Call him the Good Husband, seemingly as steadfast beside his errant mate as is the proverbial Good Wife.
We had Hillary Clinton and Silda Wall Spitzer. Now we have Scott Broadwell.
The more traditional male response would have been to convert sudden hurt to instant rage and demand in essence, “How dare you do this to the king?”
And to make it worse, to make it at once excruciatingly intimate and horrifyingly public, the news of Paula Broadwell’s affair with General David Petraeus first reached Scott when he and his wife were celebrating her 40th birthday with a romantic getaway at the cosy Middleton Inn in Virginia.
After a day of riding bikes and sipping champagne and a night of luxuriating in a room with a four-poster bed and a working fireplace, Scott suddenly learned what the whole world also learned. The setting could only have made the shock more unbearable, but there have been no reports of shouts or abuse as the couple abruptly departed the inn. The staff afterward only recalled that the Broadwells looked decidedly unhappy.
In the driveway at their home in Charlotte, N.C., a hand more mature than that of their two young sons wrote “Dad Loves Mom” in chalk, along with a big heart. The best guess is that it was Scott’s doing. And it seems to be a message to their sons as well as to her, a declaration to the family as a whole.
Even if by some small chance he was not the one who chalked the message, there seems little doubt that love has in fact been his governing and guiding emotion in their marriage. They had seemed the most promising of couples back in 2000, when they exchanged vows in the picture book setting of the chapel in the Heidelberg Castle overlooking the city said to be Germany’s most romantic.
“It was a fairy tale wedding,” recalls Lt. Col. Ronald Leininger, the Protestant Army chaplain who married them. “Spectacular … beautiful.”
Scott and Paula were both active duty Army captains, he a physician and commander of the Mannheim military clinic, she in military intelligence. They both seemed exactly what a military officer should be.
“Scott Broadwell is a fine, fine man,” the chaplain says, “Paula is, too. She apparently just made some bad judgments of late.”
A reminder of how they did not want their marriage to go was at the ceremony in the person of her parents, Paul Kranz and Nadene Maier, whose union is reported to have ended in a contentious divorce.
A continuing example of how a marriage should go would be offered by a member of the bride’s wedding party. Capt. Devon Blake is a fellow graduate of West Point and a military intelligence officer. She would go on to have four kids. She would also have two combat deployments while her husband stayed home with the kids.
“I’m just one of the girls,” her husband, Tim Blake, would joke.
In all seriousness, Tim Blake would prove himself to be a role model and inspiration for all husbands as he posted “Army Dad, a blog about life from a stay at home dad and proud army spouse.”
In one entry, he writes, “My goal during each of the last two deployments has been to move beyond treading water and getting by. I have wanted to take the time and use it for self examination, to find those areas of my life that need to be changed, and then to affect that change.”
He goes on, “I learned this time around that even though I was doing all of the stuff around the house so that she wouldn’t have to, I was still trying to chain her to the house. That’s not the case any more. I’ve discovered that I don’t ‘need’ that break every day, that raising the kids and doing the housework doesn’t mean I can or should expect my wife to take over so I can go ‘off duty.’”
He concludes, “To have a better marriage, I’ve decided to let my wife be who she wants to be, not what I want to make her into … We both need time together and time apart. I need to get out of the house, but so does she. So, I’m learning to let go. And in so doing, we’re growing closer.”
That appears to have been very much Scott’s approach to marriage. He may have been able to restrain himself from answering betrayal with blind fury because he appears to consider himself not a king but a partner with his own human failings. And, as the chalked message in the driveway seems to attest, he also understands that they are no longer just Scott and Paula, but Mom and Dad.
Even a perfect fairy-tale wedding almost never leads to a perfect fairy-tale marriage. But kids have a need to believe that it does, that daddy is a prince and mommy is a princess and they will all live happily ever after. And kids will cling to that belief despite evidence to the contrary as long as daddy and mommy are under one roof and at least civil to each other.
Scott must suffer a kind of psychic vertigo when he ponders how supportive he was when Paula was writing a biography of Petraeus.
The Broadwell home may have become a house besieged by a media mob frenzied for details about Paula’s affair, but at day’s end, Mommy and Daddy were both there to tuck in the kids. Scott must know that he and Paula can still write a tale of another kind, perhaps not a fairy one with a happily ever after, but maybe enough for a happily after all.
One sad irony is that Paula seems to have strayed from Scott after becoming smitten with someone who does play the king, perhaps because she harbors regal ambitions for herself. She also may have been propelled by undercurrents that can lead children of divorce onto the rocks themselves in the same way the children of suicides have a higher incidence of taking their own lives.
For his part, Scott must suffer a kind of psychic vertigo when he ponders how supportive he was when Paula was writing a biography of Petraeus, whose most sensational chapter would be played out live. Scott had been in the wings when she went on the Jon Stewart show and had even allowed himself to be coaxed before the cameras to join the host in seeking to match Paula in a push-up contest.
Hopefully, Paula has now noted that the supposed hero’s hero, Petraeus, ducked the cameras on the way into the Capitol while her husband, Scott, unflinchingly braved the media mob outside their residence when they returned home on Sunday evening.
Scott helped Paula bring in the children, then emerged to carry in their luggage and groceries. He politely told the reporters that he would have a comment some time in the future, but not at the moment. He even managed to joke.
“See you guys tomorrow,” he said.
The media mob was indeed there on Monday morning, when Scott and Paula emerged with their kids. The chalked declaration of love on the driveway had faded, but Scott and Paula seemed determined to resume lives as Dad and Mom.
Perhaps one delayed after effect of her parents’ divorce was that Paula for a time forgot that the title of Dad or Mom is far more important than General. She seemed to be relearning that now and her most pressing ambition at this moment was to get the kids to school.
The couple drove on in separate cars, each taking one of the kids, most likely because Lucien is 6 and has started grammar school while Landon is only 4 and in a pre-school. Scott was wearing hospital scrubs and likely continued on to his work as a radiologist. He had already told the reporters that he intended to still be around the next day.
“I’ll be out here Tuesday, taking out that trash, if you want to shoot that,” he said.
And this was because Tuesday is trash day in the domestic routine that he appears resolved to continue.
Of course, there is no being certain, but it seems most likely that as he arrives at Thanksgiving, a day of families, Scott Broadwell will continue to be the Good Husband.
He is proving in his own way that sometimes being a real man means being one of the girls.