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Former Washington Post columnist Thomas Ricks joined Howard Kurtz to discuss the apparent media frenzy over the Petraeus/Broadwell affair story. Ricks was very shrill over the way the media has turned on DC's most famous and decorated modern day general and he's not gonna take it any more.
KURTZ: And how much did that courtship and those relationships and the e-mails exchange with journalists, and all of that, has that contributed to more sympathetic coverage given his problem with the affair with Paula Broadwell and the resignation at CIA, that he might have gotten otherwise?
RICKS: No, I don't think so. Actually, I think the media has been in full shark bite frenzy without regard, really. If anything, I find the real scandal here -- or one of the scandals here is how much the media has turned on Petraeus.
Here's a guy who has four combat tours in recent years. That's more combat time than any American general had in World War II, who has a smashed pelvis from a parachuting accident, who has a bullet wound through the chest from a training accident. He and his family, and I include his wife Holly Petraeus in that, have given enormously in the last ten years.
Yet when this scandal broke, we as a country were not as generous with him as his family had been with the country
I find this observation condescending and insulting. Why is it the media's fault for covering a story that includes the head of the CIA resigning over a sex scandal with a woman who he was supposed to be mentoring---who in turn sent nasty emails to another women out of jealousy she suspected was flirting with Petraeus while he's married to someone else? And---he resigned over it! Why is this outrageous to Ricks? He's been covering the military and these two wars a long time. I do agree with him on certain points like the FBI breaching privacy, but please, drop the phony sanctimony.
KURTZ: You seem to be suggesting that journalists are biting the hand that fed them, they were perfectly happy to have good relations with General Petraeus when he was on top. Suddenly, this scandal happens, fall from grace, huge tabloid style scandal, and you say the press has turned against him. Because I've seen a lot of -- particularly people like who know the guy, it seems to me the tune is more sympathetic, a tragic -- a tragedy for his family as opposed to the junk yard (INAUDIBLE).
RICKS: It's a matter that should have remained private, first of all. It's not a criminal act. There's no allegation that he's committed a crime here, as far as I know. You know, it could always change, more information could come out.
But here, he was in a relationship with a consenting adult who was not in his chain of command. He's hardly, I think, probably the first CIA director to have had an affair. This begins with another scandal which is the FBI investigating a lover's quarrel, which I think is an abuse of taxpayers' dollars.
KURTZ: You think Petraeus should not have resigned.
RICKS: No, I don't think he should have --
KURTZ: Or once it became public, you felt he had no choice?
RICKS: Well, it became public because he resigned. I think in -- President Obama could have handled by saying, you know, Dave, you screwed up big time here, you need to make amends to your wife and your punishment is you're going back to work. It could have been kept quite. And if it ever leaked out, the president could have said, look, this was a private matter involving a misjudgment by Petraeus, he's dealt with it and I'm confident the national security hasn't been harmed.
KURTZ: And you would have that view if this was some former four-star you hadn't dealt with?
Okay, the media knew the general was meeting with President Obama right after the election and the right wing nutters thought it had to do with Benghazi. They were waiting to see what it was about, so it was going to come out. Does Ricks not think another phony scandal would have been theorized by Charles Krauthammer and Co. over that? And there was the possibility of classified information being in Broadwell's possession who never seemed to shut up about what she knew about the general or Benghazi.
RICKS: I'd have that view I think of any public official who has given great service to the country. You know, I just don't understand the frenzy of going after this guy. There is no allegation of crime. It's even worse with John Allen, this Marine general, who sends a bunch of e-mails to a woman, and he's suddenly engulfed in scandal.
I mean, news flash here number one, David Petraeus is a human being. News flash number two here, Marine officer flirts with a woman. I mean, I think the standard of journalism is getting pretty low here for using the word scandal.
If you want a scandal? Scandal is mediocre leadership in Iraq for several years and nobody asking a question in Congress about it. A scandal is John Allen, a fine general, being dragged into this mess, and people thinking it's part of a scandal. A scandal is FBI looking at lovers' quarrels. A scandal in Afghanistan is 11 commanders in 11 years.
Again he makes some valid point, but the heart of his criticisms are unfounded. The media was justified to run with this when it become public. I didn't see any media types from the Washington Post defending Bill Clinton's past indiscretion as a personal matter, did you? He wrapped up with this:
KURTZ: You're not proud of your profession at this point?
RICKS: No, I'm embarrassed for the profession. I really am. I'm worried for the country that we don't talk about our wars until there is some sort of titillating scandal.
There are many things to attack the media for, like falling asleep during the run up to the Iraq war, but certainly not the Petraeus case. There are many, many more media outlets than say eight years ago so what did you expect? And this from a journalist who actually called CondoIeezza Rice "Bush's daughter" in a PBS interview, so you know he can be objective.
[And what do you think Condoleezza Rice's role was?]... The national security adviser -- I think you really need to bust heads together if you're going to be an independent power, and she never appeared as an independent power. She more was just somebody who was there helping run the trains, really I think in the role of Bush's daughter.
And let's not forget that Ricks cited Paula Broadwell on his own blog.
I'd say he's still under the General Petraeus spell.