Should Petraeus have resigned?

Double standards abound in Washington, but maybe for good reason

David Petraeus is sworn in as CIA Director while his wife, Holly Knowlton Petraeus holds the family bible on Sept. 6, 2011.
(Image credit: AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Should we care one whit about David Petraeus' sex life? Is an extramarital affair disqualifying? Should it be? Instead of drooling over Washington's latest scandal, maybe we can begin a debate about these important questions instead.

First thoughts: Instinctively, my answer is that the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency has extraordinary powers and has access to virtually every deeply held secret the nation has. Also, the CIA has its own code of conduct. Affairs are not grounds for termination, or else a third of the National Clandestine Service would be out of a job, but they do become the currency of internal agency politics. (For the sake of this discussion, I'm assuming these affairs are with colleagues, and not foreign nationals or spies or journalists or whomever.) Still, when applying for a job at the CIA, if you admit to a recent affair, you'll be flagged. Your finances had better be in tip-top shape. A friend who applied to the agency last year was asked to re-apply again in a year because he had tried marijuana ONCE six months before he sent in his application. Many high-level jobs require so-called "Lifestyle Polygraphs," where every kink you have is explored and adjudicated.

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Marc Ambinder

Marc Ambinder is's editor-at-large. He is the author, with D.B. Grady, of The Command and Deep State: Inside the Government Secrecy Industry. Marc is also a contributing editor for The Atlantic and GQ. Formerly, he served as White House correspondent for National Journal, chief political consultant for CBS News, and politics editor at The Atlantic. Marc is a 2001 graduate of Harvard. He is married to Michael Park, a corporate strategy consultant, and lives in Los Angeles.