David Petraeus was interviewed by George Stephanopoulos this Sunday, an event promoted as “Petraeus’s Sunday Hail Mary” in his last-minute efforts to become part of the Trump cabinet. Petraeus’s television performance was grim, tense, and hesitant. His demeanor was that of a defendant on the stand, trying to keep his stories straight.
Surprisingly, for someone who has sworn to defend the Constitution in his professional career, Petraeus stated without qualification, “I don’t vote.” He insisted that he did not support or oppose Trump, “nor did I support or oppose any other candidate. I’ve truly tried to be apolitical, non-political.”
But in fact, Petraeus’s positions have been identical to Clinton’s for years, possibly up to the moment last week when he entered Trump Tower for his meeting with the President-Elect. Petraeus as Secretary of State is Hillary Clinton in a better pantsuit.
And that’s why Petraeus is not just a bad choice for Secretary of State—he’s a bad choice for any other cabinet position. He brings too much baggage, a damaged brand, and a long history of lying. He lied to the FBI and CIA about his handling of classified documents; he lied to his wife about his mistress; he lied to Congress about Benghazi. Why should Trump’s transition team assume he’s telling them the truth now?
Petraeus Mishandled Classified Info and Lied about It
Petraeus handed over eight black binders of classified information to his mistress Paula Broadwell, risking charges of violating the Espionage Act. These were real secrets, and it was a more than just a “mistake,” as Petraeus would later allege. “The Justice Department said the information, if disclosed, could have caused ‘exceptionally grave damage,’” wrote the Washington Post. “Officials said the notebooks contained code words for secret intelligence programs, the identities of covert officers, and information about war strategy and deliberative discussions with the National Security Council.”
That was just the start of a series of lies and coverups. Petraeus was caught lying to the FBI in the investigation. He also reportedly lied to the CIA when he resigned, claiming he had no classified materials when, in fact, those eight books of secret information were still at his home. The administration managed to keep the FBI investigation of Petraeus secret until after the 2012 election: the election was held November 6, and Petraeus’s superior James Clapper was—conveniently—informed November 7 of Petraeus’ affair. Obama was then briefed, allegedly for the first time, on November 8—the day Petraeus resigned.
Mishandling classified information and then lying about it, and then being allowed to walk on a misdemeanor charge? It’s as if the Petraeus scandal was the dress rehearsal for the FBI’s handling of Hillary’s private server.
Petraeus Defended Middle East Clients Over the Rights of Fellow Americans
Petraeus’s first impulse is to silence any criticism of Islam that could upset his Middle East clients. When he was commander of CENTCOM, those clients were the Islamic nations in the CENTCOM region. Not much changed when he joined the global financial firm KKR in 2013, as a “door opener” to Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and everyone else he had previously courted in his official government role.
But then in December 2015, Trump suggested a temporary ban on Muslim immigration. Petraeus’s Muslim clients went ballistic. As The Federalist related earlier this year, “In December 2015, influential Dubai billionaire Khalaf Al Habtoor published an op-ed (‘Ignore Trump’s bigotry at your peril’).” On May 4, Habtoor called Trump “very dangerous” and a “loose cannon.” Two days later, Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal warned against Trump’s effect on U.S.-Saudi relations.
A week later on May 13, Petraeus made his move against Trump. He wrote a scathing op-ed for the Washington Post, expressing his concern that Muslims would be alienated by “inflammatory political discourse that has become far too common both at home and abroad against Muslims and Islam, including proposals from various quarters for blanket discrimination against people on the basis of their religion.”
Petraeus’s op-ed reached CAIR-levels of outrage, scolding “those who flirt with hate speech against Muslims,” “those who demonize and denigrate Islam,” and “demonizing a religious faith and its adherents.” A bravura finger-wagging performance, the op-ed also served as a timely audition for a future Clinton administration, with Petraeus warning “It is precisely because the danger of Islamist extremism is so great that politicians here and abroad who toy with anti-Muslim bigotry must consider the effects of their rhetoric.”
The press made sure voters knew that Petraeus’s op-ed was meant for Trump: “An implicit shot at presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump,” said The Hill; “Though he never mentions Donald Trump by name, Petraeus is clearly talking about Trump,” said HotAir; “Gen. David Petraeus is now auditioning to become Hillary Clinton’s vice presidential pick,” the Washington Times reported; “Petraeus: Be nice to Muslims or They Might Blow Us Up,” wrote The Daily Caller.
Seven months later, when Petraeus met with Trump’s transition team, he could only hope they had forgotten how he’d attacked Trump in May, when Beltway insiders were sure Hillary would win.
Petraeus ‘Provided Bad Information’ to Congress on Benghazi
As Catherine Herridge of FOX News reported, House Intelligence Committee members claimed then-CIA Director Petraeus misled them when he testified on September 14, 2012, two days after the Benghazi attack. Petraeus blamed the attack on a spontaneous protest against the internet video, though the Obama administration knew that it was a planned terrorist attack. Petraeus also claimed that the mortar rounds landing at the Annex in Benghazi could not be evidence that terrorism was involved, when intelligence experts had reported just the opposite. He was under investigation at the time by the FBI for his earlier mishandling of classified information, which created concerns that his testimony was influenced by the Administration.
Petraeus would later lavishly praise Hillary Clinton’s response to Benghazi in the Clinton biography “HRC“: “She’d make a tremendous president. Like a lot of great leaders, her most impressive qualities were most visible during tough times. … In the wake of the Benghazi attacks, for example, she was extraordinarily resolute, determined and controlled.”
Petraeus Is a Gun Control Activist
In June 2016, when the polls said Clinton was a shoo-in, Petraeus co-founded a gun control “Veterans Coalition for Common Sense” under the auspices of the Americans for Responsible Solutions, a lobbying group run by Gabby Gifford and her husband Mark Kelly, as reported by Breitbart, CNN, and The Hill.
Gifford and Kelly had launched a similar “Veterans for Responsible Solutions” back in 2013, when they started the Americans for Responsible Solutions PAC after a Republican Senate filibuster stopped their gun control bill. As reported by NBC in 2013, “Following the vote, Kelly vowed to try and replace members of the Senate who failed to back the measures.”
In the 2016 election cycle, that Americans for Responsible Solutions PAC disbursed over $11 million. A key issue at stake: the Arms Trade Treaty that Obama signed in 2013, still unratified by the Senate, which the NRA identified as a major issue in the 2016 Senate races. According to opensecrets.org, Americans for Responsible Solutions PAC spent over $2.5 million to defeat former Senator Kelly Ayotte in New Hampshire. They succeeded. She lost. And Trump also lost to Clinton in New Hampshire, by 2, 700 votes—less than 1 percent.
So when Beltway insiders thought Hillary was a sure thing, Petraeus partnered up with Washington’s primary gun control lobbying group, whose affiliated PAC may have kept Trump from winning New Hampshire and lost the Senate an additional Republican vote. The Senate might keep that in mind, if Petraeus comes up for a confirmation vote. So should the NRA and gun rights voters nationwide.
Petraeus Blamed Israel for the Middle East Conflict
Ever sensitive to the “perceptions” of his Middle East clients, Petraeus sent his team to brief the Joint Chiefs of Staff on Israel in January 2010:
The 33-slide, 45-minute PowerPoint briefing stunned Mullen. The briefers reported that there was a growing perception among Arab leaders that the U.S. was incapable of standing up to Israel, that CENTCOM’s mostly Arab constituency was losing faith in American promises, that Israeli intransigence on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was jeopardizing U.S. standing in the region…
On March 16 2010, Petraeus testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee stating that “Israeli-Palestinian tensions often flare into violence and large-scale armed confrontations. The conflict foments anti-American sentiment, due to a perception of U.S. favoritism for Israel.”
Caroline Glick, Andrew McCarthy and Diana West pointed out Petraeus’s self-avowed problem with Israel and his outspoken opposition to existing U.S. foreign policy, unprecedented from a military leader. Even Sidney Blumenthal sent Hillary Clinton a series of emails on the revelations (examples here and here). The damage to the U.S.-Israel relationship was real, and as McCarthy noted, “As night follows day, Islamist sympathizers leapt on a statement from CENTCOM’s commander that Israel causes America’s problems.”
Petraeus’s Counter-Insurgency Doctrine Failed U.S. Soldiers
Journalist Diana West has comprehensively reported the results of Petraeus’s application of the COIN doctrine, as has author Stephen Coughlin in his foundational analysis “Catastrophic Failure” (excerpt here, courtesy of the author). The debate over the successes and failures of COIN will continue for years, but Petraeus’s own improvised rules of engagement for COIN became increasingly cruel and indifferent to America’s soldiers, as in this 2010 Guidance as reported by West: “Patrol on foot whenever possible… Situational awareness can only be gained by interacting face-to-face, not separated by ballistic glasses…”
When Petraeus took over command in Afghanistan in 2010, the first thing he did was to double-down on limiting the rules of engagement. He expanded the ban on air strikes and artillery fire and put a curb on small arms fire. He recommended that the troops be more respectful and learn about the nuances of Afghan culture, drinking tea with the locals. The results were devastating. As West would report in 2011, quoting the AP, “The counterinsurgency tactic that is sending U.S. soldiers out on foot patrols among the Afghan people, rather than riding in armored vehicles, has contributed to a dramatic increase in arm and leg amputations, genital injuries and the loss of multiple limbs following blast injuries.”
In November 2013, the Veterans Administration was reported to have stopped releasing non-fatal war casualty data for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, as the total number reached 1 million.
But Wait—There’s More
Petraeus adamantly opposed Brexit.
Petraeus says the military readiness crisis is a myth.
Petraeus not only supports the Democrat’s version of Comprehensive Immigration Reform, he goes way beyond it. In his Sunday ABC interview on December 4, Petraeus bragged that he’d co-chaired a “Council on Foreign Relations task force on North America,” hoping perhaps that the Trump transition team and the public wouldn’t actually read his 2014 task force report, which argued for amnesty, comprehensive immigration reform, a “North American Mobility Accord,” and a goal to replace “Made in USA” with “Made in North America” as our collective economic future.
Why not just appoint George Soros as Secretary of State and cut out the middle-man?
In the past, being David Petraeus meant never having to say you’re sorry. But years have passed, and Petraeus now confronts a final insurmountable challenge: to keep all his sad and sordid stories straight.
Unfortunately for him, it can’t be done.