David Petraeus and the New Style of American Politics

If you believe David Petraeus really resigned as CIA director over an extramarital affair, you probably also believe that Muhammad filmmaker Mark Basseley Youssef is in prison because of a parole violation. It is much more likely that both Petraeus and Youssef herald the dawning of a new style in American politics – or else Barack Obama is the luckiest man alive.

It has already been widely noted that the timing of Petraeus’s resignation was perfect for Barack Obama: on the same day that the House Foreign Affairs Committee announced that it would be calling the CIA director to testify about the ever-widening Benghazi scandal, he abruptly resigned over an extramarital affair. Now Petraeus won’t be testifying, and one of the most important witnesses as to what really happened when jihadists attacked the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, and who ordered those who would have defended Ambassador Chris Stevens and his colleagues to “stand down,” has been removed from the scene. Petraeus had already said that he issued no such order, which makes it strongly likely that Obama himself did so; but now Petraeus won’t be around to say so one way or the other.

Obama was just as lucky that Mark Basseley Youssef, the apparent producer of the Muhammad video that Muslims blamed for their recent international orgy of riots and murders, turned out to be a marginal character with a criminal record. Obama, Secretary of State Clinton, and other Obama administration officials denounced the film repeatedly and vehemently, but according to Charles Woods, father of Navy SEAL Tyrone Woods, who was killed in Benghazi, Clinton went even farther, saying of the Muhammad filmmaker: “We’re going to have that person arrested and prosecuted.” But there was just one insuperable obstacle to this Sharia-compliant scenario: the First Amendment — until, lo and behold, it turned out that Youssef was on probation and that one of the conditions of his probation was that he not use the Internet. And so now he is serving a year in prison for the probation violation.

The Feds got Al Capone for tax evasion when they couldn’t make more serious charges stick, and when they couldn’t imprison Youssef for violating Sharia blasphemy laws, they got him for violating probation. Or maybe Mark Basseley Youssef really did have the bad luck to land probation officers who were unusually scrupulous. Maybe it is just a total coincidence that suddenly they decided that this probation violation was the one that they could not and would not tolerate, while untold numbers of other violators of probation still roam free today.

And maybe it was just another coincidence that Petraeus had his attack of conscience over his affair and resigned on Thursday, the very same day that Fox News reported that the Foreign Affairs Committee was planning to call him to testify. But the whole episode is reminiscent of the fate of inconvenient officials in totalitarian states who are popular or powerful but fall out of favor with the Man In Charge, who is duly shocked (shocked!) to discover a moral indiscretion on the part of the inconvenient official, necessitating his immediate removal despite his power or popularity. Of course, the U.S. is not a totalitarian state and Obama is not a totalitarian ruler, and undeniably Petraeus violated the military code of conduct; but in an age when members of the president’s party routinely sneer at such codes, and given the timing of the resignation, Obama is either supremely lucky or resorting to tactics that have not been much prevalent in the American public square before. These tactics need scrutiny, and resolve on the part of the Congress to find out what really happened and hold the president fully accountable.

General Petraeus is shaping up to be the fall guy of the Obama administration and the harbinger, along with Mark Basseley Youssef, of something entirely new in American politics: the elimination of the politically inconvenient by means of a pretext that satisfies a bored and indifferent populace and serves as a cover for goals altogether more sinister than is immediately apparent.

Or maybe Barack Obama and his administration are as honest as the day is long, and it is all just… coincidence.