In the July 13th edition of Chuck Klosterman’s Ethicist advice column for the New York Times, an anonymous reader wrote about his wife’s romantic relationship with “a government executive” who is currently managing “a project whose progress is seen worldwide as a demonstration of American leadership.” The letter writer describes his wife’s boyfriend as gracious, generous, and “absolutely the right person” for the aforementioned high-level job. He adds that publicly exposing the situation would “create a major distraction that would adversely impact the success of an important effort,” leaving him with these options: “Should I acknowledge this affair and finally force closure? Should I suffer in silence for the next year or two for a project I feel must succeed? Should I be ‘true to my heart’ and walk away from the entire miserable situation and put the episode behind me?”
Considering yesterday’s news of CIA director David Petraeus’s surprise resignation over an extramarital affair with biographer Paula Broadwell, many people have another, less ethically minded question for Chuck: Did that note come from Paula’s husband, radiologist Scott Broadwell?
While we’re tempted to say that it could have been written by any number of cuckolds — powerful men do have a tendency to sleep with other people’s wives — Gawker points out that the letter writer says he has “watched the affair intensify over the last year,” which matches up with the Wall Street Journal’s timeline of the affair (the paper reports began in August 2011 and ended “several months ago.”) And it wouldn’t be surprising if Broadwell’s husband knew about the relationship, as she was pretty open about her admiration for the four-star general. And then there’s Klosterman’s response, which advises the letter writer to seek “a quiet divorce” while not “[exposing] the affair in any high-profile way.” He adds:
The fact that you’re willing to accept your wife’s infidelity for some greater political good is beyond honorable. In fact, it’s so over-the-top honorable that I’m not sure I believe your motives are real. Part of me wonders why you’re even posing this question, particularly in a column that is printed in The New York Times.
I halfway suspect you’re writing this letter because you want specific people to read this column and deduce who is involved and what’s really going on behind closed doors (without actually addressing the conflict in person).
If Klosterman was right, then it looks like Mr. Broadwell got what he wanted.
Update: The New York Times Magazine’s editor Hugo Lindgren has tweeted, “This @theethicist column http://nyti.ms/Scgf8j (2nd Q) is NOT about the Petraeus affair, based on our factchecking. Strange, I know.” And disappointing.