By now surely you're aware of the scandal involving the former head of the CIA, General David Petraeus and his (married) biographer Paula Broadwell. He resigned after admitting he cheated on his wife of more than 37 years with Broadwell. Then things got a little nuttier, involving also, Gen. John Allen, who is being investigated for exchanging inappropriate email to the "party planner of the military" and "unpaid social liaison" Jill Kelley (he denies they were inappropriate), whom Broadwell allegedly suspected of liking her man (Petraeus) and therefore sent her own emails (of a threatening sort) to her. There's also the shirtless-photo-sending FBI agent who supposedly sent said shirtless photos to Kelley and perhaps got this whole thing started by trying to impress/help her. There's Holly Petraeus (née Knowlton) the general's wife, who's been mostly quiet since her husband resigned. There are others, still waiting to be revealed, or trying not to be. But as we wait ourselves, breathlessly, for more—what do we call this whole thing?
You could call it "an embarrassment," or "amusing," a "soap opera," a "four-star farce" or "the most dramatic rose ceremony yet." You could call it, as Paula Broadwell did (for her book), All In: The Education of General David Petraeus. You could call it a conspiracy, or just like high school. You could say you don't believe it. You could try to run and hide. But you're going to have to call it something—even if, if you're the White House, you're certainly not calling it "welcome." Here are some of the words and phrases people are using to describe "GeneralBootyGate."
The Petraeus Scandal. This is just the obvious, base-level, not at all particularly creative way of putting it. No one's going to criticize you for being glib or snarky (this scandal is a matter of our national security, or so they say!) but you're not getting any awards for headline writing or great puns, either. This, alternating with "Affair," as per below, is probably the most common media treatment thus far. Note: You can add "Sex" to it—The Petraeus Sex Scandal—but that's a bit on the nose. The Daily Mail tried this, but they also said the whole thing is just like the Real Housewives, and attempted to dub it "The New Lewinsky Scandal," too. (They're pinning that on the fact that Jill Kelley has hired "Judy Smith, the crisis manager who represented Lewinsky after her trysts with President Clinton.") But let's try to maintain some semblance of dignity, people. This is not MonicaGate.
The Petraeus Affair. Spicing up the nomenclature with a bit of old-school Hollywood, this could, at least, be a movie title in a pinch, a la The Thomas Crowne Affair. Affair sounds so ... formal, right? And yet, there's nothing formal about emails reminiscent of phone sex, or airing one's dirty laundry all over the place. If you're funny, you can call it "The Betrayus Affair." That'll get some chuckles.
Call of Booty. A little tabloid for our liking, but then, when you have a quintessential tabloid story, maybe you just have to embrace that. It has fans, to be true:
It's especially perfect because David Petraeus (or a character with his name and face) makes a cameo appearance in a video game released Tuesday called Call of Duty: Black Ops II.
Six Degrees of David Petraeus. The Daily goes with this. (Also: Pain N the Brass, nice one!). Not to be a killjoy but the problem with this is, you know, only six degrees. Numerically that might get confusing.
Curse of the Commander. Fox News likes this one, which is based on this storyline: "The last four U.S. generals to run the Afghan war were either forced to resign or saw their careers tainted by allegations of wrongdoing." We'll leave you to debate the definition of a curse versus actual wrongdoing. Also, sounds a little B-movie.
Anything-gate. If there's one thing we do when there's a scandal it's try to slap gate onto the back of it! Ladygate. Generalgate. Whistleblowergate. SexUnderDeskgate. Spellinggate (we're all, hopefully, learning how to spell Petraeus?). @ShrillCosby asks, "Is there a -gate name for this Petraeus scandal yet? Cause if not, I propose Clusterf*ckgate."
“@stevemillerok: There needs to be a fancy name for this Petraeus scandal. What would YOU call it?” Benghazigate— Amy Smith (@watchkeep) November 13, 2012
Too serious? Perhaps this one, conflating a few faves?
Please please news media - can we call this Petraeus scandal "Call of BootyGate"?— TCBGP (@TCBGP) November 14, 2012
The requisite Fifty Shades reference. We'll let this speak for itself as we sigh.
Here is a name for the Petraeus scandal "50 Shades of Camouflage"— Peter T. Maxwell Jr (@PeterTMaxwellJr) November 14, 2012
But here's the one we're putting our money on:
Love Pentagon, or, "Pentagon of Love," "the Petraeus Pentagon of Love," or "The Petraeus Affair's Love Pentagon." This is probably the best so far. Not only because, get it? It's not a triangle it's a ... yeah ... but also because the Pentagon is involved. And if the White House is using it, and we are too, and so is New York's Daily Intel ...
and Gawker ...
AND THE WHITE HOUSE ...
Fabulous. RT @blakehounshell: OH: Senior WH official using the term "Love Pentagon."— Heidi N. Moore (@moorehn) November 14, 2012
And The New Yorker —"the events and personages joined in a scandal that has already achieved an indelible Twitter moniker—#LovePentagon"—it must be true. Plus, unlike with a triangle, no one really knows how many people are involved in a pentagon. (There's probably room in there for a few more!) So it can, you know, ebb and flow with the news.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.