Wednesday, November 14, 2012

In making sense of scandal, one has to ask, "What rings true?"

That means, what makes sense? How could such events fit together? What circumstances would have to be present for all facts to be coherent?

We are getting closer to the truth on General Petraeus' actions regarding the affair with Paula Broadwell, and in so doing, we will learn the truth about Benghazi. Petraeus has agreed to testify, because, in the end, he is an honorable man. Ironically, and despite his moral failings, we may yet have one more reason to thank this man for putting the integrity of America above all else.

Here is pretty close to the truth, so far as I can tell:

Petraeus had an affair with Broadwell during and perhaps before the time he became CIA Director. The affair was discovered because Broadwell sent some strange, troubling emails to another woman, Jill Kelley, who happened to also be an acquaintance of Petraeus. The exact content and tenor of the emails is not known, but Kelley felt threatened by them and asked an FBI friend of hers to look into them. Probably as a favor, and not as matter of protocol, the FBI agent set off a questionable investigation which eventually revealed the affair between Petraeus and Broadwell. This information was passed to FBI Director Mueller, and Attorney General Holder several months ago and at the latest, over the summer to Holder.

It's laughable to say that the White House, including the President, did not know about this information. Ask yourself if you were the president, is this something you would expect/want your subordinates to tell you? Would you want to be in the position of not knowing about this when some reporter or fellow head of state says something about it to you? Perhaps the President is so well insulated that this could never happen, but as for me, I'd be furious if my staff kept this from me. There are only two possibilities: no one did tell the President, in which case they are completely incompetent, lack minimal expectations of judgment, and should be fired; or, they are lying. This has been the case for the other feigning of ignorance situations as well - Biden: "We didn't know they needed more security" in Benghazi; Holder: "I didn't know the details" of Fast and Furious gun walking to Mexico. It's complete B.S. Protocol my arse.

So now that we've established that people in high places did know about this, why wait to take any action? If they felt Petraeus was a risk, undeserving of the job, or whatever, there would have been many ways to have him quietly step aside without it reflecting poorly on the administration. This didn't have to come out. So you have to ask yourself, why did it?

This came out now because ultimately Petraeus is an honorable man. He knew he had stumbled, and he knew they knew he stumbled. Initially, he believed he would be able to keep his job, otherwise he would have crafted a much better exit for himself (see previous posts about Princeton). No, this explains his odd testimony on Benghazi, where he allowed the idea that the video may have sparked the attack to take hold. This was contemporaneous with reports from the scene that indicated this was a preplanned terrorist attack, discrediting any idea that a video was the cause of the violence. The only way to reconcile these facts is to uncover the motives for why Petraeus would have given such misleading information - he was under pressure to do so. This seems as out of character as the revelation that he had an affair, but we know that happened don't we?

He kept his job, but his conscience caught up to him. He knew he would continue to be pressured to give a certain kind of testimony in the hearings (to begin tomorrow). Instead, he decided to man up and he took away their ammunition. He couldn't repair the damage already done, but he could stop digging the hole. A true leader owns up to mistakes, and sets about mending the damage regardless of the personal humiliation. By all other measures, this appears to be what we've come to expect of the General. That would be in character.

The White House asserted pressure for Petraeus to give the testimony it wanted, and did not pressure him to leave the job. With this secret to hold over his head, it was in a good negotiating position. I believe it was his decision to resign, so as to call the bluff (President "Don't Call My Bluff" - remember that?). And I also believe that it has always been his intention to testify to set the record straight. The administration would probably be very happy if he did not, even though he has personal knowledge of what happened and would be the appropriate person to testify. I won't go so far as to say he will admit he perjured himself in his Sept.13 testimony, but I think he will clarify the intelligence, warts and all, regardless of who comes out smelling like a pig. He knows he will get muddied up, he's already stepped in it, so that's no longer motivation for him to withhold information. He is now free to give his perspective of the truth unhindered by selfish motives. I may be naive, but I think that's what he will do.

Now that the White House does not have Petraeus under its thumb, it has opened the floodgates on discrediting him and bringing down anyone else, not beholden to the administration, who might tell the truth. Hence, the inference that Petraeus gave Broadwell classified information, and that Broadwell was improperly in possession of unauthorized classified information.

Here is the problem with that - there is a strong likelihood that if Broadwell did possess classified information, she had been cleared to receive it. Don't forget she was a major in the Army Reserve and all officers have at least a general secret clearance. Perhaps that could have expired, or it could have been limited, but also don't forget that she was the official biographer to Petraeus and embedded with his unit in Afghanistan. She would have had to have proper clearances just for that job. Further, she maintained a professional relationship (as well as personal, but that's beside the point) with Petraeus and was granted entry to the CIA. She could have been granted access improperly, but the fact remains, on the face of it, she had approved access. I would bet she has a valid defense to having access to classified documents.

But none of that matters to an attention deficit public. What will be remembered? Petraeus had an affair, and improperly/illegally gave classified information to Broadwell. In this day and age, the affair alone would not be enough to discredit these individuals. Therefore more is required, such as . . .  a raid of Broadwell's home and a parade of boxes and computers leaving her house. The character assassination is complete, so no matter what actual truth does comes from either of these two, it will be suspect.  Crafty, no?

The Jill Kelley/General Allen situation is just a bonus for the administration. Another "Look squirrel!" distraction the White House can throw out there to get the public off the track of whatever went down in Benghazi. I'm sure poor Jill Kelley is kicking herself now that she ever tried to get special FBI treatment to find her harasser. Well, what goes around comes around. When is it going to be the President's turn?

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