Petraeus with Paula Broadwell
Washington, Nov. 10: Paula Broadwell, whose affair with the CIA director has led to his resignation, was the valedictorian of her high school class and homecoming queen, a fitness champion at West Point with a graduate degree from Harvard, and a model for a machinegun manufacturer.
It may have been those qualities — and a string of achievements that began in her native North Dakota, where she was state student council president, an all-state basketball player and orchestra concertmistress — that drew the attention of David H. Petraeus, America’s top spy and a four-star general, as the two spent hours together for a biography of Petraeus that Broadwell co-wrote.
Petraeus’s admission of the affair and resignation represent a remarkable fall from grace for one of the most prominent figures in America’s modern military and intelligence community, a commander who helped lead wartime activities in the decade after the September 11 attacks and was credited with turning around the failing war effort in Iraq.
Petraeus almost single-handedly forced a profound evolution in the country’s military thinking and doctrine with his philosophy of counter-insurgency, focused more on protecting the civilian population than on killing enemies.
A favourite of George W. Bush and once the subject of intense speculation about his future as a possible presidential candidate, Petraeus managed the awkward move from a Republican administration to a Democratic one.
Broadwell’s name burst into public view on Friday evening after Petraeus resigned abruptly amid an FBI investigation that uncovered evidence of their relationship.
But Broadwell was hardly shy about her interactions with Petraeus as she promoted her book, All In: The Education of General David Petraeus, in media appearances earlier this year.
She had unusual access, she noted in promotional appearances, taping many of her interviews for her book while running six-minute miles with Petraeus in the thin mountain air of the Afghan capital.
Broadwell said in an interview in February that Petraeus was enjoying his new civilian life at the CIA, where he became director in September 2011.
“It was a huge growth period for him because he realised he didn’t have to hide behind the shield of all those medals and stripes on his arm,” she said. Broadwell was 39 at the time.
Her biography on the Penguin Speakers Bureau website says she is a research associate at Harvard’s Center for Public Leadership and a PhD candidate in the department of war studies at King’s College London. She received a master’s in public administration from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.
A self-described “soccer mom” and an Ironman triathlete, Broadwell became a fixture on the Washington media scene after the publication of her book about Petraeus, who is 60.
In a Twitter message this summer, she bragged about appearing on a panel at the Aspen Institute, a policy group for deep thinkers.
“Heading 2 @AspenInstitute 4 the Security Forum tomorrow! Panel (media & terrorism) followed by a 1v1 run with Lance Armstrong,” she wrote. “Fired up!”
On her Twitter account, she often commented on the qualities of leadership. “Reason and calm judgment, the qualities specially belonging to a leader. Tacitus,” she wrote.
In another message, she said: “A leader is a man who has the ability to get other people to do what they don’t want to do and like it. Truman.”
She also used her Twitter account to denounce speculation in the Drudge Report that Petraeus would be picked as a running mate by Mitt Romney, the Republican candidate for President.
Married with two children, she was described in a biography on the website of Inspired Women Magazine as a high achiever since high school.
The biography says Broadwell received a degree in political geography and systems engineering from West Point, where she was ranked No. 1 in fitness in her class.
She benefited from a different ranking scale for women, she told a reporter this year. But “I was still in the top five per cent if I’d been ranked as a male,” she said.
The official website for Broadwell’s book was taken down on Friday, but comments from her echoed across the Internet.
“I was driven when I was younger,” she was quoted as saying on the website, noting her induction into her high school’s hall of fame.
“Driven at West Point where it was much more competitive in that women were competing with men on many levels, and I was driven in the military and at Harvard, both competitive environments.”
“But now,” she is quoted as saying, “as a working mother of two, I realise it is more difficult to compete in certain areas. I think it is important for working moms to recognise that family is the most important.”
On late night TV programme The Daily Show, Jon Stewart summed up Broadwell’s book by saying: “I would say the real controversy here is, is he awesome or incredibly awesome?”
A short time later, Broadwell challenged Stewart to a push-up contest, which she won handily. Stewart had to pay $1,000 to a veterans’ support group for each push-up she did beyond his total. Broadwell said he wrote a cheque for $20,000 on the spot.
On Friday evening, her house in the Dilworth neighbourhood of Charlotte, North Carolina, was dark when a reporter rang the doorbell. Two cars were in the home’s carport and an American flag was flying out front.
New York Times News Service