The news was blunt.
General David Petraeus was in trouble. Big trouble. One of the most distinguished officers in the modern U.S. military, the man who devised and successfully executed the Iraq surge, the former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, and last but not least an occasional mention as a Republican presidential candidate had made a mistake. A big one.
Here is the USA Today headline and beginning of a sad story that is everywhere.
Petraeus reaches plea deal with Justice Dept.
WASHINGTON — Former CIA director David Petraeus reached a plea agreement with the Justice Department, concluding a years-long investigation that shows he gave his mistress secret information, including names of covert officers and war strategy, according to court documents.
Petraeus, a retired four-star general, lied to FBI agents, divulged a massive amount of sensitive data to Paula Broadwell, his mistress and biographer, and fretted about how she handled them in an interview she recorded with him.
The plea deal, which carried a recommended two years of probation and a $40,000 fine, brings an end to an arc in which Petraeus rose to become the nation’s most famous general from the Iraq War, then was reduced to a fallen idol driven from office because of a high-profile extramarital affair.
The documents show Petraeus kept eight black books containing classified and unclassified notes he took during meetings, conferences and briefings during his tenure as a military commander. In late August 2011, he delivered the books to a private Washington residence where Broadwell — his biographer and mistress — stayed during a week-long trip to the area.
Ouch. And wow.
Focus on the words in this story: “gave secret information,” “years-long investigation,” “secret information,” “divulged a massive amount of sensitive data.” All of which led to — more words — notably “plea agreement with the Justice Department.”
Now let’s shift focus to another story in the news. This one in the New York Post which, like the Petraeus story, is also everywhere:
Congress will probe Hillary Clinton’s emails
A congressional committee will review whether Hillary Rodham Clinton violated federal law by using a personal e-mail account to conduct government business as secretary of state, it was announced Tuesday.
And another committee already investigating the possible presidential candidate said Clinton used more than one personal account.
House Oversight Committee chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) said his panel will join with the committee investigating the 2012 Benghazi attack in reviewing whether Clinton broke any disclosure laws.
“Violations of the Federal Records Act within federal agencies is something we take very seriously,” Chaffetz said. “The House Oversight Committee will work with Mr. [Trey] Gowdy and the Select Committee on Benghazi to further explore Hillary Clinton’s use of personal e-mails while at the State Department.
… Clinton may have breached security and broken disclosure laws.
Some of the words in this Hillary story and others on the same subject? Words like: “violated federal law,” “a congressional committee will review,” “violations of the Federal records Act,” “breached security,” “broken disclosure laws.” And some of the other stories on this subject? Accounts of Mrs. Clinton having her own server in her Chappaqua, New York home — giving her total control of erasing e-mails. Thus when investigators demand — and assuming they get — these e-mails they will have no idea whether they have them all. Questions about the Clinton Foundation and all that money from foreign governments and corporations? Poof!
Think Lois Lerner with a server in her basement and what would have happened if Lerner and Lerner alone had 100% control on who saw her e-mails and which would or would not be erased as investigators closed in.
And yet? In spite of all of this? David Petraeus has had to negotiate a plea agreement with the Justice Department that has “carried a recommended two years of probation and a $40,000 fine.”
While Hillary Clinton is the topic of news stories that she is finally about to announce her candidacy for president next month, with the political betting odds that she is the sure-thing Democratic nominee and surely the next president of the United States. Hey, nothing smacking of double standards there, eh?
Let’s go back to the Clinton presidency and a story that never seems to surface these days. Recall that in fact Hillary Clinton had a close call with an indictment herself.
As the Clinton presidency drew to a close in 2000, investigative reporters Susan Schmidt and Michael Weisskopf (both had worked for the Washington Post and Time) came out with their own investigative report in book form titled Truth at Any Cost: Ken Starr and the Unmaking of Bill Clinton.
In their investigation Schmidt and Weisskopf spend time discussing just how close the then-first lady came to being indicted and why. After a lengthy investigation into the activities of Hillary Clinton, they write:
It was time for a decision: Either indict the first lady, decide not to do so, or empanel a new grand jury for the next eighteen months, dragging the long-running investigation to the year 2000….[Hick Ewing of Independent Counsel Ken Starr’s staff and a former U.S. Attorney] spoke passionately, laying out a case that the first lady had obstructed government investigators and made false statements about her legal work for [Whitewater defendant Jim] McDougal’s S&L, particularly on the thrift’s notorious million-dollar Castle Grande real estate project. McDougal had used the Little Rock thrift to engineer fraudulent land schemes that ultimately brought it down at a nearly $60 million cost to taxpayers.
Ewing described at length a first lady who repeatedly made “false statements” and engaged in “putative obstruction.” While “virtually everybody” on the IG’s staff “concluded that the first lady had lied,” there was a belief, caused in part by the death of defendant McDougal, that the evidence for conviction wasn’t there. So… no charges were filed.
Yet safe to say this was the only time in American history that a first lady had come close to being indicted. With “virtually everybody” on the prosecutor’s staff believing she lied.
Now? Not quite two decades later, here it comes again. The belief that Hillary Clinton, this time as the United States Secretary of State, deliberately violated the law and is somehow lying about it. The violation an alleged deliberate refusal to abide by the Federal Records Act, to willfully carry on official business on a personal e-mail account with the real possibility that the server in the Clinton Chappaqua house was there to give her complete control over her communications — including the ability top destroy them at will.
And the reaction? Hillary for President! Yes, there is the predictable harrumph from Democrats who have an eye to an alternative (old Uncle Joe!). But the Clinton juggernaut rolls on, and with it the realization that the rules for Hillary are vastly different than the rules for David Petraeus.
Let’s go back to those words from the news story on Petraeus. The ones about “secret information” and “sensitive data.” Is it not reasonable to believe that the kind of information available to a CIA Director is also of the type available to a Secretary of State? And that this “secret information” and “sensitive data” — not to mention who knows what else — would turn up in those thousands of Clinton e-mails?
Who is running the Justice Department? Yes, it is not going to be Eric Holder. But it is still the Obama White House. In spite of whatever Obama/Clinton tensions may exist, is it plausible that the administration of a president who went on Sixty Minutes and called his then-outgoing Secretary of State Clinton “a strong friend,” who had been half of a “ great collaboration over the last four years” and added “I’m going to miss her” — is it plausible that this president’s administration would make of Hillary Clinton a David Petraeus?
Let’s just say doubtful.
Oh yes. That Petraeus story is also about — shocker! — a man with a mistress. Hmm. You can bet that there will be no media barrage that the Petraeus story is “only about sex” and that it’s time to “move on” or even “what difference, at this point, does it make?” Will David Petraeus emerge from this as a political rock star? Are you kidding?
Which is another way of saying what’s really at play here in the different treatment of David Petraeus and Hillary Clinton — not to mention Bill Clinton — is one giant double-standard. With one set of rules for the Clintons — and different rules for everybody else.