So over the weekend I read All In, Paula Broadwell's slobberific biography of General David Petraeus. It was nothing special, just a typically crappy piece of fawning, noncritical journalism, full of passages like the following:
At Petraeus's change of command in Baghdad in the summer of 2008, Secretary Gates claimed that "history [would] regard Petraeus as one of the nation's great battle captains . . ." Petraeus's success on the battlefield, his status as a military intellectual and his will to succeed allowed him to shape not only doctrine but also organizational design, training, education and leadership development in the Army and, in many respects, the broader military . . .
You can pretty much guess the rest of the plot from there. Every environment Petraeus enters is instantly bettered by his majestic personage. We see him passing through destroyed hamlets in Afghanistan, the weight of the world on his rugged shoulders, scratching his figurative chin as he worries which strategies to choose "so that villagers could once again live in peace and prosperity."
We see Petraeus giving stirring speeches, working past midnight until aides tear him away from his desk, and stoically receiving compliments from grateful colleagues (Gates later tells him: "You have stepped forward as the indispensable soldier/scholar of this era . . .").
The book is so one-sided that it is almost supernaturally dull, and I was forgetting about it just minutes after I put it down.
Then it hit me – it was an interesting book, after all! Because if you read All In carefully, the book's tone will remind you of pretty much any other authorized bio of any major figure in business or politics (particularly in business), and it will most particularly remind you of almost any Time or Newsweek famous-statesperson profile.