Petraeus’ Rules for Living, Amended Edition

The first two General David Petraeus Rules for Living–at least as captured by his former mistress–are

1. Lead by example from the front of the formation. Take your performance personally—if you are proud to be average, so too will be your troops.

2. A leader must provide a vision—clear and achievable “big ideas” combined in a strategic concept—and communicate those ideas throughout the entire organi­zation and to all other stakeholders.

In this, his moment of crisis, Petraeus appears to have amended those rules to “don’t make a move until your high profile reputation rehabilitator tells you to.”

He has hired Robert B. Barnett, the Washington superlawyer, to handle his future, and friends say he has not even ruled out becoming a talking head on television.


Their house, on a verdant Arlington street of $1 million and $2 million homes — for security reasons, the address is listed in no public property records — is expected to be Mr. Petraeus’s center of operations at least until the first of next year, the earliest his friends say he could venture out from the wilderness with a Barnett-approved new job or position.

No matter. Hiding in your home until the PR hack says “jump”–even resorting to a stationary bike when, in the past, the General made a point of running through some of the most dangerous cities in the world–can still be wedged into General David Petraeus Rules for Living. There’s this:

4. There is an exception to every rule, standard operating procedure, and poli­cy; it is up to leaders to determine when exceptions should be made and to ex­plain why they made them.

While he’s cooped up in the “wilderness” of million dollar homes in Arlington, VA, Petraeus just has to think of some reason he has made an exception to his rules about vision and leading by example.

35 replies
  1. FrankProbst says:

    Um, OF COURSE he’s going to become a talking head. He’s like Dick Morris, only with actual credentials. Fox News is probably already drafting up a contract for him.

    It’s worth noting, however, that he’s got several potential obstacles in his path:

    1. We still don’t know where Broadwell got her classified information from. By all appearances, she and her lawyer are either (a) unbelievably incompetent or (b) have cut some sort of deal with the FBI. Either way, she’s going to point a finger at someone. Petraeus doesn’t seem to think it’s going to be him, but he also didn’t seem to think he’d get caught having a torrid affair with his biographer, so I don’t really trust his judgement on this.

    2. He had multiple interviews with the FBI. That usually means they didn’t believe the first line of bullshit you tried to run on them. No one seems to think he’s going to be charged with lying to the feds, but that might change as this story plays out.

    3. Those e-mails are eventually going to leak. I’m going to guess they won’t be all that flattering. They’re also going to show that this wasn’t a one-night oopsie. It was long-term affair. With pathetic prose.

    4. The Kelley/Khawam/Allen angle of the story is still playing out. Kelley’s hired big guns. Khawam has Gloria Allred. Both are in serious financial debt, and it’s unclear to me how they’d be able to hire these people in the first place unless they had something to deal with. They obviously have access to their own e-mails and could potentially leak those at any time. But they’re also in such deep debt that they’ve probably committed some sort of financial fraud at some point, so they may not have as much leverage as they think.

    5. The FBI, by all appearances, has wanted to shut this whole investigation down before the whole affair story even leaked out, and they REALLY don’t seem to want to charge anyone with anything. However, there have been several high-profile cases recently involving mishandling of classified information. They may end up getting backed into a corner where they look like colossal hypocrites if they don’t charge someone with something. If Broadwell’s lawyer is unbelievably incompetent, I’d say she’s going under the bus. If not, she could point the finger at someone, or Kelley or Khawam might decide to throw someone to the wolves.

    In any case, I don’t think we’re at the last act of this play. I think we’re somewhere in the middle.

  2. Frank33 says:

    Your Posts have been fantastic. I went through them starting about Nov 10. Bigger scandal than Watergate, or Iran or Iran-Contra? Probably. Bigger scandal than the corporate pollution of our Earth? Maybe not.

    But we can help terminate the careers of neo-cons, and their embedded sycophants.

    Today in SpyFall, Jill got a medal from P4 himself, from the JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF. And a couple other things I forgot.

    Petraeus is being investigated and his staff is part of the fun. My Eyes Glaze Over In Amazement. P4 lawyered up with Barnett? But he does have a new Public Relations hack, and a new PR problem. Unfortunately Paula is not available. Howie Kurtz could also help with the info war.

    A federal investigation is questioning whether Gen. David Petraeus’s staff leaked classified information to the general’s biographer, Paul Broadwell, at his direction. According to the Washington Post, former Petraeus staffers claim that they were ordered to provide “military records and other documents” to Broadwell, who is now known to have engaged in an extramarital affair with the four-star Army general.
    Raw Story (

    P4 can reveal secrets to his LOVER, Paula who is an “Intelligence Officer.” Anthony Schaffer is not allowed to tell the truth about the never ending failures of the Intelligence Community.

  3. Brindle says:

    Petraeus’ exploits on the stationary bike are legendary. His “bike program” has him tackling the Alps in times that Lance Armstrong would envy, all the time talking with a companion.

  4. emptywheel says:

    @Brindle: Oh, I don’t doubt THAT. Just that he’s cowering inside in Arlington where he didn’t in, say, Tripoli.

    Says something about what makes Petraeus afraid. His physical fitness I do not doubt. Nor Broadwell’s, for that matter.

  5. FrankProbst says:

    You know, it just occurred to me that all of the players here should still have access to all of the e-mails that they’ve both sent and received. So anyone involved can just sell their e-mails to the highest bidder, right?

  6. FrankProbst says:

    @Frank33 Ah, I can see where this is going now. Broadwell got the info by invoking Petraeus’s name, but not from Petraeus himself. And whoever let her have the info is going to be the one(s) who get nailed for this. Petraeus has plausible deniability, so he’s clean. So a few low-level heads will roll, and Petraeus will be shocked! that someone would just hand over classified information to someone else because his name was invoked.

  7. Frank33 says:

    Jill has been decorated with the Distinguished Laison Service Medal. above and beyond the call of duty. Jill has some “fruit salad” to put on her chest. Could this be on video, showing P4 decorating her chest?

    And all Paula got was a “I destroyed a village to save it” tee shirt. No wonder Paula was angry seeing the under the desk action between Jill and P4 or was that Allen. Was that recorded on a security camera perhaps?

    The award citation noted the honour was for her public service to the U.S. Central Command, MacDill and the Department of Defense from October 31, 2008 to May 31, 2010. She received a silver medal, lapel pin, citation and certificate.

    ‘Mrs. Kelley distinguished herself by exceptional service while supporting the mission of the United Central Command, building positive relationships between the military and the Tampa community, supporting community outreach, and advancing various military endeavors,’…

    It adds that her ‘willingness to host engagements with Senior National Representatives from more than 60 countries was indicative of her support for both the Coalition’s effort and the mission of United States Central Command’.

    Jill was laisoning with diplomats and assassins from more than sixty countries. How will we win the war without Jill?

  8. Ben Franklin says:

    Preserving his legacy? If he pursues the talking head option, can politics be far behind? Think of Oliver North who not only did not shrink into obscurity out of shame, he trumpeted his infamy into a singularly american avocation;

    Don’t hide your warts; decorate them….

  9. lefty665 says:

    @FrankProbst: Maybe not. Remember, a lot of their traffic didn’t get sent. Access to the Gmail account(s) they used to save “drafts” for one another may be limited these days.

  10. lefty665 says:

    @Ben Franklin: But remember what happened to North. Weak sister Chuckie Robb beat Ollie in his only campaign (Senate). Turning point in the campaign may have been in a debate when Ollie whined to the effect that “I’m the most investigated man in history”. Doug Wilder (Independent) responded, “and with good cause”. End of debate, Ollie was speechless. Following his defeat North retired to a career in sycophantic yammer radio.

  11. H. Candace gorman says:

    Am I the only one who thinks there might be something criminal that petraeus is/was involved in that is working its way through the pipes?

  12. DonS says:

    Ollie, of the incredible ego, yes a tremendous model for Patraeus as far as re-inventing oneself. Sadly, none of North’s incarnations have managed to erase his sleazy nature.

    Of course, there are those who have been mightily striving to argue, against all reason, that the Petraeus’ affair doesn’t even constitute a scandal. Now that sort of denial does approach Ollie North up-is-down territory.

  13. E says:

    After reading Michael Hastings’ The Operators, it occurs to me that part of what Petraeus might originally have been trying to do with Broadwell was to do correctly what McChrystal did so carelessly with Hastings. That is, to have an embedded reporter write a fawning profile. But P4 let the pendulum go too far the other way, so to speak: where McChrystal failed to see in advance that Hastings wasn’t going to toe the party line, Petraeus let his writer get way too close. It sounds kind of obvious to say now in retrospect, but I do wonder how much the experience with Hastings and Rolling Stone affected Petraeus’s decision to bring Broadwell in?

  14. rosalind says:

    why yes i DID purchase this week’s People magazine for the cover story: “The Petraeus Affair: Sex, Lies & Spies”.

    fav quote The Twins edition: “A few of us on base called them Jill and Natalie Kardashian,” says a former Macdill Army colonel. “They were like junior high girls, name-dropping.”

    fav quote Broadwell edition: Petraeus “has always had hard-bodied brunettes on his staff. I don’t know that he hand-picks them, but that’s who he wound up with,” says an Army source.

  15. Frank33 says:

    I was wrong about the name of Jill’s silver medal from the taxpayers and JCS. Jill won a Joint Chiefs of Staff Outstanding Public Service Medal. I am sure her private services were exceptionally meritorious above and beyond the call of duty.

    The nominees (an individual, group or organization) (1) Does not derive their principal livelihood from US Government employment; (2) Has performed, at any time since enactment of the National Security Act of 1947, exceptionally meritorious service of significance to the Department of Defense, Joint Staff, combatant commands or organizations that report to or through the Chairman.

    Jill! Congress! White House! FBI! CENTCOM! Joint Chiefs of Staff! That lady is like a hurricane but Natalie has also left a trail of devastation and destruction.

  16. FrankProbst says:

    @bmaz If I were his lawyers, I would ignore every denial he made and assume he’s at risk of criminal prosecution. Broadwell was getting classified info from somewhere, after all, and Petraeus’s lawyers would be foolish not to consider the possibility that it came from Petraeus himself.

  17. FrankProbst says:

    So from a divorce lawyer’s standpoint, should Mrs Petraeus file now, or should she wait six months for the wingnut welfare to kick in?

  18. Frank33 says:

    That is so unkind of you to suggest such a thing! There is pain, there is hurt, there are the children. These brave patriots are victims who only tried to get their piece of the war profiteering.

    I would say get the lawyer immediately. Try to get Grayson Wolfe’s lawyer when he divorced Natalie. Or the custody lawyer.

    Holly is director of the Office of Servicemember Affairs, a part of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The neo-cons privatized and ripped off military benefits with some crooked banking. Holly gets a job.

  19. FrankProbst says:

    I keep reading this sentence: “A federal investigation is questioning whether Gen. David Petraeus’s staff leaked classified information to the general’s biographer, Paul Broadwell, at his direction.” And I wonder, did the editor just miss the double entendre, or did s/he say, “That’s pretty much perfectly worded.”

  20. GKJames says:

    This being America, that’s exactly how it will play out. A (fake contrite) laying-low followed by the reinvention-redemption two-step and — presto! — fame and lucre. And all by Q1 2012… In a country where what happened six weeks ago is ancient history, no one will bother with either his affair or, more important, with his utterly bankrupt and murderous military strategies. To be sure, the latter will be baked into the national mythology, especially on the part of those on the Right who soil themselves when they think of Petraeus and 2016.

  21. noble_serf says:

    Big picture: Stop the military worship. Appoint civilian leaders who will actually keep the generals in check and accountable.

    This starts with the administration, runs through congress and the media, right down to us serfs.

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