By Marc Jampole
The news media is still wringing its hands in torment over the loss of their military darling, General David Petraeus, to the vagaries of carnal affection. While some have wondered why an affair should force a resignation since it’s a private matter, most editors, writers and pundits have bereaved the inevitability of resignation.
The thought process that leads to automatic resignation starts with the idea that a CIA Director could be blackmailed into acting in the worst interest of the country to avoid being found out. Few seem to remember that Petraeus is an old hand at doing what’s not right for the country. He was, after all, architect of the “surge strategy” in the Iraq War that postponed the inevitable withdrawal of U.S. troops from the morass of anarchy created by the U.S. invasion. The surge did give the U.S. a flimsy justification for claiming success, so in a sense, Petraeus constructed one of the most costly fig leaves in recorded history, the cost unfortunately computed in both human lives and wasted money.
Petraeus probably “cooked the books” in reporting progress during the Iraq War surge, as reported by MoveOn, most notoriously in a 2007 full-page ad in the New York Times. The same mainstream media that are now surgically investigating the Petraeus affair raised a collective voice back then to defend Petraeus and condemn MoveOn for its clever headline, Petraeus betray us.” Funny, isn’t it: The mainstream media pretty much accepted the Bush II Administrations lies about weapons of mass destruction, Iraqi support of Al Qaida, torture as a mere aberration in the lower ranks and the success of the surge. Yet they are digging deep to uncover every tawdry nugget of the Petraeus scandal.
In other words, the mass media that botched the investigation of an important public issue show a great deal of competence and professionalism going after all the details of an extramarital affair.
My own view is that Petraeus should never have been given the job of CIA Director. Once confirmed, however, engaging in extramarital sexual congress should not have warranted dismissal. Now if Petraeus was in some way going to benefit from any deals that ”family friend” Jill Kelley was trying to broker for exorbitant sums, then he should not have been given the face-saving option to resign, but instead been summarily dismissed. (Petraeus’ paramour instigated the investigation that “caught” Petraeus when she suspected that the general was servicing Kelley and so sent her, imagined or real, rival some threatening emails, which the well-connected Kelly turned over to an FBI friend).
Petraeus’ private affairs should never have become front page news. Not so for Tennessee Republican Congressman Scott DesJarlais, formerly a physician. Unsealing his divorce records of a decade ago has revealed that DesJarlais’ former wife had two abortions on his advice and that he urged a patient whom he had impregnated to get an abortion.
Certainly DesJarlais behaved unethically to sleep with a patient, although they were both consenting adults. But as far as the abortions go, who cares? Abortion was legal then and is legal now.
Except that DesJarlais says he’s pro-life. It’s the hypocrisy of wanting to prevent other people from doing what you yourself have recommended multiple times that makes DesJarlais’ private matters fair game for the media.