By Jim Berlin
It’s a petty reaction, yet so common there’s a word for it: schadenfreude (SHOD-en-FROY-dah). Experiencing joy over the misfortune of others: “Couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy!” we say.
But in the case of Army general-turned CIA Director David Petraeus, schadenfreude took a holiday when the discovery of his extra-marital affair convinced him to resign. With the exception of twisted citizens who hate anyone associated with the military, only disappointment and sadness greeted the general’s fall from grace.
Unlike many past CIA directors, Petraeus actually knew something about gathering intelligence and had the organizational skills to put it to use. At a critical time in our history he was a welcome anomaly in D.C — the right man for an important job.
That was the disappointment part.
The sadness over his departure was rooted in a national intuition that Petraeus is a decent man who got caught up in something that took his morality by surprise. He was not a carefree sexual warrior in the manner of Bill Clinton, a guy who pursued his urges like a golden retriever chasing a tennis ball.
Petraeus got caught up – then he got caught. Then he did the right thing.
There’s a word for that, too: honorable.