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Petraeus and the Fourth Estate
November 14, 2012 9:35 AM   Subscribe

We’ve caught some of the smartest and most commited public men and women with their pants at their ankles. Time and again, we’ve had our fun. We’ve roundly mocked them for the very weaknesses that are so utterly our own. Reporters who have at points in their lives fucked themselves silly in hotel rooms across this great land of ours while pursuing the infidelities of more public men with righteous glee — these are not men and women who are much inclined to any real moment of self reflection, but then who among us really is? This kind of hypocrisy requires a complicit silence and a ritual wiping of the memory before every byline.

Note - Definitely come for the trenchant analysis, but stay for the extended anecdote in the comments about John O’Neill, aka "the man who knew").
posted by Hypnotic Chick (72 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
David Simon has a blog! How did I manage to not know this until now?

Thanks for bringing it to my attention.
posted by philipy at 9:43 AM on November 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


He has a point about most of the public figures, but I will never ever think it is wrong for reporters to call out public figures who batter people with the self-righteous fist of FAMILY VALUES and then get caught being huge hypocrites. If that greasy shitbag Gingrich wants to rant and rave about birth control whores and the sanctity of marriage, then hell fucking yes I want people to mock him for his 127 divorces.
posted by elizardbits at 9:44 AM on November 14, 2012 [64 favorites]


We’ve caught some of the smartest and most commited public men and women with their pants at their ankles.

What this country needs is a resurgence in the suspenders industry.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:46 AM on November 14, 2012 [26 favorites]


Glad somebody finally said this. The sheer hypocrisy in reporting this stuff is sickening. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson would have been ruined in this fucked-up "let's-find-the-next scandal-to-spike-our-page-views-and-ad-rates" model of "journalism".

Add to that the open-mouthed air-breathers on both sides of the political spectrum who gobble this stuff up like it was the last information tidbit on earth.

Message to America: GROW UP!
posted by Vibrissae at 9:47 AM on November 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


The Wire's story of the bowls of shit has really stuck with me as regards American politics.
posted by Artw at 9:47 AM on November 14, 2012


I agree with some of what he says, but ignoring every instance of sexual impropriety by the powerful isn't any better than obsessing over each instance.

And I find it hard to take it seriously when someone is all "Oh, the French and their sophisticated ways, with the mistress and the wife both attending the funeral! We should be more like them!" and by doing so whitewashes the sexism, privilege, and power imbalances that enforced by such behavior and the ignoring thereof. DSK, anyone?
posted by rtha at 9:49 AM on November 14, 2012 [28 favorites]


To parrot something I said on Twitter yesterday, "What's disturbing is that the CIA does questionable shit all the time, but as soon as a vagina is involved, EVERYBODY PANIC"
posted by Kitteh at 9:49 AM on November 14, 2012 [23 favorites]


The 4th estate shouldn't be hypocrites because the 1st estate is so pure and chaste they are not hypocrites?

This isn't a court of law where unclean hands matter, is it?

(and really folks this link says all one needs to know on the topic. For whatever reason the 'people in power' want these people gone and the press and public opinion is making it happen. In 10 years, who's gonna care about this topic?)
posted by rough ashlar at 9:50 AM on November 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


In 10 years, who's gonna care about this topic?

Not me, I'll be dead.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:51 AM on November 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Shocking photos!
posted by Navelgazer at 9:52 AM on November 14, 2012 [15 favorites]


Speaking of the CIA and extracurricular activities, someone keep an eye on the drone and the vending machine.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:55 AM on November 14, 2012


Great article.

That said, I do wonder: why aren't people raising the specter of prosecuting Gen. Petraeus for adultery, under Article 134 of the UCMJ? Not that I want that to happen, but this would seem like a high profile case for it.
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:58 AM on November 14, 2012


Wouldn't their jurisdiction be secondary to that of the federal govt though?
posted by elizardbits at 10:00 AM on November 14, 2012


I've never understood the massive furore and insistence that anyone with a job of any consequence instantly becomes incompetent if they put their cock where someone else decides it shouldn't be, nor the media's obsession with shouting it all from the rooftops. It usually doesn't matter how good, efficient or effective they were at their role beforehand, the second 'bad penis/vagina/tendencies' implications are involved it's all "THEY MUST RESIGN IMMEDIATELY!!!!!".

So stupid. Patraeus was the head of the CIA, for crying out loud. If he's not competent or at the very least morally tending towards secrecy, complicity and cover up, how could he possibly do his job? Or maybe he should be fired only because he couldn't keep it secret?
posted by Brockles at 10:00 AM on November 14, 2012


Spycraft 101: Any intelligence operative who has an extra-marital affair is a security risk. Multiply that risk by 10 if it's the head of the whole f-ing agency!
posted by Triplanetary at 10:01 AM on November 14, 2012 [11 favorites]


I love that David Simon has a blog, but I'm not sure he's correct in his favorable assessment of Petraeus as a competent leader, as opposed to one who knows how to cultivate and impress reporters.
posted by longdaysjourney at 10:06 AM on November 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


It was the case of a national sportscaster — I won’t name him, but, alas, most of those old enough will remember the name, which is regrettable — whose sex life had suddenly become the media chow.

This man had been involved in a consensual relationship with another adult and for reasons both ridiculous and obscure, the other adult thought it just and meaningful to reveal herself and her complaints, making explicit all of the unique and varied ways in which she and this man had expressed their sexuality. And my, wasn’t he a weird one. And wasn’t it funny.


I can't think who he might be referencing, except Marv Albert. And I'll just say that if this is who he is referencing, his description of the event does not line up with the reported facts.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 10:06 AM on November 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


I've never understood the massive furore and insistence that anyone with a job of any consequence instantly becomes incompetent if they put their cock where someone else decides it shouldn't be, nor the media's obsession with shouting it all from the rooftops. It usually doesn't matter how good, efficient or effective they were at their role beforehand, the second 'bad penis/vagina/tendencies' implications are involved it's all "THEY MUST RESIGN IMMEDIATELY!!!!!".

So stupid. Patraeus was the head of the CIA, for crying out loud. If he's not competent or at the very least morally tending towards secrecy, complicity and cover up, how could he possibly do his job? Or maybe he should be fired only because he couldn't keep it secret?


This is not a question of competence. It's a question of vulnerability. Would you want the head of your national intelligence agency vulnerable to blackmail, essentially? In the background check process, it's not so much that you've done things, it's that you have secrets and would be vulnerable to being compromised, blackmailed, or otherwise turned due to your hidden baggage. Basically, cheating on your wife is fine and dandy so long as you tell her and the CIA.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 10:10 AM on November 14, 2012 [10 favorites]


Wouldn't their jurisdiction be secondary to that of the federal govt though?

I don't think the plain old federal court system is able to prosecute anything under the UCMJ? But I don't know very much about courts-martial?

Any military attorneys in the house?
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:11 AM on November 14, 2012


Human sexuality aside, I find the events leading up to his firing more concerning.

FBI's abuse of the surveillance state is the real scandal needing investigation
posted by kyp at 10:13 AM on November 14, 2012 [15 favorites]


Would you want the head of your national intelligence agency vulnerable to blackmail, essentially?

I was speaking more generally, but I'd like to think that the head of such an organisation is perfectly capable of handling a blackmail threat, to be honest. I'd also be more interested in investigating if he deemed her a security threat when he entered into the affair, rather than whether he was having an affair or not.

If he was fired for having sex with someone who was crazy/unstable/capable of harming national interests, that'd be one thing, but that doesn't really seem to be the actual focus of the scandal, from where I sit. There's too much moral outrage in US politics (and other walks of life) to me.
posted by Brockles at 10:13 AM on November 14, 2012


Would you want the head of your national intelligence agency vulnerable to blackmail, essentially?

You realize that this was one of the excuses that the Pentagon used for years to keep gay men out of the military?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:14 AM on November 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


And I find it hard to take it seriously when someone is all "Oh, the French and their sophisticated ways, with the mistress and the wife both attending the funeral! We should be more like them!" and by doing so whitewashes the sexism, privilege, and power imbalances that enforced by such behavior and the ignoring thereof. DSK, anyone?

Precisely. Caricaturing the reaction of the people who are largely disgusted by the dishonesty involved in infidelity as being some sort of Puritan thing about the sex has been a problem. DSK and his circle are one step away, if that, from being human traffickers, and I don't think anyone needs to hear from their sympathizers regarding laments on les americains et leur bourgeouis sexual morality.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 10:14 AM on November 14, 2012 [5 favorites]


I'm not one to make a big thing out of people's messy love lives.

But if we replaced "had an affair" with things like "misused their position", "claimed money they weren't entitled to", "has very dubious friends" etc, it would be equally true that no institution would be entirely populated by people who are whiter than white. But I wouldn't want them to stop scrutinizing each other on that account.

From a UK-based perspective, last few years we've seen the press poring over MP's expenses, parliament examining phone hacking by the press and dubious relations between police and press, police investigating politicians and press, and now everyone examining failures at the BBC, which of course examined everyone else's shortcomings.

On the one hand all this is pretty depressing. On the other hand given the nature of human fallibility, it's pretty damn important that we have a multiplicity of imperfect institutions all with reasons to to expose the misdeeds and flaws of the others.

That is kind of what democratic institutions in an open, pluralistic society are for.
posted by philipy at 10:15 AM on November 14, 2012 [4 favorites]


You realize that this was one of the excuses that the Pentagon used for years to keep gay men out of the military?

Very good point, and also if there was less massive moral outrage at stuff that doesn't impact people's ability to do their job, then it wouldn't be much of a blackmail threat, would it? If nobody cares that you are gay or having an affair, as long as its not with the 'enemy', then threatening to reveal it has no weight to influence them. Therefore blackmail as a threat is neutralised.
posted by Brockles at 10:16 AM on November 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


The broader message is in keeping with my thoughts - that puritanical nonsense and hypocrisy have blinded the press and the US public to not allow them to put all things into proportion and afford our national figures some amount of privacy.

What is difficult is the ramifications of such actions in the world that does exist. The nature of the beast is that our puritanical and hypocritical world has created much more than base moral issues for these dalliances.

For example, it is now coming out that classified documents have been found in Broadwell's home. Why is that the case? Is it related to the affair? These are natural questions, and because there is so much power in love, sex, and shame, affairs tend to tip power balances and create blind spots if not leverage over even the most powerful figures. Did the general simply turn a blind eye? Was he preoccupied? Or is the worst possible - an intentional abuse of power...

In the case of Bill Clinton, we had lying, which was perhaps normal but not well received. Less of an abuse of power question it seems, but certainly not accepted by the public. The result was that all of his good works were stopped cold, and frankly the 2000 election went to the opposition not because of the Supreme Court, but because of a BJ.

So, like it or not, these things do matter because we are caught in a vicious cycle. Unless we all stop caring, and thus reduce the extra stress and pressure associated with the sexual acts, we will continue to create the bigger problem - the associated collateral damage of an affair to the country itself. If we choose to not care, but at least some of the collateral damage happens anyway and is never uncovered, well, we may be even worse off. Should we just shoot the messenger, the press? That rarely helps.

In a world of reality TV, tabloids, and general human nature, it's too much to ask that these things don't get any attention. However, as the author points out, it sure would be nice to have them at least put in perspective. Aside from that, you've a society to change, and frankly the response we give to public figure affairs is the least of the nonsense we put up with as a part of the hypocrisy.
posted by Muddler at 10:18 AM on November 14, 2012


You realize that this was one of the excuses that the Pentagon used for years to keep gay men out of the military?

Homophobia doesn't invalidate blackmail as a legitimate security concern.
posted by elizardbits at 10:18 AM on November 14, 2012 [4 favorites]


On the UCMJ issue - right now it doesn't look like the affair happened while he was still in the military, so he can't be prosecuted for that. He left the military to become CIA director.
posted by InfidelZombie at 10:22 AM on November 14, 2012


FBI's abuse of the surveillance state is the real scandal needing investigation

Abuse? Or how the system is now designed/implemented?

And just to toss this neigh-unanswerable question out - How much of his progress in the military was due to his sexual relationship/marriage VS merit? (for a non-puritan and sex as politics talking point)
posted by rough ashlar at 10:27 AM on November 14, 2012


InfidelZombie: "On the UCMJ issue - right now it doesn't look like the affair happened while he was still in the military, so he can't be prosecuted for that. He left the military to become CIA director."

I'm not sure about that:

"Retired members of the uniformed services who are entitled to retirement pay are also subject to the UCMJ, as are retired reservists who are receiving hospital care in the VA system."
posted by tonycpsu at 10:28 AM on November 14, 2012


If nobody cares that you are gay or having an affair

People in your family might care, and you might care that someone is threatening to tell your family about a thing your job doesn't give a shit about, and therefore you are vulnerable to blackmail.
posted by rtha at 10:29 AM on November 14, 2012


Sex scandals are a way of getting rid of someone without saying why. All of this is nothing but kabuki for some other fight.

What's interesting is that:

a) It's unclear what that other fight is, and
b) It's clearly unresolved, or it'd have already left the press cycle

Imagine you didn't know what a bomb was, but you kept seeing and hearing these explosions all around. That's roughly what's up.
posted by effugas at 10:31 AM on November 14, 2012 [4 favorites]


which puts the episode outside military courts' jurisdiction.

I had read that earlier as well, but WaPo has a different take on it - apparently if they really wanted to, they could reactivate him, THEN prosecute him. But that's never been done.
posted by BigLankyBastard at 10:31 AM on November 14, 2012


FBI's abuse of the surveillance state is the real scandal needing investigation

Greenwald on Democracy Now: While Petraeus Had Affair With Biographer, Corporate Media Had Affair With Petraeus
posted by homunculus at 10:41 AM on November 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


I remember a similar defence being used when Zeus was having affairs.

Gods, I am old.
posted by srboisvert at 10:46 AM on November 14, 2012 [4 favorites]


Corporate Media Had Affair With Petraeus

In case people do not remember:

http://petraeus2012.com/ - Petraeus For President

Those of you who like archiving things may wish to get a snapshot before that website goes down the memoryhole.
posted by rough ashlar at 10:46 AM on November 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Stop making excuses for Petraeus. He KNEW what the rules were heck, enforced the rules in both the military and the CIA. The break of trust between him and his wife and Broadwell with her spouse are their own business. There are larger issues for the organizations: I don't give a damn about the adultery itself, I care about the impact to the organization and the people whose security is safeguarded by that organization.

Some of the arguments I have seen fall under the following: I think the image that stays with me is the wandering penis from David Simon's essay. So now I see a penis, alone and palely loitering in the wilderness. Man, a little bull goes a long way, I guess.

Initially, I thought this was an ordinary sex scandal; a severe misjudgment on the part of an official, but with all the other characters it is turning into a bizarre French farce with socialites, consuls and politicians, oh my.
posted by jadepearl at 10:46 AM on November 14, 2012 [7 favorites]


But that's never been done.

Always a 1st time. Wonder if the Commander in Chief could order such?
posted by rough ashlar at 10:47 AM on November 14, 2012


Also an interesting part of the scandal is the breathless reporting of Petreus et all using 'a cyber hack' of having a shared document on dropbox. If that is the kind of tech the head of the CIA employs then America's ineffective overseas adventurism becomes much more explicable.
posted by srboisvert at 10:48 AM on November 14, 2012


So now I see a penis, alone and palely loitering in the wilderness.

A barren wasteland with a few scattered flaccid penises draped over a branch; The Persistence of Penis.
posted by elizardbits at 10:50 AM on November 14, 2012 [5 favorites]


Thanks for the additional info tonycpsu & BLB - the situation is obviously more complicated than I thought.
posted by InfidelZombie at 10:50 AM on November 14, 2012


I appreciate what Simon is saying about the behavior of reporters, but be sure to read Michael Hastings savage look at the Petraeus myth, The Sins Of General David Petraeus, for a take from a more important angle. Hastings notes Petraeus "probably deserves something a little better than the public humiliation he’s about to endure," but goes on to toss out a very different counter-narrative than the one the "But he's so competent!" crowd uses, even if he doesn't bother to include links to support his accusations. Still, here's the meat:

There’s his war record in Iraq, starting when he headed up the Iraqi security force training program in 2004. He’s more or less skated on that, including all the weapons he lost, the insane corruption, and the fact that he essentially armed and trained what later became known as “Iraqi death squads.” On his final Iraq tour, during the so-called "surge," he pulled off what is perhaps the most impressive con job in recent American history. He convinced the entire Washington establishment that we won the war.

He did it by papering over what the surge actually was: We took the Shiites' side in a civil war, armed them to the teeth, and suckered the Sunnis into thinking we’d help them out too. It was a brutal enterprise — over 800 Americans died during the surge, while hundreds of thousands of Iraqis lost their lives during a sectarian conflict that Petraeus’ policies fueled. Then he popped smoke and left the members of the Sunni Awakening to fend for themselves. A journalist friend told me a story of an Awakening member, exiled in Amman, whom Petraeus personally assured he would never abandon. The former insurgent had a picture of Petraeus on his wall, but was a little hurt that the general no longer returned his calls. MoveOn may have been ill-advised to attack the general as "Betray Us" in Washington, but there was little doubt that many in the Awakening felt betrayed.

Petraeus was so convincing on Baghdad that he manipulated President Obama into trying the same thing in Kabul. In Afghanistan, he first underhandedly pushed the White House into escalating the war in September 2009 (calling up columnists to “box” the president in) and waged a full-on leak campaign to undermine the White House policy process. Petraeus famously warned his staff that the White House was “fucking” with the wrong guy.

The doomed Afghanistan surge would come back to bite him in the ass, however. A year after getting the war he wanted, P4 got stuck having to fight it himself. After Petraeus frenemy General Stanley McChrystal got fired for trashing the White House in a story I published in Rolling Stone, the warrior-scholar had to deploy yet again.

The Afghan war was a loser, always was, and always would be — Petraeus made horrible deals with guys like Abdul Razzik and the other Afghan gangsters and killed a bunch of people who didn’t need to be killed. And none of it mattered, or made a dent in his reputation. This was the tour where Broadwell joined him at headquarters, and it’s not so shocking that he’d need to find some solace, somewhere, to get that daily horror show out of his mind.

posted by mediareport at 10:59 AM on November 14, 2012 [12 favorites]


The issue is in the news and not the gossip column because the head of the CIA allowed his mistress unsupervised access to his official email, which she used to harass other women who may or may not be romantically linked to Director Petraeus.

That is an enormous fucking big deal.

It's one thing to sleep around - and it's another to let it get in the way of doing your job, which is what happened here. It's not OMG moralz!, it's "You let who do what with the official email account of the head of the CIA?"
posted by Slap*Happy at 11:01 AM on November 14, 2012 [7 favorites]


"You let who do what with the official email account of the head of the CIA?"

While this above MY paygrade, and odds are above yours....

You've put that in quotes. Implying someone said that. So *I'm asking who said that?

*yea, I'm a nobody as far as anyone 'in power' cares.
posted by rough ashlar at 11:18 AM on November 14, 2012


So *I'm asking who said that?

I was paraphrasing, and the short answer is: The FBI.

The long answer: The Effffff Beee Eyeeeeeee.
posted by Slap*Happy at 11:24 AM on November 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


using 'a cyber hack' of having a shared document on dropbox.

Dropbox is different then using the shared "Draft" feature on gmail - reporting that I've read.

With few exceptions the readers and posters on The Blue are not informed enough to express any kind of statement which would be appropriate WRT "cyber-security ". Keeping that in mind - Were is th "dropbox" "PROOF?"
posted by rough ashlar at 11:28 AM on November 14, 2012


Military worship in general and Petraeus worship in particular have been getting on my nerves for 6 or 7 years. I'm glad Petraeus fucked up. I hope he goes away and shuns public attention for the rest of his life and takes Allen with him.
posted by wrapper at 11:28 AM on November 14, 2012


The issue is in the news and not the gossip column because the head of the CIA allowed his mistress unsupervised access to his official email, which she used to harass other women who may or may not be romantically linked to Director Petraeus.

I call bullshit. That may "the issue", but all that kernel of legitimacy does is provide a pretext for reporting every little bit of titilation and gossip on A1 above the fold. That's not why Jill Kelly's (I think that's her name, I really can't be bothered to delve further into it then what the headlines blare at me while I'm searching for actual news) role in this is getting so much play. If she didn't photograph well by the standards of newspaper and news program editors, I'm reasonably sure whatever part she plays in this would have remained in obscurity.

Besides, we're talking about people in the upper echelons of a defense and intelligence apparartus that, as far as I'm concerned, should have been tried for war crimes under the last administration.* For the media to be affronted by someone saying "hey baby, wanna see my security clearance" when it couldn't be bothered to care about systemic human rights abuses and the utter abandonment of the Bill of Rights...well, I think David Simon is being even more generous than I would be.

*I realize that most of the people involved in the Bush era have moved on. My point is that we didn't see the media pursuing those stories with this type of journalistic rigor at the time.
posted by dry white toast at 11:33 AM on November 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


I do not have a well informed opinion about Petraeus or this incident, but I do believe that selecting for only people who can pass an are-you-lilly-white background check (and also only for people who would present themselves for such a check with the confidence that they would pass) has its own serious limitations.

I wonder if it is possible to quantify whether the current policy is a net win for an agency whose mission is to understand what is happening around the world.
posted by zippy at 11:38 AM on November 14, 2012


It's one thing to sleep around - and it's another to let it get in the way of doing your job, which is what happened here. It's not OMG moralz!, it's "You let who do what with the official email account of the head of the CIA?"

Just because I'm disinterested in weeding through the terrible reporting on this story to track down these facts, but am rather interested in these facts themselves: is it the case that Petraeus was sending hot personal emails to Broadwell (and maybe Kelly) via a CIA email address, as opposed to a personal email address? And that that email address was then monitored by the FBI? Because if so, then yes, the reporting on this story is even more backwards than I thought.
posted by gauche at 11:39 AM on November 14, 2012


I do not have a well informed opinion about Petraeus or this incident, but I do believe that selecting for only people who can pass an are-you-lilly-white background check (and also only for people who would present themselves for such a check with the confidence that they would pass) has its own serious limitations.

One actually does not need to have a "lilly white" background to pass a clearance background check. They only look into the last 7-10 years depending on the clearance level, and they're generally forgiving of that time you smoked a joint in college. They mainly want to make sure that you're loyal to the country (since you'll be entrusted to keep its secrets) and that you're not in a position to be blackmailed -- so current/recent illegal drug use, heavy gambling, and serious financial problems are the kinds of things that will raise red flags. It's entirely possible to possess the highest clearance levels with some spots on your record.
posted by tonycpsu at 11:47 AM on November 14, 2012 [4 favorites]


is it the case that Petraeus was sending hot personal emails to Broadwell (and maybe Kelly) via a CIA email address, as opposed to a personal email address

No, Broadwell was sending harassing email to another woman using one or more of his official accounts. She had unauthorized access to his communications, and the FBI has been investigating whether or not she had a look-see at the classified stuff while she was at it. Since he resigned and this hit the news (in that order), I'm gonna go out on a limb and say, "Yup."
posted by Slap*Happy at 11:49 AM on November 14, 2012


He's being sacked because he put himself in a position where he could be sacked. The why is kind of irrelevant. Harsh? Of course, but you know he was head of the CIA and they're usually a results orientated bunch of folks.

As to the hand-wringing about prurience and how human frailty is being unfairly punished, HE WAS HEAD OF THE CIA! WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE? You want them to have more understanding HR policies for their nun-killing, drug-smuggling arms dealers?
posted by fullerine at 11:50 AM on November 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


No, Broadwell was sending harassing email to another woman using one or more of his official accounts. She had unauthorized access to his communications, and the FBI has been investigating whether or not she had a look-see at the classified stuff while she was at it. Since he resigned and this hit the news (in that order), I'm gonna go out on a limb and say, "Yup."

Oh, I see. For some reason I thought you were saying that someone at the FBI was reading the emails of the Director of the CIA, which ... seemed odd to me.
posted by gauche at 12:06 PM on November 14, 2012


On his final Iraq tour, during the so-called "surge," he pulled off what is perhaps the most impressive con job in recent American history. He convinced the entire Washington establishment that we won the war...

I'm in no way informed enough to judge whether this is an accurate characterization of what happened, but if it is, it's very David Simon.

Jukin' the stats... it's all in the game yo.
posted by philipy at 12:09 PM on November 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hamsterblam.
posted by Artw at 12:12 PM on November 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


I agree with some of what he says, but ignoring every instance of sexual impropriety by the powerful isn't any better than obsessing over each instance.

This. True, there's a fair bit of hypocrisy involved. But if Simon is going to get on his high horse about journalistic hypocrisy, he's also going to have to deal with the whole Democratic-party-operatives-with-bylines phenomenon we saw in full force during the last election.

Further, as to this question:

It's a question of vulnerability. Would you want the head of your national intelligence agency vulnerable to blackmail, essentially?

...the answer seems to be that Petraeus was vulnerable to blackmail. In this case by the Obama Administration. It's looking more and more likely that the Administration coerced him into perjuring himself during his September 12 congressional testimony under the threat of having his affair exposed and his career destroyed. But the news came out anyway, so there's now no incentive for Petraeus to either (1) protect the Administration about its godawful failings in Bengazi or (2) hide the fact that they probably asked him to lie under oath to avoid souring the campaign at a critical moment.
posted by valkyryn at 12:25 PM on November 14, 2012


valkyryn: "In this case by the Obama Administration. It's looking more and more likely that the Administration coerced him into perjuring himself during his September 12 congressional testimony under the threat of having his affair exposed and his career destroyed."

Huh? Cite please?
posted by tonycpsu at 12:26 PM on November 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh, I see. For some reason I thought you were saying that someone at the FBI was reading the emails of the Director of the CIA, which ... seemed odd to me.

Actually, I'm surprised they weren't monitoring his email, checking for irregularities that could mean it's been compromised. The FBI has responsibility for checking up on the CIA, and it has agents with the clearance to do it.

so there's now no incentive for Petraeus to either (1) protect the Administration about its godawful failings in Bengazi

LOL Benghazi. Wanna know how I know you watch Fox News?
posted by Slap*Happy at 12:37 PM on November 14, 2012 [8 favorites]


The Administration's faillings in Bengazi? What? There may have been failures in CIA intelligence before the attack, as well as in the immediacy of the CIA response to the attack, and there certainly seem to have been failures in State's decisions about security, not to mention there is no question that Ambassador Rice got some very bad briefing about the incident -- again, apparently by CIA/intelligence gathering.

Of course, I don't know, because the investigation still isn't complete. But except that Petraeus (CIA) and Hilary Clinton (State) are administration members, I fail to see how the President and the way he has run his office bear fault.
posted by bearwife at 1:25 PM on November 14, 2012


Yikes - actually - it's grown stranger since I read up on this last.

Apparently, there's an FBI agent who's in love with a married Tampa socialite, the one who received the harassing emails. He's even sent her shirtless pics of himself. Well, he decided to track down the source of these embarrassing emails, and it was the secret gmail account Petraeus and Broadwell were using to leave each other love notes.

You know how people were claiming that an affair can be used as blackmail against someone like Petraeus? Well, Agent Chiselchest is a Republican, and he believed he could derail the President's campaign by embroiling his CIA chief with a sex scandal. He handed over all of his evidence to Eric Cantor - who, being no fool, handed it right back to the FBI.
posted by Slap*Happy at 2:20 PM on November 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Actually, IMHO, Eric Cantor is a fool, just not in this particular instance.
posted by jfwlucy at 3:11 PM on November 14, 2012


Agent Chiselchest

Is that Bradley Chiselchest of the Sagaponack Chiselchests?
posted by elizardbits at 3:29 PM on November 14, 2012


"No, Broadwell was sending harassing email to another woman using one or more of his official accounts."

Hmm. I was under the impression Broadwell was using throw away email accounts to email harassment rather than Petraeus's official gov account.
posted by bz at 3:34 PM on November 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


NYT: Veteran F.B.I. Agent Frederick W. Humphries II Helped Start Petraeus E-Mail Inquiry

"Convinced that the case was being stalled for political reasons, Mr. Humphries in late October contacted Representative Dave Reichert, a Republican from Washington State, where the F.B.I. agent had worked previously, to inform him of the case. Mr. Reichert put him in touch with the House majority leader, Eric Cantor, who passed the message to the F.B.I. director, Robert S. Mueller III. "
posted by bz at 3:46 PM on November 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


You know, this particular incident is so f-ed up I almost think it's viral marketing for a fictional movie or video game where Petraeus and Hillary would take over the Army and Presidency in a coup ...

WAIT WTF BBQ
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 4:34 PM on November 14, 2012


Can't tell you how grateful I am for finding out about David Simon's blog. Now there's a true journalist for you. (Been a huge fan ever since reading Homicide back in the early 90's.)
posted by jenh526 at 7:32 PM on November 14, 2012


The press bits in Season 5 still drag like hell though.
posted by Artw at 8:17 PM on November 14, 2012


The Greenwald article mentioned above is a must - for entertainment value if nothing else.

He points out that this started because Jill Kelley got a bunch of emails critical of her, and used her influence with the FBI to have them investigated, even though there was clearly no felony and not even clearly any law being broken. Then the investigating agent sent Ms. Kelley some shirtless photos(!) and was taken off the case.

From these emails, described as, "'More like, 'Who do you think you are? . . .You parade around the base . . . You need to take it down a notch,'" the FBI decided that Ms. Broadwell was a suspect, and proceeded to wander through her emails - without any warrant of course - with the results that you see.

Then they proceeded to wander through Ms. Kelley's email box in turn, and find twenty to thirty thousand "inappropriate" communications between General John Allen - did I mention, without any sort of warrant?

There's this bizarre ineptness where everyone's falling flat on their faces - and yet this Keystone Kops drama is what brings down these hulking military figures - not their inept performances in their actual jobs, or their moral bankruptcy of their militarist decisions - no, it's for something that is perfectly legal between consenting adults, and wouldn't be a problem if it weren't a problem (for example, for those of you mentioning "blackmail" above, if adultery were simply accepted as a normal part of life, how would it be possible to blackmail someone for it?)

You just have to laugh at them. Really, it couldn't happen to more deserving targets.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:22 PM on November 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


elizardbits: "He has a point about most of the public figures, but I will never ever think it is wrong for reporters to call out public figures who batter people with the self-righteous fist of FAMILY VALUES and then get caught being huge hypocrites. If that greasy shitbag Gingrich wants to rant and rave about birth control whores and the sanctity of marriage, then hell fucking yes I want people to mock him for his 127 divorces."

Can't favorite this enough. Because in that case the affair (or whatever) isn't directly the story--at least, it shouldn't be. The hypocrisy itself is the story. Or at least, should be.
posted by zardoz at 10:38 PM on November 14, 2012


I haven't read through the whole thread here yet , but I just want to mention,

This is nothing more than the odd, notable penis or the odd, notable vagina staggering off the marked path and rubbing against the wrong tree.

Is an interesting sentence.
posted by From Bklyn at 5:51 AM on November 15, 2012


More proof that "Benghazi" is the new "Solyndra". The Republicans have no interest in actually finding out what actually happened -- it's all about getting political advantage.
posted by tonycpsu at 1:47 PM on November 15, 2012


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