November 16 2012
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has asked that in the wake of public revelations of conduct unbecoming to an officer and a gentleman—or, really, just about anybody—the Joint Chiefs of Staff “review ethics training" and "brainstorm on ways to steer officers away from trouble.”
Well, I’m all for ethics, ethics training, brainstorming, steering officers away from trouble and whatnot. I wonder who will conduct the workshop on how not to sleep with your biographer?
Alas, it is touchingly naïve to think that a “review of ethics training” is going to remedy the military’s recently revealed ethics deficiencies. Such reasoning is on a par with believing that more job training courses will remedy our high unemployment.
The practice of virtue is necessary if a republic is to survive. Of course, military training must include virtue. But we are currently in a state of confusion as to what constitutes virtuous behavior. It was adjudged wrong, for example, when the head of U. S. Africa command General William “Kip” Ward was discovered misspending taxpayer dollars to support a lavish life style. But how wrong?
Leon Panetta stripped Ward of one of his stars, forcing him to retire as a three-star rather than a four-star. He will thus retire on a modest $208,802 a year, $30,000 less than if he had not lost a star. This is not punishment enough. So let’s hope Leon Panetta sits in on a few of those ethics training sessions before he has another chance to administer a slap on the wrist for something that required more severe punishment.
When we talk about the Petraeus scandal, we must not restrict ourselves to the general’s sexual misconduct. Did you know that the general and his lady (I am speaking now of the one to whom he is married) were part of the 1 per cent, thanks to the generosity of government patronage?
Holly Petraeus last year was given a $187, 605 a year job with the Dodd-Frank-mandated/Elizabeth Warren-inspired Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. So it seems that, while this latest government intrusion into business might costs many ordinary Americans their jobs, it has been good for the Petraeus family. (This was reported by CNSNews; the mainstream media would only trouble itself with such a matter if a Republican were in the White House.)
Don’t get me wrong—I don’t begrudge Mrs. Petraeus a stellar income—as long as we taxpayers aren’t picking up the tab. If she can find a job that pays that in the private sector, more power to her. Patronage has always been a part of governments, and the spoils go to the winners. But this is too much. Investors Business Daily has the best commentary on the rich Petraeuses:
President Obama calls government spending "investments." But Obama had taxpayers invest not just in harebrained green energy schemes, but in those who might hurt him — like David and Holly Petraeus.
The late British Stalinist journalist Claud Cockburn is given credit for quipping, "Never underestimate the effectiveness of a straight cash bribe." How much more so when the money comes from the taxpayers' bottomless pockets? …
In our quite-proper admiration for those at the highest ranks of the armed forces, we may have forgotten that some brave men and women dressed in green can be as tempted and manipulated by greenbacks as anyone else.
What are we to make, therefore, of this fact? On top of Gen. Petraeus' sizable government salary, CNSNews reports that since last year his wife Holly, the victim of Petraeus' alleged affair with author Paula Broadwell, has been enjoying a $187,605 salary as an assistant director within the Dodd-Frank law's new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Obama has made sure the Petraeuses were well within the top 1% (courtesy of the 99%, of course), with a combined government-provided annual income not too far from $400,000.
The CFPB, which is expected to destroy thousands of small banks, is funded by the Federal Reserve, so Congress has no oversight over it. Indeed, Mrs. Petraeus' post is not subject to Senate confirmation.
It may be months before the public knows what Gen. Petraeus knows about Bengazi, but when a president "invests" so much money in both you and your wife, where is your loyalty likely to go? To the truth or your powerful patron?
As for the general's sexual misconduct, many Americans see Petraeus’ “resignation” as disproportionate punishment: it's those yucky puritans again. The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer writes:
A final question, at least from my standpoint, is whether Petraeus had to resign at all. It appears that [Director of National Intelligence James] Clapper, who like Petraeus is a military man, saw it as a no-brainer. Within the military, there are rules about adultery. But within civilian life, should there be?
Predictably, the magazine has a story on Dwight David Eisenhower’s private life. It could be argued that stories of an Eisenhower affair never went public because society had a general moral consensus: what he did was wrong and we’re not going to talk about it so long as it’s discreet. But our society lacks consensus.
That is why a quick ethics course isn’t going to solve much. Will the Panetta-mandated ethics workshops say that adultery is wrong? Or just that it’s a good idea to refrain ‘cause you might get caught?
In the case of General Petraeus, the betrayal of his wife with his biographer had far-reaching implications for his country.
This betrayal made the nation’s spymaster vulnerable to pressure. The bitterest irony will be if we find that the pressure came not from foreign agents but from the CIA Director’s bosses.