Women worry Petraeus scandal will hurt their role as advisers to military leaders

By By Hannah Allam

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, Nov. 13 2012 12:00 a.m. MST

Some said they carried themselves modestly by nature and didn’t think twice about their mostly male environment; others said they took pains to “overcompensate” for their femininity in the battle theater by avoiding a flirtatious tone of voice, dressing unobtrusively and not making too much eye contact.

Among this panel of serious women academics and analysts, there is a special bitterness about Broadwell, whom many accused of relying on sex appeal rather than expertise for entry into the exclusive generals’ club.

They’re also disappointed in Petraeus for giving so much access to a young woman whom others in his circle spotted immediately as ill-equipped to write the definitive biography of a man considered a national hero.

“The crime of it was to give her the inferred expertise of an insider when everyone else had to earn that status,” said one longtime Petraeus adviser. “They weren’t just resentful that she wore tight tops — they were resentful that she was given a status she didn’t deserve.”

The stories abound — Broadwell wore a halter top to meet a senior commander at the Pentagon, she was given research tasks and job interviews for which she wasn’t qualified, she presented herself as a journalist while serving on a panel at the prestigious Aspen Ideas Festival, a gathering of top thinkers from around the globe.

To other women, some of whom tried to mentor her, Broadwell turned on the charm to hide the fact that she was way out of her league.

“She earned something, OK, she went to West Point and she wrote the book, but she didn’t have the level of expertise and judgment and, certainly, integrity, of someone who was given such prominence,” one of the advisers said.

Before the identity of the Florida socialite who’s also embroiled in the scandal was revealed, at least one longtime Petraeus adviser was embarrassed to get e-mails from colleagues asking whether she was “the other woman” who reportedly received threatening messages from Broadwell.

That, she said, is the risk to other women in the field when one woman squanders her coveted entry into the world of the security establishment’s mightiest decision-makers. Access and trust are key, she said, to making such high-stakes relationships work in order to move policy on urgent security matters.

“It’s so painful to watch because it means that anyone who was seeking to function in a role that requires that kind of relationship got pushed back several yards,” the adviser said, “You’ve basically got a penalty on you because now you have to move back further to make sure no one construes you in that way.”

©2012 McClatchy Washington Bureau Visit the McClatchy Washington Bureau at www.mcclatchydc.com

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