The fall of retired Army General David Petraeus is a story as old as the Garden of Eden. Sin has consequences. It does not undo a lifetime of service, nor does it negate every good deed ever performed, but it leaves a mark, a scar, like nails driven into a fine table top. The nails can be removed, just as transgressions can be forgiven, but the scars will remain.
As anachronistic as it may sound in this day and age, David Petraeus has betrayed his own wife, debased another man’s wife, dishonored his profession and generally defamed the four stars he wore so proudly. And all that fruit salad on the uniform now hanging in his closet cannot erase the shame he has brought upon himself, his family and his nation.
The explanations for the Petraeus scandal run the gamut, from “it’s just sex” to “the White House has blackmailed him.” As usual, the truth probably lies somewhere in between. It is doubtful that a man willing to jeopardize his marriage, his family and his distinguished career for sexual pleasure in the arms of another woman would be so honorable as to resign from his post in disgrace if he were not forced to do so.
That said, many questions remain unanswered, the most important being this: Will a Congress that has allowed itself to be made largely irrelevant during Barack Obama’s first term have the intestinal fortitude to stand up to him and demand accountability now that he has been returned to office for another four years?
During Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial, even the supposedly honorable Joe Lieberman, who on the Senate floor spoke so disapprovingly of the president’s loutish behavior, in the end voted against Clinton’s conviction for lying under oath. As David Schippers, chief investigative counsel for the proceedings, wrote in his book, “Sellout, the inside story of the Clinton impeachment,” a member of the Republican Senate leadership assured him that if video evidence could be shown that Bill Clinton shot someone dead in broad daylight, they still could not get the two-thirds majority necessary to convict him — because Democrats would never vote to remove him from office.
My own sense is that there is not a single Democrat — and only a handful of Republicans — who would be willing to speak truth to power and then follow through on their words. Mitt Romney certainly did not make a major issue of the Benghazi attack that killed four Americans, including our ambassador to Libya.
So as David Petraeus prepares to testify before a closed congressional committee about that shameful night, a resolve settles over those of us who do not believe the whole truth will ever be known. The newly reaffirmed tyrant, Barack Obama, will not allow it to be known.
After all, this is a president who has bullied his way through four years in office and been re-elected to a second term.
He has shipped guns illegally into Mexico and watched as people on both sides of the border were murdered by the drug cartels using them.
He has borrowed trillions from China in order to spend tax dollars to be collected from generations yet unborn, to fund stimulus programs that stimulate nothing be the growth of government.
He has rammed through a health care bill opposed by a majority of the American people, which will surely bankrupt the nation, then managed to see it ruled constitutional by a Supreme Court that apparently no longer understands what the Constitution even says.
He apparently went to bed while brave Americans were fighting for their lives in a foreign consulate, got up the next day and made up a flagrantly false story about the reasons for the attack, and then flew off to Las Vegas for a campaign fundraiser.
And because he has disregarded the whole process of submitting a budget to Congress, none has been passed during his entire first term.
And yet we gave him a second term!
He believes, with some justification, that those who returned him to office will believe whatever ridiculous story he tells them about anything — which is why it will likely make little or no difference what David Petraeus says behind closed doors before the United States Congress.
Doug Patton describes himself as a recovering political speechwriter who agrees with himself more often than not. His weekly columns are syndicated by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate. Readers are encouraged to email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and/or to follow him on Twitter at @Doug_Patton. For info on using Doug’s columns at your publication or website, please email Cari Dawson Bartley at email@example.com.