(Updated 11:48 a.m.)
Among the odd things — and there are many — in the scandal (the word seems insufficient to describe the number of people doing stupid things, no?) enveloping the CIA, FBI, Gen. David Petraeus and other e-mail-naive officials is the behavior of some on the right who seem uninterested in Petraeus’s conduct in the hours and days following the Benghazi attack. It is fitting to put his resignation in the context of his entire career, and it is understandable to object to cruel and excessive ridicule of his behavior. But excuse-making should be avoided.
Some would even have us believe that “[t]o be fair to him, maybe he thought that national security required him not to fully spill the beans and to kind of go along with a line that was otherwise politically convenient for the administration.”
No, no. A thousand times no. In the wake of the murder of a U.S. ambassador and three other Americans and an incident revealing a collapse in both pre-attack intelligence and after-attack response abilities, Petraeus’s obligation is to the American people, and it is to tell the truth. That might be in closed session. (It now seems like it’ll happen that way.) That might be to a limited number of lawmakers. But going along with an expedient line known to be false is inexcusable, most especially if it was done because the general feared his own personal scandal might come to light in a faceoff with the White House.
And if Petraeus intentionally told material falsehoods under oath (rather than ducking or evading or giving incomplete answers), he should be held to account.
Thankfully, Republicans on Capitol Hill seem disinclined to let Petraeus off the hook. Sen. Susan Collins (Maine) and Sen. Saxby Chambliss (Alabama.) are pressing the CIA for answers and insisting that Petraeus testify.
Democrats who are less invested in Petraeus worship are properly concerned with figuring out what he knew about Benghazi and why he chose to follow the administration line (i.e., say untrue things) on a matter of national security. They want to know what he found out when he went to Libya and what is in his personal report. That is not his personal account — it belongs to the American people, who have every right, consistent with national security, to figure out what is in it.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) (whom readers of Right Turn know we have found entirely professional and rational on everything from national security leaks to the Christmas Day would-be bomber) is on the mark when she says, “Petraeus was actually in Benghazi, and actually spoke to people involved in the incident. I think that’s important for us to hear.. . . There’s only one way to ascertain [what Petraeus learned], and that is to talk directly with Petraeus and do it in a classified setting with the committee present.”
In addition, the White House seems bent on nominating as secretary of state U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, who claims to have been the victim of false CIA talking points. If she wants to get to Foggy Bottom without a visitor’s pass she will need to explain exactly what she knew and what the CIA was telling her. Again, she can do so in closed session if need be, but she otherwise should not be confirmed for her post.
There is plenty here that makes no sense. We have a dearth of rational explanations for the conduct of the FBI, for the timing of the Petraeus disclosure and for the CIA’s role in the aftermath of Benghazi. It is time to put partisanship and hero worship aside and figure out what the heck went on here. Then, let the chips (legal, personal, political and historical) fall where they may.
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