For a military hero and able public servant such as David Petraeus to have to end his service to the country on the sort of disturbing note that his letter of resignation sounded is nothing short of a tragedy. For anyone in charge of U.S. intelligence to behave as he said did shows poor judgment that rightly required the president to accept his resignation. But that ought not to detract from a career that deserves to be remembered with honor by a grateful country.
But the avalanche of press coverage that Petraeus attracted in the hours after his announcement ought to bring into focus a far more important story that most of the same media has ignored: the Benghazi fiasco. It speaks volumes about the current state of contemporary American journalism that a sex scandal generated far more interest from broadcast networks and the press than the questions of whether the administration failed to aid Americans besieged in Libya or why the government stuck to a bogus story about a video instead of admitting that terrorists were responsible.
The juxtaposition of Petraeus’s fall with the ongoing investigation of who knew what and when about what happened in Benghazi is bound to attract more interest than the scandal has generated in the past two months. The refusal of many in the media to push hard on this story has understandably generated accusations of liberal media bias, since the relative silence on the issue from many important outlets was extremely helpful to President Obama’s re-election campaign.
But now that the president’s cheerleaders in the press box no longer need to worry about endangering his chances of a second term, there are signs that the contradictions about the administration’s Benghazi story are beginning to elicit some attention from news organizations. One imagines that the Petraeus angle and a resignation letter that seems to have raised more questions than it answered will only feed their curiosity.
While there is little doubt that Petraeus’s affair will be the most famous Washington indiscretion since l’affaire Lewinsky, perhaps some of that 24/7 news cycle attention will also be devoted to what the intelligence apparatus was doing in the last months. That is especially true since senior administration figures have thrown the intelligence community under the bus in their effort to divert attention from their own shortcomings. At any rate, let us hope that the hype about Petraeus’ personal life won’t divert anyone from a more important story with far reaching implications for American security.