In the wake of the scandal surrounding former General David Petraeus, it has come to my attention that there are a number of people who feel that President Barack Obama should reinstate Petraeus to his previous post as director of the CIA. Under normal circumstances, I would be inclined to agree. After all, an extramarital affair, even one involving a high-ranking government official, is a personal matter.
These are not normal circumstances, however. An individual who displays the character flaws and poor judgment like Petraeus did should not be given another chance at such a high level of responsibility.
Emily Yoffe, a journalist with Slate magazine, recently penned an article outlining the reasons she believes Petraeus should be considered for rehire. In her piece, Yoffe writes that by reinstating Petraeus, “Obama could strike a blow for civil liberties and against the silly and destructive sexual Puritanism that has taken down so many public figures.” Yoffe is clear about how she feels; since the affair is a personal matter there is no reason not to give him another chance.
Yoffe is correct about one thing: The affair is between Petraeus and his wife. The fact of the matter is, however, that Petraeus was caught red-handed. Once a high-ranking government official is found to be having an affair, it immediately becomes public knowledge.
The issue with the former general’s involvement in such a scandal is what his actions say about his overall character. Petraeus could not even manage to keep a petty affair under wraps. This speaks volumes to his knowledge – or lack thereof – concerning issues of national secrecy. Surely the director of the CIA has much more pertinent and valuable information to keep confidential on a regular basis. It does not instill confidence in me that he was so incapable of veiling a comparatively miniscule situation.
By engaging in a sexual relationship with Paula Broadwell, his biographer, Petraeus essentially exposed himself to an “outsider.” The context in which the relationship is situated does not matter; the head of the CIA should never appear vulnerable to anyone. Even the manner in which he attempted to conceal the communications between himself and Broadwell was incredibly juvenile.
The Associated Press reports that Petraeus and Broadwell used a “drop box” system in which they shared a Gmail account and communicated their virtual pillow talk by saving them as draft emails for each other to read.
According to The Washington Post, “The trick has achieved notoriety as a tactic of terrorists who are rightly wary of espionage.” This is another shining example Petraeus’ poor decision-making. It does not bode well for the director of the CIA to be using a strategy notorious for its association with terrorists.
Regardless of whether or not he leaked classified documents to Broadwell, Petraeus’ decision to become romantically involved with his biographer demonstrates a tremendous lack of judgment. By allowing his emotions to overcome his intelligence savvy – even in a personal matter – he showed that he does not have the level of integrity I would expect of anyone in his former position as director of the CIA. All things considered, it would be very imprudent of Obama to consider rehiring Petraeus.