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A story of human failure, not a threat to national security



Published: Wed, November 14, 2012 @ 12:00 a.m.

Sometimes an affair is just an affair.

By saying just, we don’t mean to minimize the pain that an affair causes or the potential fallout from an affair for those involved and, especially, for innocent spouses and children dragged into the danger zone.

But the affair between former general and ex-CIA director David Petraeus and his biographer, Paula Broadwell, may not have any greater national security implications than the celebrated affair of Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor during the filming of “Cleopatra.”

The difference is that we’ve come to expect better behavior from the people we entrust with our national security than the people we depend on for entertainment. Sadly and demonstrably, that is not the case.

Petraeus and Broadwell were the recipients of the best public and private educations that the United States has to offer. Both graduated from West Point, though a generation apart. Petraeus has a doctorate from Princeton; Broadwell is working on one from Harvard. Which only goes to show that very bright people are capable of doing stupid things. And someone such as Petraeus, who was introduced to the honor code at West Point and developed a reputation over the next 40 years as a disciplined, thoughtful and even compassionate leader, could behave in a way that was self-destructive and cruel to those who had loved and supported him.

And beyond that, not much more is actually known about their affair. That there was one is known because Petraeus admitted it when tendering his resignation, and Broadwell is said to have admitted it to FBI agents who questioned her about vaguely threatening emails she sent to another woman.

The driving forces

Almost everything else is speculation, and that speculation has gone wild — driven by post-election politics, by the relentless — and often partisan — news cycle, and by human nature.

That much of the storyline seems to have been written for a soap opera and that it involves power — both civilian and military — at the highest levels only fuels the flames.

At its heart is a familiar story, one as old as man and woman, and yet it is a complicated tale populated by complicated characters.

Even the other-other woman, Tampa socialite Jill Kelley, is complicated. When she began receiving emails of an ominous, if not threatening, tone, she went to a friendly FBI agent for help. That she apparently did not connect the emails with Petraeus would seem to support her contention that their relationship was familial and platonic. But now the nature of email correspondence she had with another general has come into question. And based on that investigation, the promotion of Marine Gen. John Allen, commander of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, to supreme allied commander in Europe has been put on hold.

There’s been much made in the days since this story broke about the time it took for the FBI to investigate — from last spring through this summer. Anyone in law enforcement or who covers law enforcement will tell you that the FBI works at its own pace. If it takes weeks, months or years to cross the t’s and dot the i’s, so be it.

The FBI won’t even acknowledge that an investigation exists, much less give people outside the Justice Department progress reports.

And those who see some vague connection between the timing of Petraeus’ resignation and his testimony on the Benghazi attack that was scheduled for Thursday should rest easy. If the House or Senate wants Petraeus to testify about that or anything else, he’s bound to appear, regardless of his employment status.

Absent evidence of a crime or a breach in national security that would allow the courts or Congress to shed additional light on these affairs, it is unlikely that the public’s hunger for all the sordid details will be sated.

Because at its heart, it’s a story of infidelity, and the lack of judgment that causes it and the unnecessary pain that grows out of it. Some may want to make all that into, quite literally, a federal case, but it isn’t.


Comments

1HappyBob(285 comments)posted 1 year, 11 months ago

Petraeus could be court martialed under sec 134, but probably will not be procecuted.

To "thethinker's" point regarding security clearance, if it can be established that Broadwell was given 'top secret' clearance in exchange for sexual favors.... well that's a real "federal case".

If it can be shown that Broadwell breached her security agreement, that too is a "federal case".

So far we don't have knowledge that either is actual.

The sex itself is not likely, nor should it be, a "federal case".

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2walter_sobchak(1922 comments)posted 1 year, 11 months ago

This editorial makes me want to puke! Does anyone believe that if this would have happened under W that the Vindy editors would poo-poo it? Reports are that Broadwell had classified documents on her computer and talked as if she had "intimate" knowledge of CIA operations. This stinks and needs investigating by the Congess since they have the Constitutional power of oversight. Hopefully this will happen as well as an investigation into Benghazi. The most amazing thing is that all this was happening for months and the president isn't notified until the day after the election? It will be interesting to see Obama tap dance his way around this new issue like he and his minions have done with the Libya incident. (Can I use the "tap dance" term with respect to BHO or am I going to be deemed a racist?)

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3redeye1(4563 comments)posted 1 year, 11 months ago

Walter This is your typical D party cover up to keep the boy in the white house. I can't say the man in the WH because he acts like a little spoiled brat . It's his way or no way. I hope there is enough evidence to impeach him in this cover up too.

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4jeepers(127 comments)posted 1 year, 11 months ago

As we have seen the past 4 years- the obama group gets no fallout from this or other mistakes, shortcomings, blunders. Why? As stated above, when the other party is in and this happens-responsibility is laid on the president. Why not for Obama? Could it be RACISM?

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