I love a Washington scandal as much as the next voyeur, but somehow this one feels different. The two generals on the front pages now have served their country beyond most of our experiences. I think many Americans understand that and take no pleasure in their travails.
First, a couple of clarifications: Former Army Gen. David Petraeus and Marine Gen. John Allen are not in equivalent trouble. Petraeus, who is married, has acknowledged an affair with his biographer, who is married, and has resigned from his post of CIA director. Allen has not acknowledged or been accused of anything beyond sending friendly e-mails to a woman who is not his wife. His nomination to become the top general at NATO is on hold, not rescinded.
Second, this is no criticism of the reporting on this surreal scandal. Questions about how the investigation started, the actions of the FBI, the cushy lifestyle of the brass, the possible leaking of classified documents — these are legitimate and far from fully answered. To the extent either leader violated rules his subordinates are expected to follow, he should be held to account as they would be. Being generals doesn’t entitle them to more deference than anyone else in the story, including the lesser-known women swept up in it. I hope reporters stay on the case. I’m sure they will.