Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Sex Scandal Rehab: Sanford and Petraeus

As a former governor tries to wash himself clean in South Carolina, David Petraeus surfaces briefly to underscore what was lost in last year’s media circus, a much more able and honorable public figure.

Mark Sanford has to explain away deception and misuse of public funds, while the former General is still serving time in publicity purgatory for one large misstep, more preyed upon than predator, acknowledged and paid for with a no-excuse resignation.

Petraeus is praising an inspirational book by a dying soldier who has called him hero and mentor, “Tell My Sons” by 41-year-old Lt. Col. Mark Weber, who served under him in Iraq and Afghanistan and is now fighting terminal cancer.

Weber’s book, addressed to his three boys, has been lauded by the current Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and three of his predecessors as well as Donald Rumsfeld and former Vice-President Walter Mondale.

Petraeus’ testimonial is the most poignant: “The book arrived at a challenging time for me. It is wonderful--equal parts inspirational and sobering. It is a tremendous reminder of the blessings that we all have, regardless of our personal was inspirational, at a key moment.”

Whether or not Sanford can rehabilitate himself is of no great moment, but the loss of Petraeus is another matter. His military-political skills will be missed.

The man who got us out of Iraq without a Vietnam-like disgrace is still only 60. When the next President takes office in 2017, Petraeus will have been out of the armed forces for the six years required to qualify for Secretary of Defense.

In the light of current doubts, even among Democrats, about the stature of Chuck Hagel, a President Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden or Jeb Bush might be well advised to turn to Petraeus, who understands the Pentagon in his bones and who, if the armed forces were still plagued by abuse of women, would be highly motivated to solve the problem.

That could be a second chance for both a man who fell from grace and the nation.

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