Wednesday, November 14, 2012

TOP STORY >> Men who fell from the top to doghouse

Leader editor

At what point does a potential national-security scandal become more like a “Saturday Night Live” sketch in search of a punchline?

Who will portray Gen. David Petraeus, Gen. John R. Allen, Paula Broadwell and Jill Kelley on the next “Saturday Night Live”?

Do you follow the characters so far? Petraeus, the former commander in Iraq and Afghanistan, resigns as the CIA director after the FBI finds sexually explicit e-mails between Patraeus and Broadwell, his lover and biographer.

Allen, who succeeded Petraeus as commander in Afghanistan, was undone when the FBI discovered some 30,000 explicit e-mails between the general and Kelley, a volunteer social planner.

Judging from the volume of e-mails, you have to wonder when the generals found time for work. Then you have the FBI agent who sent shirtless pictures of himself to Kelley after she had him trace the anonymous e-mails she was getting from Broadwell, although they hardly involved national security.

The FBI agent’s bosses told him he was nuts, so he went to a couple of congressmen to complain about a coverup. This is a “Saturday Night Live” that keeps writing itself.

Allen, who was up for promotion to NATO commander, will probably be allowed to retire quietly, unless it turns out he might have shared secrets with Kelley.

Broadwell wrote a fawning biography of Petreaus with the suggestive title of “All In: The Education of General David Petraeus.”

It wasn’t long after that Broadwell sent threatening e-mails to Kelley, the female friend of the two generals. Broadwell told Kelley, “Back off” and “Stay away from my guy!”

By summer, the FBI connected Petraeus to Broadwell. On Sunday, Allen was drawn into the scandal.

Congressional committees will find out why it took several months for this sordid mess to come out.

Although he resigned last week as the head of the CIA, Petraeus will face tough questions in Congress over the agency’s failure to protect the U.S. consulate in Benghazi Libya, where a mob killed four Americans, including our ambassador.

Republicans are eager to grill the former war hero, who at one time was considered a possible GOP presidential candidate.

He was the most praised general since Colin Powell. He was called the brilliant architect of “the surge” in Iraq and later, as top commander in Afghanistan, was credited with stabilizing the war there.

It wasn’t that long ago that key Republicans, surveying their weak presidential field, thought Petraeus could lead them to the White House in 2012. Others pitched him as a suitable running mate for Mitt Romney.

Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) was once a huge admirer but is now calling for an investigation into the Libyan debacle, including the intelligence failures that allowed them to enter the compound Sept. 11.

But back in 2009, this is what King had to say about a Petraeus presidential run:

“He’s a serious guy,” King said. “He’s about the only one out there who could really challenge Obama, who isn’t as strong as he was a few months ago… I think he’s an independent, and I haven’t talked to him about this, but I’d encourage him… I’d be open to it.”

In “an exclusive” report, Drudge said in early August, “President Obama whispered to a top fundraiser this week that he believes GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney wants to name Gen. David Petraeus to the VP slot!”

“The president wasn’t joking,” the anonymous insider told Drudge.

“A Petraeus drama has been quietly building behind the scenes,” Drudge told his readers. “Romney is believed to have secretly met with the four-star general in New Hampshire.”

“The pick could be a shrewd Romney choice,” Drudge continued. “A cross-party pull. The Obama administration hailed Petraeus as one of history’s greatest military strategists. Petraeus was unanimously confirmed as the director of the CIA by the U.S. Senate 94-0.

‘He’s a serious man, for seriously dangerous times,’ notes a top Republican.”

That was last summer. Petraeus now stands disgraced, accused of not only incompetence in Libya but potentially compromising our national security by getting involved with a woman who could have blackmailed him.

For Petraeus, the scandal has taken him from the White House to the doghouse and could even land him in the jailhouse if it turns out he betrayed secrets to his paramour. Allen, too, has a lot of explaining to do.

Apart from the personal tragedies, the men and women who serve under them, and the American people who pay the bills for the wars, have a right to know if they were misled by charlatans.