her in this position and that’s why she was able to have access to such senior levels that they were essentially doing a favor for Gen. Petraeus,” Victor, who balked at the ludicrous $80 million, told ABC News’ Brian Ross.
Ross also reported that Broadwell grabbed the brass ring, starring in an infomercial for a company trying to gain military contracts for “strange-looking lightweight machine guns.”
”Watchdog groups say the use of Broadwell was a brilliant move by a company seeking an edge in Washington,” Ross said.
The military might want to have its future stars read Jane Austen as well as Grant and Rommel. “Pride and Prejudice” is full of warnings about the dangers of young ladies with exuberant, flirtatious, “unguarded and imprudent” manners visiting military regiments and preening in “all the glories of the camp.”
Such folly and vanity, the ever wise Elizabeth Bennet cautioned, can lead to censure and disgrace.
Maureen Dowd is a columnist for The New York Times.