Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Wow! Obama Really Did Want To Do In General Petraeus

There's a lot of buzz about a scoop the Washington Post's Bob Woodward got on an interview Fox News analyst and former Pentagon aide under three Republican presidents, Kathleen McFarland, had with Gen. David Petraeus in Kabul back in 2011 as his command there was winding down. The focus of Woodward's and other mainstream media reports has been on a message Fox News President Roger Ailes had supposedly asked to be delivered to Petraeus encouraging him to jump in the Republican presidential race and even offering to leave his post at Fox News to run his campaign. McFarland even suggested to Petraeus that Rupert Murdoch would help bankroll his campaign. None of it made much sense and Ailes is laughing it off as a joke. "It was more of a joke, a wiseass way I have,” Ailes said. “I thought the Republican field [in the primaries] needed to be shaken up and Petraeus might be a good candidate.” What's unclear is why McFarland turned over a digital recording of their interview, which Petraeus cleared with her on several occasions was off-the-record, to Bob Woodward.

The major point missed in the mainstream media was a discussion McFarland had with Petraeus about the Obama administration's feelings toward him. McFarland shared with Petraeus the gossip she was hearing that Obama was concerned that Petraeus might be interested in jumping into the 2012 Republican presidential race or four years later in 2016. McFarland shared with Petraeus that Obama's folks wanted to make sure that didn't happen and were making calculations about what they could do to keep Petraeus out of either the 2012 or 2016 presidential races. Interestingly, according to the gossip McFarland had picked up on, the Obama folks were equally concerned about 2016 when it would be critical to win a third term. Of course, constitutionally Obama is barred from seeking a third term. Presumably she meant getting someone of like mind to succeed him in order to continue his agenda for another four years to lock up an entire generation of Obama rule, but with Obama's dictatorial and anti-democratic views, anything is possible I suppose. He did, after all, manage to get elected despite not being a natural born citizen as required by the Constitution and campaigning on a patently false biographical narrative--a first in American presidential politics.

Petraeus made it clear to McFarland he wasn't interested in running for president, although he clearly was flattered by the talk from the tone in his voice. "My wife would divorce me," he said. "And I love my wife." McFarland at one point during the interview sought to ingratiate him further with an offering of how “everybody at Fox loves you.” Petraeus said he would gladly settle for the role of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff or as CIA Director. As he explained, he expected the military to be "retrenching" considerably in the near future, and the real area of expansion would be in intelligence gathering--a "growth industry" as he put it. He said he had a great deal of respect for the people who worked at the CIA, describing them as "unsung heroes." Petraeus candidly told McFarland he was surprised by Obama's interventionist approach in Libya and did not anticipate further interventions elsewhere, perhaps offering a hint of his views on not only the Obama administration's meddling in Libya, but also its current role in efforts to overthrow the Syrian government and escalating threats of a military strike against Iran. To hear McFarland convey the gossip of what was going on in the heads at the White House, the administration was more than happy to pigeon-hole Petraeus at the CIA in an out-of-sight, out-of-mind role that would minimize his political threat to Obama.

McFarland's eye-opening interview with Petraeus makes me more curious about the real role of a White House attorney temporarily assigned to work in Afghanistan as a civilian attorney. When Tampa Bay socialite Jill Kelley was exposed for her role in triggering the investigation of Petraeus' extramarital relationship with his biographer, Paula Broadwell, it was revealed that Kelley had made three trips to the White House in the days and weeks prior to the November election and Petreaus' ouster as CIA Director following public disclosure of the affair two days after the election. A White House attorney who had worked as a civilian attorney in Afghanistan and had been introduced to Kelley by high-ranking military officials at MacDill Air Force Bases had reportedly arranged for her visits to the White House. My research uncovered only one attorney on the White House counsel's staff who had worked in Afghanistan during the period of time Petraeus was still commanding our troops there--Michael Gottlieb. According to a speech Gottlieb delivered to graduates of Northwestern University's School of Communications earlier this year, he had been asked by a brigadier general in the Army, who was in charge of detainees in Afghanistan, to come to work for him there. It turns out that a Harvard classmate of Obama, Mark Martins, happened to be the brigadier Army general who served in that role in Afghanistan during Gottlieb's assignment there.

If McFarland's gossip about the Obama administration's concern on the perceived threat posed to Obama by Petraeus, it makes one wonder if there wasn't an ulterior motive to dispatch a White House attorney to Kabul to keep a closer eye on Petreaus. Appointing Petraeus as CIA Director in 2011 took care of Obama's perceived threat in 2012. Exposing his relationship with Paula Broadwell took care of his political ambitions for 2016 and beyond. It still boggles my mind to think that McFarland breached her confidence with Petraeus by not only discussing the content of her off-the-record conversation with Petraeus, but giving a digital copy of her recorded interview to Bob Woodward. Woodward doesn't state in his story that he got the digital recording from her, but I can't imagine he obtained the recording from the only other person in the room--Gen. Petraeus. Other news reports suggest Petraeus had no idea McFarland was recording the interview.

UPDATE: McFarland now claims she did not record the interview and does not know how a recording of her interview with Petraeus made it into the hands of Woodward. She says there were two other people in the room in addition to her and Petraeus:
I realize conspiracy theorists have used this off-the-record interview to claim it was some plot to put Petraeus in the Oval Office. But it was little more than one defense analyst (me) trading some political gossip and laughs with one of the country’s most important military leaders(Petraeus). 
Perhaps those same conspiracy theorists should ask themselves some different questions. Why was an audiotape created of what was supposed to be an off-the-record interview with just four people in the room, which General Petraeus himself said several times was off the record? I certainly saw no recording device, nor did I give my permission for the interview to be taped. So who taped the interview? Why did they keep it hidden away for the last 18 months? Why was it released at this time to a Washington Post reporter? That is surely more interesting than two people, neither of them politicians, joking around about the presidential campaign. Indeed, this is why they call it the silly season.
Was Paula Broadwell in the room? Did she make a recording and release it to Woodward? Or did the FBI seize the recording during its search of Broadwell's home and computer where reports indicate she was found to be in possession of classified documents and now someone at the agency or within the Obama administration is releasing it to further discredit Petraeus and Fox News?

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