William Katz:  Urgent Agenda

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ALL THINGS PETRAEUS – AT 10:26 AM. ET:  Of course, we all wish David Petraeus's career hadn't ended this way.  Or has it ended?

It does appear, at least based on what we currently know, that Petraeus was caught in an FBI investigation that was not politically motivated.  The British press is reporting, without official confirmation, that he attempted to maintain his affair with Paula Broadwell after she had broken it off, and that he sent her torrid e-mails.  There is some concern that she was given access to classified information in writing her laudatory book about Petraeus, "All In," but no proof that's been revealed to the public.

In other words, Petraeus did a Clinton.  Bill Clinton was not forced to resign, though he lost his law license, and has now come back to be a respected (in some circles) public official.  Franklin D. Roosevelt, whose affair with Lucy Mercer Rutherford came out after his death, remains a revered figure.  It is assumed that Dwight D. Eisenhower had something of an affair with his British driver, Kay Summersby, while fighting the Nazis during World War II.  And what can one say about John F. Kennedy, who enjoyed the spectacle of undraped ladies in the White House swimming pool?

So we may not have seen the end of David Petraeus.  Already columnists are reminding us of his distinguished military service.  He will probably write a book, and then, who knows?  Don't write the man off.  A public apology, a military "I take full responsibility" statement, and there is forgiveness.

In fact, Petraeus's greatest hurdle may be Benghazi.  He was scheduled to testify about the episode this week, and has now withdrawn.  But it's been pointed out that there's nothing to stop him from testifying as former CIA director, and Congress has the power of subpoena over him. 

We must ask the classic Watergate question:  "What did the president know and when did he know it?"  We must ask it about Libya, and about Petraeus's personal problem.  Was information withheld to help the president's election campaign?  Was national security compromised for political purposes? 

That story will grow, not diminish.

November 10,  2012