The day after the election of President Barack Obama, a scandal broke with a plot that could rival the most elaborate soap operas. The newly reelected Commander in Chief was informed that the Director of the CIA, four-star General Petraeus, would be resigning from his position due to an extramarital affair, which had been investigated by the FBI. The timing of this scandal, coupled with its potential political implications, brings up the question: was the intelligence community waiting until after the election to break the story? And if so, would it even have mattered for President Obama’s reelection?
The head of the House Intelligence Committee, republican Congressman Mike Rogers, has accused the Justice Department of not telling President Obama of the scandal earlier, claiming that Attorney General Eric Holder either withheld a national security threat from the Oval Office, or secretly told the President before the election.
While Congressman Roger’s claims are not based on purely suspicion, the timing of the intelligence committee does seem quite coincidental. During the investigation, according to the Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Diane Feinstein, Holder had decided not to notify the Oval Office, because no national security threat had been concretely identified, and there was a hope to finish the investigation with out politicizing it, which could happen once the election had been decided.
The actions of General Petraeus would not have had an effect on the election. President Obama appointed him to the position of director in 2010 based on his incredible competence as a leader. Airing out the dirty laundry of the country’s leaders has been a theme of the media, and even the head of the CIA was not exempt from this tradition. Patraeus’s affair, after full investigation, has not been found to pose a threat to the United States, but it does bring down the reputation of the intelligence community as a whole.
It did not, however, change the reputation of the Obama administration, nor would it have significantly influenced the election if the scandal had been released before the election.
The director of the CIA is appointed by the President. Presumably, whether or not Romney or Obama sat in the chair in the Oval Office, a new director would have to be chosen. Both men, due to their differing national security strategies, would certainly not have chosen the same director to replace Petraeus, but a choice would have been made nonetheless. Waiting to tell the President after the election about the scandal had no effect on what person would fill the vacant position.
Congressman Rogers is fighting a battle that has no effect. The timing of the announcement made by the intelligence agency before or after the election would have changed little to nothing in the way the American electorate voted on November 6th. Congressman Rogers and his colleagues in the intelligence community should instead focus on restoring the reputation of the CIA.