In the July 13th edition of Klosterman's The Ethicist advice column for the New York Times, an anonymous reader wrote in seeking advice about an affair his wife was having with a "government executive" whose job "is seen worldwide as a demonstration of American leadership." The anonymous reader went on to praise the government executive as "gracious" and "absolutely the right person for the job." He then asked if he should acknowledge the affair or let it continue until the project succeeds. Sounds like the government executive could hold a position like, say, the director of the CIA, right? In other words, did Paula Broadwell's husband know about her affair with David Petraeus and then turn to, of all people, Chuck Klosterman for advice? Maybe!
Let's look at the facts. The reader says he's "watched the affair intensify over the last year," which matches the Wall Street Journal's timeline of the affair (August 2011 until "several months ago"). It also makes sense that Broadwell's husband would have some idea about the affair considering she apparently was always off jogging with Petraeus, not to mention the fact that she's spent a good deal of her career worshipping/writing "fan fiction" about the former general.
And since the reader asked Klosterman for help, we have to assume he'd at least consider the writer's advice, which was:
Don't expose the affair in any high-profile way. It would be different if this man's project was promoting some (contextually hypocritical) family-values platform, but that doesn't appear to be the case. The only motive for exposing the relationship would be to humiliate him and your wife, and that's never a good reason for doing anything. This is between you and your spouse. You should tell her you want to separate, just as you would if she were sleeping with the mailman. The idea of "suffering in silence" for the good of the project is illogical. How would the quiet divorce of this man's mistress hurt an international leadership initiative? He'd probably be relieved.
So maybe that's why the affair ended several months ago? Because of Chuck Klosterman? Did Chuck Klosterman's wisdom trigger a series of events that would eventually lead to the resignation of the director of the CIA?
It should be noted that Klosterman was suspicious of the letter writer's motives: "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). That's not ethical, either."
If any of this story is true, and I vote yes, it is all true, then one thing is for sure: Chuck Klosterman is an American hero.
UPDATE: Hugo Lindgren, the editor of the New York Times Magazine, said the question was not about the Petraeus affair.
— HugoLindgren (@HugoLindgren) November 10, 2012
[via @blakehounshell//Image via AP]