Politics and the General

Petraeus: The Eric Cantor Angle

So Eric Cantor knew about Petraeus before the election but evidently kept it zipped. Huh.

Jane Mayer has an interesting take on the Petraeus matter that she posted yesterday at the New Yorker's site. Citing reporting over the weekend from the Times, she notes that one FBI agent, apparently freelancing, took the information the FBI had confirmed about the affair to two Republican members of Congress, one of whom was Eric Cantor, John Boehner's number two in the House.

Cantor evidently came to know about the affair on Halloween. And yet, he obviously did not leak it before the election (we don't know that he didn't try or think about it, but we obviously know that nothing appeared). He's not known as a wallflower, and you might think that in the week before the election, he'd want to try to put something out there that would inevitably be embarrassing to Obama.


If Cantor spoke with Mueller on Halloween, as the Times chronology suggests, what happened between then and November 6th, which is when the F.B.I. reportedly informed James Clapper Jr., the Director of National Intelligence, about Petraeus’s extra-marital affair? The internal pressure must have been enormous on Petraeus during this period. Perhaps he tried to outlast the election in order to shelter Obama from the fallout of his own personal foibles. Perhaps the F.B.I. director, Mueller, who has a reputation for integrity, tried to keep the scandal from political exploitation by keeping it under wraps until Election Day. Cantor, too, appears to have kept quiet, despite the political advantage his party might have gained from going public. Why? It is possible that, because the investigation had national-security implications, those in the know needed to tread carefully for legal reasons.

There's obviously a lot we don't yet. Maybe Cantor just had separate and longstanding respect for Petraeus and didn't want to be part of his public humiliation. But it's pretty fascinating stuff.

Let's say it had come out the week before the election. Impact? Hard to say, but obviously the right would have basically advanced an argument that went something like, see, even the great David Petraeus somehow gets corrupted when he throws in with this band of appeasers. For good measure, they'd have noted that the general could hardly be blamed for having a wandering eye, given that his wife was evidently a socialist, working as she does at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

But mainly they'd have speculated with no evidence that people don't resign over affairs anymore, and this was really all about Benghazi, and they'd have concocted some lurid fantasy of Chicago thug politics, that Obama and Axelrod were bouncing Petraeus because he was ready to blow the whistle on "the truth" about what happened. I'd reckon we'll get a good dose of that anyway.

Well, Cantor kept it zipped, for whatever reason. Maybe he just decided that was the right thing to do, remote as that possibility seems. Quite an interesting tale. I'll certainly remember where I was when I heard. I was the guy who was on the air at the time but cut off so that Andrea Mitchell could come on and break the story, so I had a ringside seat, as it were. Pretty gripping.