Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Massa charges Petraeus with treason 

Eric Massa, who resigned earlier this year as a Democratic U.S. Representative for the 29th Congressional District in New York, is quoted extensively in Esquire by writer Ryan D'Agostino:
• Earlier in the year, long before the allegations had been made public, Massa had called me with a potentially huge story: Four retired generals — three four-stars and one three-star — had informed him, he said, that General David Petraeus, the head of U.S. Central Command, had met twice in secret with former vice president Dick Cheney. In those meetings, the generals said, Cheney had attempted to recruit Petraeus to run for president as a Republican in 2012.

• The generals had told him, and Massa had agreed, that if someone didn't act immediately to reveal this plot, American constitutional democracy itself was at risk. Massa and I had had several conversation on the topic, each more urgent than the last. He had gone to the Pentagon, he told me, demanding answers. He knew the powerful forces that he was dealing with, he told me. They'd stop at nothing to prevent the truth from coming out, he said, including destroying him. "I told the official, 'If I have to get up at a committee hearing and go public with this, it will cause the mother of all shitstorms and your life will be hell. So I need a meeting. Now.'"

• Massa eventually came to the Esquire offices in New York to tell us the Petraeus story. He spoke with the bluster and hyperbole I had seen in him at stump speeches, but he had credibility on this matter — twenty-four years of active service in the Navy, a seat on the House Armed Services Committee, and an increasing voice in the media as a Democrat who would speak with authority about military issues. Still, when he called the possibility that Petraeus could beat Obama in an election a "coup" and "treason," the characterization seemed odd. "If what I've been told is true — and I believe it is," he told myself and two colleagues, "General David Petraeus, a commander with soldiers deployed in two theaters of war, has had multiple meetings with Dick Cheney, the former vice-president of the United States, to discuss Petraeus's candidacy for the Republican nomination for the presidency. And in fact, that's more than a constitutional crisis. That's treason."
(Emphasis added)

Massa probably deserves some sympathy for the health issues he is dealing with right now, and he is clearly a man under a fair amount of stress, but the use of the word "treason" might cross the line into destructive hyperbole.

First, I would be shocked if Petraeus had any interest in running for political office in 2012, or at any point in the future, for that matter. TigerHawk and I saw him speak 3 months ago at Princeton, and he was nothing but complimentary regarding the civilian leadership generally and President Obama specifically, and today, through a spokesman, made it clear yet again that he "has no political ambitions."

Second, while the ethics rules are different now as compared to May, 1952, when General Eisenhower retired from active duty to campaign, the country seemed to survive that crisis quite nicely, because, you know, he actually ran in a contested election against Adlai Stevenson, and did not simply line up the tanks and march on Washington, D.C., and take over the seat of government. I think Petraeus would have to go through pretty much the same political process, which hardly constitutes a military coup d'etat.

Let's assume this (false) scenario for a moment -- Cheney, unbeknownst to the General, drew up papers for a Petraeus exploratory committee and presented them to him to sign, and he did sign them. What we would have is an ethics violation that might well force Petraeus to resign his position, but it is a far cry from treason.

It is funny how Darth Cheney, evil genius, is involved in any number of speculative conspiracy theories. He really is a boogieman for many Americans.

I say this respectfully: it might be time to try a different set of meds, Eric.



By Blogger TigerHawk, at Wed May 26, 08:55:00 AM:

As we've written before, David Petraeus has given "the General Sherman," the iconic line required in American politics to disclaim any interest, ever, in the presidency. I doubt Petraeus, of all people, would dishonor that tradition. I hope I'm wrong, by the way, because he would make a wonderful president, but it seems to me that there are many better reasons to meet with Dick Cheney than to set up an exploratory committee.  

By Blogger Georgfelis, at Wed May 26, 10:34:00 AM:

Once again, Massa proves the Peter Principle. Then again, he is quite a D---.  

By Blogger Simon Kenton, at Wed May 26, 10:55:00 AM:

Free-floating BDS, recently expelled from its host, circling the universe, concealed in the dark matter, looking for a place to colonize, settled into Massa's brain.

Seriously, this guy comes off as early-onset Alzheimers.  

By Anonymous Brian Schmidt, at Wed May 26, 02:23:00 PM:

Massa's deflecting from his own corruption.

According to TH's link, a member of the military can run for elected office so long as it's not on behalf of a political party. Many local elections are nonpartisan.

I suppose running for office against your Commander-in-Chief could pose difficulties though.  

By Anonymous JHC, at Sat May 29, 09:35:00 AM:

"I suppose running for office against your Commander-in-Chief could pose difficulties though."

If we had a time machine, we could ask George McClellan about that one.  

By Anonymous markm, at Sat May 29, 12:33:00 PM:

I'd expect an officer to resign or retire from military sevice before running for President or any other full-time high office. Besides chain-of-command considerations, a major political campaign and military service are both typically more than full-time jobs; no one can do both jobs well at the same time.

Petraeus would not lose financially by resigning. He began active service in 1974; retirement benefits max out at 30 years.

McClellan didn't have that protection (but probably had no worries about getting a better-paying job whenever he was ready to go to work), and appears to have had no assigned duties[1] in 1863-64, but IMO he still should have resigned before running for President.

[1] This was poor resource utilization, and illustrates some differences in 19th Century thinking. McClellan would have made the best boot-camp commandant ever, and could have at the same time managed training programs for the whole Army, but no one recognized that a separate training department was useful and needed yet. He was also a great organizer and logistician, plus had railroad experience, but neither was there yet a slot yet for just getting the troops and supplies to the front. So because he was inadequate as a war commander, Little Mac enjoyed years of paid vacation...  

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