Charles Krauthammer claims “the sword was lowered” on Gen. David Petraeus “on Election Day”: The Obama White House knew of the CIA director’s affair, and they’re using it to punish him for contradicting the administration line on Benghazi during testimony Sept. 14 before the House Intelligence Committee.
At Reason magazine, Judge Andrew Napolitano charges that the administration must have known about Petraeus’s 2010 affair when it offered him the CIA post, and implies that a conspiracy is ongoing:
In the modern era, office-holders with forgiving spouses simply do not resign from powerful jobs because of a temporary, non-criminal, consensual adult sexual liaison, as the history of the FDR, Eisenhower, JFK, LBJ, and Clinton presidencies attest. So, why is Petraeus different? Someone wants to silence him.
This will very likely turn out to be the “all wet” reaction to the Petraeus saga.
Adam Entous and Siobhan Gorman have a compelling insider account in the Wall Street Journal that paints a more complicated picture. There is a kernel of truth to Krauthammer’s assertion that Petraeus is being punished. But the punishment, in this case, appears passive-aggressive. The Obama administration didn’t so much punish the four-star general as it opted not to defend him.
And therein, perhaps, lies all the difference between a bureaucratic knife-fight and a full-blown political conspiracy.
According to the WSJ:
Administration officials respected Mr. Petraeus’s success in Iraq and Afghanistan, and President Barack Obama praised him in a news conference Wednesday for his “extraordinary career.” But he didn’t have a deep bench of backers within Mr. Obama’s powerful inner circle, current and former officials say.
Not being fully aligned with the administration is sometimes good for the head of an intelligence agency that prides itself on being apolitical, the former intelligence official said.
Some lawmakers and administration officials have questioned why Mr. Petraeus had to resign over an affair that apparently didn’t compromise national security. But throughout his tenure, Mr. Obama has shown little patience with aides who are at the center of what he sees as unwelcome media spectacles.
Making matters worse, Petraeus apparently made few friends within the CIA:
Mr. Petraeus had struggled to win over CIA employees, who initially viewed him with suspicion because he was a high-profile former general accustomed to the hierarchical respect conferred within the military. The CIA, by contrast, is a less hierarchical institution.
“That was a big change for him,” said Michael Hurley, a former agency officer. “Authority comes with rank in the military, but CIA directors have to earn the respect of agency officers.”
Agency officers saw his CIA office as much more regimented compared with the relative ease with which they could stop in to see top agency officials under Leon Panetta, Mr. Petraeus’s predecessor. Mr. Petraeus appeared to be surprised when much younger analysts would disagree with a point he made, a former official said.
Mr. Petraeus’s attempts to connect with agency officers over running—he extended an invitation to exercise with him as long as they could keep up with his six- to seven-minute miles—often fell flat as many analysts and operatives weren’t as athletic.
In the end, Petraeus was left to twist in the wind.