‘She gave him solace’
Posted: Tuesday, November 20, 2012 7:00 pm
By DOUGLAS COHN
and ELEANOR CLIFT
WASHINGTON — Images of FBI agents carrying boxes of documents from the home of the woman who admitted to an affair with General David Petraeus underscored the seriousness of the investigation while at the same time raising questions about whether it should have been undertaken in the first place. Petraeus acknowledged the affair when confronted with incriminating e-mails. Good thing, because lying to the FBI is a criminal offense, but it begs the question: Unless Petraeus is suspected of disclosing classified information to his lover, why is the FBI so aggressively examining what appears to be a personal matter between consenting adults?
Adding to the soap opera quality of the story, a second general is now implicated in allegedly sending e-mails – a lot of e-mails – to the Tampa woman whose complaint about receiving harassing e-mails led to Petraeus’ biographer. The White House issued a statement Tuesday saying that General John Allen’s appointment to become Supreme Commander of NATO forces in Europe would be delayed until the matter is settled. Allen said he had committed no wrongdoing.
Sure, it all sounds strange, but where is the justification for an FBI search? Apparently the Patriot Act trumps the Fourth Amendment: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause . . .”
What century are we living in when the FBI can so brazenly comb through the e-mail accounts of these individuals. The agency appeared ready to drop the investigation of Petraeus after finding no evidence of a security breach, but the agent who initiated the cyber search on behalf of the Florida woman took what he knew to a Republican congressman, who took it to GOP leader Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., before the election.
Every day brings a new twist to this tale of generals going wild, but is this really necessary? Maybe there is some breach of national security. Maybe Petraeus was distracted by the investigation closing in around him and didn’t do his job properly as the security situation was deteriorating in Libya. Still, even some of the most partisan critics concede that the unfolding sex scandal has nothing to do with Benghazi. Petraeus is scheduled to testify before Congress in a closed session on Thursday.
Everybody says what a tragedy this is to lose one of the finest generals of our era over what he acknowledges was a colossal failure of judgment. Bill Clinton made a similar mistake as president, and Congress impeached him for it, but failed to convict him, and Clinton didn’t give in to the calls for his resignation.
According to press reports, Petraeus initially wanted to stay in his post but when he realized his affair would be made public, he offered his resignation.The president accepted it the following day. The two men have never been close; Petraeus was President Bush’s buddy, and Republicans for a time hailed him as a future GOP presidential candidate.
Republicans aren’t sure how to respond. Some of the same voices that condemned Clinton are defending Petraeus, and at the same time they want to use the scandal to take down Obama a notch or two after the election. There are plenty of unanswered questions, notably when was Attorney General Holder informed, and why did he withhold the information from the White House, and from the intelligence committees in Congress.
Maybe he thought the investigation would or should die, and that he had no obligation to take it beyond the confines of the FBI. It does seem ironic that at the ballot box a week ago, voters affirmed progressive cultural values, including gay marriage and marijuana for recreational use, yet an extramarital affair has everybody in Washington tied in knots.
What’s needed is a refresher course in military history. It was an open secret that General Dwight D. Eisenhower had a relationship with his young English driver. And years ago, when we asked his son, John, who served under him near the end of the war, what he thought about his father’s liaison with Kay Summersby, he simply said, “She gave him solace.” Of course, Ike went on to lead allied troops to victory in the European Theater in World War II, and then to the White House. Published in The Messenger 11.20.12