The decline of The Washington Post can be seen in the silly Sunday story about how the lavish amenities afforded to today’s military leaders may have been responsible for David Petraeus cheating on his wife.
The paper said, “The commanders who lead the nation’s military services and those who oversee troops around the world enjoy an array of perquisites befitting a billionaire, including executive jets, palatial homes, drivers, security guards and aides to carry their bags, press their uniforms and track their schedules in 10-minute increments. Their food is prepared by gourmet chefs. If they want music with their dinner parties, their staff can summon a string quartet or a choir. “
All of this may be true and a case can be made that these amenities should be cut back. But what any of this has to do with Petraeus, a former Army general and CIA director, having sex with Paula Broadwell “under a desk,” as one of their e-mails stated, is not explained.
The story by Rajiv Chandrasekaran and Greg Jaffe appears to be an attempt to get the paper off the hook for failing to uncover Petraeus’s history of lies and deceptions. Post local editor Vernon Loeb had collaborated with Broadwell on the Petraeus biography, All In: The Education of General David Petraeus. Loeb worked with Broadwell on the book for 16 months.
Loeb stayed silent for a few days after the affair came to light, but then wrote a November 13 Post “Style” section story, “Questions that never got asked,” which included this claim, “I always thought that Broadwell’s motives were pure, and I always wondered why Petraeus was granting her the access that he did.” But he didn’t pursue the matter.
The headline over the Internet version of the Post story calls Loeb “clueless,” which is a strange description of somebody in the news business with access to the key players. The term is taken from Loeb’s own account of what he did not know. “My wife says I’m the most clueless person in America.”
“I never thought they were having an affair—and I still have no idea when the affair actually began,” he said. He explained that he had sent Broadwell an e-mail, “letting her know that I was writing this piece and welcoming any comment she chose to make. I have yet to hear back from her.”
This is apparently the end of Loeb’s investigation into the scandal.
Explaining why he was so clueless, he says, “I assumed, given how public their semi-official relationship was, that he would never engage in any risky behavior. He’d always preached to his protégés that character was what you did when no one was watching. And he would always hasten to add, from his most public of perches, that ‘someone is always watching.’”
This, then, is the answer to the question of why Petraeus had the affair: he lacked moral character and was a hypocrite. It has nothing to do with homes, drivers, and security guards. The real issue is why a Post editor ignored the clues in the case and failed to question or confront Broadwell about her close relationship to the general.
In retrospect, one of the favorable reviews about the Broadwell-Loeb book is almost amusing. Thomas E. Ricks wrote, “All In feels at times like we are sitting at his side in Afghanistan, reading his e-mails over his shoulder.”
The Petraeus-Broadwell e-mails were disguised and hidden in a special account, in the form of draft messages that each person could read. It took the resources of the FBI to obtain them and an FBI whistleblower unwilling to countenance the affair or the cover-up who then went to Republican Representatives Eric Cantor and Dave Reichert more than a week before the election with the revelations. They sent the information back to the FBI and stayed silent.
Even though the affair was disclosed, after the election, questions persist about whether Petraeus has been telling the truth about important military and intelligence matters. As the Post and other media acknowledge, Petraeus has now contradicted himself about the growing controversy over what the Obama Administration knew and said about the murder of four Americans in Benghazi, Libya on September 11.
The scandal has been dubbed Benghazigate.
Last Friday, Petraeus testified in closed session before members of the House and Senate intelligence committees and said that the September 11 attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, was terrorism. “That appeared to conflict with testimony he gave them three days after the attack, when he said it appeared to have begun as a ‘spontaneous’ assault that was overtaken by ‘extremists,’” the Post noted.
Rep. Peter King confirmed that Petraeus changed his testimony. Referring to his version of his testimony on September 13, King said, “He was saying there are many strings of intelligence but he also stated that he thought all along he made it clear that there was significant terrorist involvement. And that is not my recollection of what he told us on September 14th.” (emphasis added)
It should be noted that most of the media, and even Rep. King, keep wrongly saying that Petraeus’s previous testimony on Libya was on September 14. But in fact it was on September 13. On that day, on CNN’s The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, was even clearer about what she had just heard, and not heard, from Petraeus. She started out telling Blitzer, “What I can tell you is that our entire committee, all 15 of us, eight Democrats, seven Republicans, were present for a briefing by Director Petraeus that lasted a couple of hours. And it was a very good briefing.”
Blitzer then asked her, “Does it look like this was a carefully planned operation that was in the works for a while? What’s the latest assessment on that?”
Sen. Feinstein replied, “I can say that I’ve seen no evidence or no assessment that indicates it was. I can certainly say that. There was a protest. And it could well be that quickly some two dozen people took that as an opportunity to attack.”
The problem is that Petraeus, a man with obvious character flaws and a deceptive nature, was not put under oath this time or last time.
Fox News host Greta Van Susteren was astonished by this failure. “It is routine that witnesses take an oath,” she pointed out. Fox News had previously reported that the testimony was supposed to be provided under oath.
The bottom line is that Petraeus lied about Benghazigate at some point during the process of giving his testimony.
Radio host John Batchelor reports that he was told that Petraeus “did not want to return to the Hill under oath” because he would be forced to “confront the inconsistencies in his remarks about the CIA’s part in the fiasco” over what really happened on September 11 and what the Obama Administration said publicly about it.
It appears that the Congress wants to remain clueless but The Washington Post should not accept the lies. It can redeem itself by pursuing Benghazigate.
Cliff Kincaid is the Director of the AIM Center for Investigative Journalism and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.