The one familiar aspect of the David Petraeus scandal is that he had an affair. Everything else about this story is weird.
Petraeus, who resigned Friday as director of the CIA, is brilliant, brave, dedicated and accomplished. But he is also vain. Even his most loyal and ardent supporters have to acknowledge the care with which he has always burnished his own image. He is used to being surrounded by acolytes — staff officers, journalists, hangers-on — whose fawning attentions can only foster a sense of superiority and entitlement.
Not every man in that situation betrays his marriage vows. Some do, as evidenced by the whole of human history.
So the sex part is deplorable but comprehensible. The rest of this saga is bizarrely opaque, starting with the timing.
According to reports by the Washington Post and other news outlets, the FBI investigation that uncovered the relationship between the retired four-star general and Paula Broadwell, his two-decades-younger biographer, was launched early in the summer.
Yet Petraeus’ boss, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, wasn’t told of the inquiry until Nov. 6. Which just happened to be Election Day.
Sorry, but there are no coincidences in spy novels.
It is inconceivable that FBI agents would skulk around investigating the private life of the CIA director without informing top officials of the bureau and the Justice Department. It was obvious that as soon as Clapper knew, he would have to inform President Barack Obama — and that Clapper would have to make some recommendation about Petraeus’ future. The whole mess surely would come to light.
Tell you what: If the right-wing conspiracy theorists will acknowledge that the scandal wouldn’t have materially affected the outcome of Tuesday’s vote, I’ll admit that it sure looks as if someone decided to keep the White House in the dark until the political season was over.