Point-Counterpoint: Is the Petraeus Scandal Relevant to Politics?

Americans Need to Be Able to Trust Our Leaders Completely: Madeleine Colbert

If you had told people in late October that the director of the C.I.A., David Petraeus, would soon be resigning because of a sex scandal that featured spies, the F.B.I., attractive socialites, emotionally unstable twin sisters, texting shirtless photos, and anonymous threats, they would have told you to stop watching so much TV. However, that is exactly the story that has aired in news stations all across America.

This story has rocked mainstream media, who can hardly believe their luck in being hand-delivered a fascinating story, directly after the election. However, due to the constant bombardment of this nearly fantastical news story, many people have begun to ask if the news should even be reporting it. The answer to that question is a strong yes. Soap-opera likeness aside, this story is very important in understanding our nation, and the people we have selected to run it.

David Petraeus held one of the most important jobs in America, as director of the C.I.A. He held an immense amount of power and possessed a great deal of responsibility. In order for the C.I.A. to properly run, the American people need to have complete trust in it. The Petraeus scandal greatly mars this trust, and hurts the C.I.A.’s ability to operate smoothly below the radar. The Petraeus scandal is important because it has created a large rift between the American people and their most powerful leaders.

The nature in which the Petraeus scandal was discovered is also alarming and should be shared with the American people. It makes you think to yourself, “If the director of the C.I.A. can’t maintain privacy from the F.B.I., neither can I.” The Internet has thrown American privacy into free fall. The F.B.I. does not even need a warrant to look at your email, due to the archaic Electronic Communications Privacy Act that was drafted back in 1986, before the Internet had developed into the superpower it is today.

Petraeus and the woman with whom he was having an affair, Paula Broadwell, were leaving messages to each other in the draft box of a shared email account. The government does not regard these drafts as at all private.

To put things in perspective, if you had a box of old letters that you kept under your bed, the F.B.I. would need a warrant to come get them. However, if they were online in a password-protected email account and were older than 6 months old, the F.B.I. could just sift through all of them. The same is true for private Facebook photos or Google Docs. This is an eye-opening revelation about the government’s control of supposedly private information.

Do not be fooled by the tabloid nature of the Petraeus scandal. This news story is an important event in the history of the C.I.A. and in the history of American privacy rights, so we all should pay attention to it.


Successful Politicians’ Personal Lives Shouldn’t Affect Their Reputations: Kelsey O’Connor


You know what I am worried about during a crucial election when the country is on the brink of economic ruin? General Petraeus’s personal life? Not so much.

The main point to consider is that there are far more important issues for the media to focus on: for example, the economy, the election, the Middle East crises, and Hurricane Sandy. All were pushed off the front page so that we could read about General Petraeus’s affair with his biographer Paula Broadwell (which the media conveniently did not pick up until three days after the election). His name was a worldwide trend on Twitter.

Petraeus clearly did not make a good choice, but people with his level of experience and proclivity for civil servitude are few and far between—and Petraeus is certainly not the only person to have had this lapse in judgment. If every politician who had an affair were to resign or be removed from office, there would probably not be many people left to fill these important roles. Just to name a few notable people to have made similar mistakes: Thomas Jefferson, Franklin Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, and Bill Clinton. Some of these men are considered among the ranks of the most brilliant political minds in our country’s history. Likewise, Petraeus has proved himself to be a valuable asset to the United States government.

Before you read this article, you probably didn’t know that Petraeus has been one of the most active individuals against terrorism. He commanded forces in both Iraq and Afghanistan before becoming Director of the C.I.A. in 2011. The Senate elected him to the directorship in a unanimous vote. His involvement in the Iraq War was significant. He led soldiers into combat in 2003 at the start of the war and commanded the 101st Airborne Division. Furthermore, he helped to launch thousands of reconstruction projects. He pushed to reopen the University of Mosul, which sparked a campaign to allocate funds for public works. Additionally, Petraeus was made the first commander of the Multi-National Security Transition Command Iraq, which worked to rebuild and organize the military and police forces in Iraq. From 2008 to 2010, Petraeus was head of the U.S. Central Command. In this position, he successfully oversaw U.S. military operations in dozens of countries. Upon his retirement from the Army in 2011, he was awarded the Army Distinguished Service Medal. Did the media cover any of this?

The media hardly ever focuses on the beneficial accomplishments of individuals, but it harps on their faults. Personally, I think Petraeus’s accomplishments far outweigh his mistakes. The reality is that people like him, who help our country and others so effectively, are rare and it is irresponsible for the media and the public to condemn them forever based on one mistake.


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