Opinion Brief

Should Obama rehire David Petraeus?

It may well be that the president's best nominee to be America's next CIA director is a chastened Petraeus

"I have a great idea whom Barack Obama should nominate as his next CIA director," says Emily Yoffe at Slate: Gen. David Petraeus. Few people are happy that the once-saintly general was sidelined because of his consensual affair with hagiographer Paula Broadwell — in fact, in partisan-gridlock Washington, "both Democrats and Republicans have been mourning the loss of a public servant of extraordinary ability." Well, "let's mourn no more." Obama should say that since it appears Petraeus broke no laws and didn't breach national security, he's rescinding his grudging acceptance of the CIA chief's resignation. Yoffe continues:

With that simple announcement, Obama could strike a blow for civil liberties and against the silly and destructive sexual Puritanism that has taken down so many public figures.... Because Obama is a man with such a blemish-free private life, this could be a "Nixon in China" moment. It would be impossible for a Bill Clinton, say, to strike such a blow for sexual sanity. But given that even that insatiable sex fiend is back in the arena and much revered (by some), surely that means we have grown up enough to realize that just because you're in public life doesn't mean every aspect of your marriage is fair game.... Thanks to our ever-faster cycle of humiliation and rehabilitation, [Petraeus] has already been punished and paroled. It's time to let Petraeus get back to work. It would probably even please Mrs. Petraeus to see less of him around the house right now.

It also seems a waste to throw Petraeus' hard-earned expertise and experience out the window over a personal matter, says Diane Dimond at The Daily Beast. It's a loss for America — literally. "This country has invested heavily in developing Petraeus into the successful and well-decorated military leader he became." Between West Point, other military colleges, and Princeton, we've spent "more than a million dollars just on his education," adjusted for inflation, according to Maj. Mike Lyons. America has, of course, "gotten a considerable return on a considerable investment" by grooming "brilliant young men like David Petraeus." But we'll lose it all to the corporate sector if we don't snap him back up.

That's the one thing we can all agree on about Petraeus' downfall: "What a waste," says Dale McFeatters at Newsday. And if he were "an ordinary politician," he could have probably survived the sex scandal with a little contrition. But while Washington may find his military-bred "adherence to a code of honor and fidelity quaint," soldiers like Petraeus don't. He had no choice but to resign. Oh, please: Petraeus earned his "censure and disgrace," says Maureen Dowd in The New York Times. But don't feel too bad for the general: He's already moved from the sex-with-a-hottie phase to lawyering-up for "future book deals, cushy jobs, and TV apologias in honeyed light with Diane Sawyer and Barbara Walters."

This Petraeus-Broadwell brouhaha is "ludicrously overblown," says Richard Hart Sinnreich at Oklahoma's Lawton Constitution. Petraeus should be ashamed of himself, but the feeding frenzy around his affair says "much more, and much worse, about us and our preoccupations, than about Gen. Petraeus and his inamorata." So yes, were I Obama, "I would promptly rehire him and tell him to go back to work and sin no more. One thing is for sure: No replacement as CIA director could possibly be less vulnerable henceforth to blackmail."

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