published Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

David Petraeus' swift fall

  • photo
    Gen. David Petraeus salutes during a changing of command ceremony in Kabul, Afghanistan. Petraeus resigned as head of the CIA after admitting to an extramarital affair.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Given history, it hardly can be a surprise that another notable American in public service has been forced from office or had his reputation sullied as the result of an extramarital affair. What is startling to most Americans, though, is that the latest figure whose life and career has been marred by such a scandal is David Petraeus, until last week the director of the Central Intelligence Agency and before that a four-star Army general whose leadership in Iraq and Afghanistan made him one of the nation's most well-known and admired individuals.

Petraeus resigned Friday as the head of the CIA, admitting that he had engaged in a n extramarital affair, apparently with Paula Broadwell, his biographer. The decision to resign is appropriate. Petraeus occupied positions of extraordinary trust and had access to the United States' most closely guarded military and intelligence secrets. Though there has been no suggestion that national security was breached by the affair, Petraeus' resignation is appropriate. Given the potential security breach and the former general's oft-stated personal code of honorable conduct, there was no other choice.

Unfortunately, the fall from power by such a high-profile figure is not rare. Former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer are recent examples. Former Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower and Bill Clinton are earlier examples. Their positions, too, made it impossible for them to avoid scandal, either immediately or in the judgment of history. Public office, unlike work in private enterprise, makes it likely that a heavy penalty for infidelity is exacted.

Petraeus understood that, publicly admitting Friday that "such behavior [the extramarital affair] is unacceptable, both as a husband and the leader of an organization such as ours [the CIA].". The resignation, however, will not end the intrigue and queries surrounding Petraeus.

Some questions are personal. Even his closest aides from his Army days seem stunned that Petraeus would risk his reputation and honor with an affair, which apparently started after he left the military. The act, they almost unanimously agree, is totally out of keeping with the disciplined life he led for decades.

There are other, more public questions that still must be answered following Petraeus' affair and resignation. The most pressing is why Congress -- especially its intelligence committees -- were not notified about the possibility of an incident that could have security repercussions. That's a legitimate concern, one that should be examined fairly in light of long -standing policy that information about on-going FBI criminal investigations is not shared with anyone outside the agency -- including Congress and the White House.

Following his resignation, members of both political parties praised Petraeus' service. They said little, of course, about the conduct that ended that service. His fall, though, is a reminder that public servants are held to a high standard, and that violation of it often results in a swift fall from grace.

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daytonsdarwin said...

The American military, rather than protectors of American citizens on American soil, are now military-corporatists for defense contractors, mercenaries, and crony capitalists.

Petraeus is another link in that long chain that leads back to American imperialism.

November 13, 2012 at 10:44 a.m.
CADMAN1 said...

Had Petraeus just come out of some closet, he would have been embraced with open arms and hailed as a hero.

November 13, 2012 at 12:32 p.m.
Rickaroo said...

Well said, dd. The mindless, gushing emotion that most people display for our military today is sickening. We are falsely labeling anyone who dons a military uniform a "hero," when in fact they are willing dupes for the military-industrial-corporatist complex. Anyone with half a brain knows that our military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan is not protecting our freedom and we are in fact creating more terrorists and killing far more innocent people than enemies. And the so-called enemies we are killing are enemies only because we are there occupying and destroying their homeland in the first place. And yet we call our terrorist soldiers "heroes."

While serving in the military can certainly be a tremendous sacrifice and a noble thing to do, it is not noble or honorable when the wars we are engaged in are themselves dishonorable and ignoble. If/when we ever have a war in which we are clearly protecting our own turf and where we are not engaged in some form of imperialism or nation building (when we can't even manage our own nation), then that is when I will have my faith and respect for the military restored. In the meantime, I will refrain from calling any soldier a hero just because they're wearing a uniform and being a willing shill for the MICC.

November 13, 2012 at 1:07 p.m.
daytonsdarwin said...

Out of the closet and into the dog house. Any CIA director stupid enough to use Gmail, carry on with a loudmouth, possessive, and slightly psychotic person, endanger lives for some tail, and think he's not going to be caught is mentally suspect.

In Defense contractors, mercenaries,and paid-for military generals and admirals you can trust, but I don't.

November 13, 2012 at 1:09 p.m.
daytonsdarwin said...

And that mindless admiration includes the continually militarized law enforcement agencies where the distinction between civilian police and Gestapo is narrowing.

November 13, 2012 at 2:27 p.m.

The days of Sheriff Andy are being replaced with Judge Dredd.

November 14, 2012 at 12:46 a.m.
Rickaroo said...

Agreed, bulbs and darwin. I have been an Obama supporter for the most part but where he has really lost me is his embrace of the Patriot Act, his free hand in the use of drones, his complete indifference to Guantanimo, his lukewarm attitude in getting out of Iraq and Afghanistan, and his signing of the National Defense Authorization Act. He seems to be taking us right into the arms of a gestapo state and he has no compunctions about it. Our police force is looking and indeed becoming more militaristic and crossing the line of protecting the peace to enforcing a system of governance that is taking away more and more of our rights. Already we have pretty much lost the right of peaceful assembly. And habeas corpus...gone. Many police forces across the nation are eagerly awaiting the green light from the FAA for the use of surveillance drones domestically. Just the thought of that frightens the hell out of me - the possibilities of how they can use those things in whatever nefarious ways they want.

November 14, 2012 at 3:06 p.m.
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