William Katz:  Urgent Agenda






DAVID, WE HARDLY KNEW YE – AT 10:36 A.M. ET:  David Petraeus's resignation became public on Friday afternoon.  In Washington that is known as a "document dump."  Always release bad news on a Friday afternoon, when the reporters are about to go home for the weekend, and the second string comes in to cover the desks.

It always works.  While the Washington Post is doing fine work in covering the Petraeus story, The New York Times, ever disgraceful, is clearly trying to get rid of it.  Go to The Times's website right now.  As of this hour, the story is already way down.  We must do nothing to inconvenience Barack, come to save us.  The press as watchdog is a thing of the past in the era of Obama.

Now the question is:  What will Republicans do?  We are being promised by some of the scrappier Republicans in the House, where the GOP runs the committees, that there will be a full investigation.  But I wonder.  Already we're hearing signals from Speaker Boehner, not the strongest man in politics, that the GOP establishment wants to go back to the bad old days – just lose and get along.  No way, Mr. Speaker.

The Petraeus issue is a major scandal, much more important than Watergate, which was blown up by the press to hurt Richard Nixon, who then proceeded to shoot himself in the head repeatedly by his botching of the situation.  Nixon never needed the press to kick him around.  He was a certified self-kicker of NFL quality.

It is clear that the administration knew about Petraeus's indiscretion long before the election.  Indeed, it almost certainly began while he was in uniform and would, under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, be considered punishable misconduct.  The national-security implications are obvious.  Blackmail is one of the most feared things in that business.

Now, former associates of Petraeus are speaking up, although their names are withheld from the stories.  Some are speaking of the dismay they felt when Paula Broadwell, the "other woman" in this case, seemed to have unusual access to Petraeus, acting as his biographer even though she'd never written a book before.  And, as we noted last night, FBI agents are dismayed that no action was taken until two days after the election.

And the major question:  Has Petraeus essentially been executed to shut him up before the Senate's Benghazi hearings next week?  Did he make it clear that he would not lie for the administration?  Did Obama want to cut him off, humiliate him, so any testimony he might give under subpoena might look like that of a bitter, resentful man, rather than that of a fine soldier?

We the people deserve answers.  But how interested are we the people?  Last Tuesday we saw that "the people" were perfectly content to re-elect a failed president who'd failed to send aid to American diplomats under attack. 

The key figure in this story may well turn out to be Dianne Feinstein, the aging (almost 80) chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, who was just re-elected from California on Tuesday.  She is a Democrat, but has a streak of independence.  Earlier this year she criticized the Obama White House for intelligence leaks and was immediately rebuked within her party.  But this is her moment.  She can be a loyal Democrat, or a great senator.  The choice is hers.  If she wishes to pursue the Petraeus mess and get to the truth about him, and Benghazi, it would be a great moment.

We may know more about her plans this week.  You can be sure the Obamans, who are loyal to no one except The One, are already working with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to try to control Feinstein.  I'm not so sure she's that controllable.

November 11,  2012