Oh What a Tangled Web
What did Obama know and when did he know it?

President Barack Obama and General David Petraeus in 2012


Victor Davis Hanson

And another question arises: If, for much of the summer and early autumn, the FBI, and perhaps even the Justice Department and the White House, had the explosive knowledge about Petraeus’s private life, why was that apparently not a matter of particular concern? Did it become so only when his intelligence analyses could no longer be synchronized with pre-election talking points, and when rumors about his personal life started to spread outside the administration?

So why did Petraeus resign, and why right after the election?

No one but Petraeus knows — and in about two weeks probably no one will care. He may have felt that some in the White House were massaging his analyses, perhaps emboldened by knowledge of his private affairs, and he may therefore have thought that his tenure at the CIA was fatally compromised, leading him to resign, but only after the election, in a manner that should not appear political. Or, then again and more ominously, the White House may have felt that after the election, Petraeus’s personal problems, and possible intelligence dissents, had become liabilities and thus he should be forced to resign. We still do not know whether Petraeus willingly resigned in order to ensure that his analyses could not be tainted by political massaging, or whether he desperately wished to stay at the CIA, but was booted out as soon as Barack Obama was safely reelected, when any subsequent testimony that might contradict what was earlier released would fortunately only muddy the waters.

Where does all this lead?

I think nowhere. Unlike in the cases of Watergate and Iran-Contra, there is no investigative press, given the media’s worry about endangering the second-term agenda of a progressive president. There is no special prosecutor salivating after a government official, as there was with Scooter Libby. “The fog of war” and accusations of “Conspiracy theory!” should be enough to bury the scandal and discredit those who seek the truth. Modifying a CIA analysis for political purposes is probably no crime. Quid pro quos are simply the polite, everyday — and legal — Washington version of blackmail. In the end, the only casualties in this sordid tale were the sterling career of David Petraeus — and four murdered Americans whose deaths were preventable.

NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the author, most recently, of The End of Sparta, a novel about ancient freedom.