David Simon on Petraeus

David Simon has a couple of interesting takes on the Petraeus scandal in particular, sex scandals in general, and a source of his who was a good FBI agent and notorious philanderer.

64 replies
  1. 1
    JoyfulA says:

    I have no idea of the immense scandal of the national sports journalist’s affair that David Simon refers to.

    Then again, he’s right about Roger Simon’s journalism. He was previously a lousy novelist.

  2. 2
    Comrade Mary says:

    Holy fuck. The second link, the John O’Neill story: I had no idea. I knew about some of his professional background and his death on 9/11, but not the rest of it.

  3. 3
    Maude says:

    And to put salt in the wound, Halperin is a very lousy novelist. The NYT review was delicious.

  4. 4
    Richard Shindledecker says:

    John O’Neill was an immense loss both to the country and the city. But comparing him to a puffed up piece of Karl Rove’s legacy (Petraeus) is, I think, unfair to O’Neill. A lot of people still buy into the Petraeus hagiography but I think it’s premature to score this as a loss.

  5. 5
    MonkeyBoy says:

    I’ve never really bought into the fascination with the personal lives of celebrities when they are in entertainment, sports, etc. because I’m never going to interact with them so such knowledge really can’t affect me.

    However when the celebrities are in some position of power over me or my fellow citizens (president, pastor, etc.) I think their “moral character” can be relevant because I am indirectly interacting with them. Their moral failures can compromise or interfere with their professional role.

  6. 6
    Ben Franklin says:

    After watching ‘Flight’ with Denzel Washington, I, in the future, will request that the pilot flying my plane is a coke-addled alcoholic, who is fully loaded during my flight.

  7. 7
    Walker says:

    @Ben Franklin:

    The problem with that movie is that, even though he saved the plane, he is likely responsible for the crash.

    Consensus on the airline forums is that the unnecessary stress he put the plane through during take-off (why did he need to do that?) likely caused the part to fail. Indeed, the limitations his co-pilot complained about were precisely for this reason. Which is why it was completely unrealistic that there was no discussion of that event during the investigation.

  8. 8
    Soonergrunt says:

    MSNBC Alex Witt is talking to some guy about Israeli airstrikes in Gaza.
    Now, I have no wish to get into the middle of that mess, but I swear to God, I’m going to neck-punch the next idiot who uses the phrase “surgical airstrike”.

    Yes, they are very accurate. They can put that bomb within a 3-foot diameter circle whenever and wherever they choose. But the L90 radius is something like 30m (~100 feet), and pretty much anything within 50 meters is going to be severely damaged if not destroyed.

  9. 9
    Ben Franklin says:


    The lack of scheduled maintenance for the elevator was the cause. pilots can’t get away from the chemical idea because that would be disastrous for public confidence resulting in lost revenue. That was his real crime.

  10. 10
    Walker says:

    @Ben Franklin:

    The lack of scheduled maintenance for the elevator was the cause.

    Part of the cause. Aggravated by his reckless take-off. Which they would have most definitely slammed him with in an actual investigation.

  11. 11
    Ben Franklin says:


    You have a point, but I would still want HIM in the seat when my ass is on the line.

  12. 12
    Ben Franklin says:


    How about ‘pinpoint’? :)

  13. 13
    Gex says:

    Funny how we overlooked these things, or kept them in proportion, before the Christian Coalition was brought together, and now people are routinely hounded out of their professions over these things.

    Even funnier when you realize the Christian Coalition initially had no interest in inflicting the rest of us with their bullcrap, but Paul Weyrich and folks got them involved over what was basically the South’s attempt to continue segregation through parochial schools.

    Not funny “ha ha.” More like funny “fuck you.”

  14. 14
    sb says:


    I have no idea of the immense scandal of the national sports journalist’s affair that David Simon refers to.

    Marv Albert.

  15. 15
    Linda Featheringill says:


    Sex is not the issue. It never was. The problem is that Miss Thang was showing signs and symptoms of being in possession of information she should not have known about. Presumably, she got these facts from Petraeus, directly or indirectly.

    Geez! Didn’t he read spy novels when he was young? The girlfriend-with-too-much-access is so old that it’s a cliche.

    If the Good General had known how to mess around without giving away classified information, the crisis would never have arisen.

  16. 16
    Richard Shindledecker says:

    What Linda saie – Amen.

  17. 17
    JoeShabadoo says:

    I’m gonna have to disagree with him almost entirely. Churchill being an alcoholic yet doing a good job tells you a few things.
    1. He had an amazing staff who cleaned up his messes. He was also most likely not in the final stages of alcoholism yet when you lose your tolerance.
    2. He lived in a time when him acting like a fool wouldn’t travel around the world on youtube and twitter humiliating his country and hurting his stature.
    I also laugh at him lauding Churchill for being the most high functioning alcoholic. The guy obviously doesn’t know how common this is (with help from the wife, secretary and partners to keep things going on the bad days). He turns a very real failing into an extreme positive, like the guy is superman.

    The FBI agent went around the diplomats doing a difficult job in the country to invite the Yemen security officials to the US so he could buy them hookers to get info. The writer acts like the diplomat complaining about this was wrong. He was sticking his nose in important negotiations and undermining the diplomat in charge. Then he lost his job by breaking the rules and bringing one of his many girlfriends with him when he did it. Bringing flings to the fucking bureau is the reason filandering is worrisome in the first place.

  18. 18
    Schlemizel says:

    @Linda Featheringill:

    There was an interesting article in this mornings paper (I’d have to check the byline, I think it was the Washington Whore Post) about the life todays Generals live. Totally devoid of reality. They have enlisted personnel as personal waiters, butlers, chefs, gardeners, chauffeurs and nobody questions their authority. The end result is that they are entitled, arrogant assholes. Given what I know of a West Point education (a cousin back in the mid-60s so some salt may be required) which is that they are trained to believe they are morally superior to normal men, it looks like the perfect breeding grounds for this type of stupidity.

  19. 19
    JWL says:

    I may be mistaken, but my understanding is that both the FBI and President Obama essentially agreed that Petraeus’ indiscretions did not rise to a fire-able offense. Indeed, the FBI considered the matter closed, until a loose cannon of an agent dropped a dime and contacted the republican party. And while resignation was deemed a proper response by his immediate boss, the buck was passed to Obama who did not, and who gave the General 24 hours to reconsider his resignation. That is, Obama was prepared to weather a political storm if push came to shove (and with the T-Party/GOP in the loop, who could doubt it would?). It was Patraeus himself who informed the President that his mind was made up, and that he would resign. Only then did Obama accept the unsolicited resignation with genuine regret.

  20. 20
    Chris says:

    All I know, is that David Simon blogging more often = a good thing

  21. 21
    JoyfulA says:

    @sb: Thanks, sb. I was hoping for an aha! moment, but I still don’t know who Marv Albert is and the huge scandal never entered my consciousness.

  22. 22
    Downpuppy says:

    @JoyfulA: I think it rhymes with Damply, but David Simon doesn’t seem to be big on details, especially when they hurt his story.

    Oh, right – Marv Albert. Yeah that, fits better.

  23. 23
    WereBear says:

    Ironically, the Moral Scolds are more than capable of making excuses when it’s one of their own. Consorting with prostitutes, doing meth, and beating your adopted child to death have all been crimes Xantian ministers have committed, and yet they had their defenders.

    I think some vices are none of our business.

  24. 24
    Warren Terra says:

    Great posts. If Roger Simon were capable of self-awareness, that would leave a mark.

  25. 25
    Laura says:

    David Simon is a national treasure. I suggest everyone watch the criminally underrated/seen Generation Kill if you have the time.

  26. 26
    Robert Sneddon says:

    @JoeShabadoo: Actually an American describing Winston Churchill as a high-functioning alcoholic reveals America’s strange Puritanical attitude to alcohol more than anything about Churchill particularly.

    He drank to excess, he smoked cigars and he had an intellect and drive that outmatched most of his contemporaries, drunk or sober. He was cantankerous and pig-headedly stubborn but also resolute in his detestation of Fascism when others in positions of power in Britain and America felt accomodations could be made with Herr Hitler.

  27. 27
    Arclite says:

    Fuck. Fuck. Motherfucker. Fuuuuck. FUCK. Fuck.

  28. 28
    JWL says:

    @Robert Sneddon: Indeed. A good case has been made that the most important battle of WW2 occurred when Churchill became Prime Minister in May of 1940, and defeated those within his own party amenable to cutting a deal with Nazi Germany.

  29. 29
    WereBear says:

    Also, it was President Lincoln who, upon being informed that General Grant was a known drunk, replied, “Let me know his preferred brand, and I will send it to all my generals.”

    While drinking too much is a know lifespan cutter, so, ironically, is teetotaling, when matched against those who drink moderately. If one’s life is such that their stresses are low, and/or handled with model railroading; wonderful!

    But it is my theory that a lot of “improper” behavior is stress relief, and if the stress is unavoidable, most ways of handling it are going to leave you better off.

  30. 30
    JoeShabadoo says:

    @Laura: Actually it describes knowing what someone who drinks 24/7 is. The part the writer fails at is thinking that all alcoholics are bums who can’t do anything. Most are functioning and most are able to keep it hidden for a long time with help from colleagues or family. No one outside of my family believed my father was an alcoholic until his liver failed, even when told directly by members of the family. The more powerful someone is the more people they have to hide it and the less likely others are to believe their failings. Churchill isn’t superman because he could function and drink, he is just a regular person.

  31. 31
    someguy says:

    Let’s enjoy the Petraeus betrayal for what it is: a chance to watch the self-immolation of one of the two plausible national candidates the Republicans had for 2016. Now if Chris Christie will just have a heart attack, we can count on Sarah Palin for pres. Rejoice!

  32. 32
    Downpuppy says:

    @JoeShabadoo: The other thing about Churchill is that in his loooooooooong career, he was usually wrong, and often horrible. From Gallipoli through the 1920s crash and into the 1950s – take out the 5 years of glory & he’d be remembered as a disaster.

  33. 33
    gene108 says:


    I’m guessing the sports caster is Marv Albert. Good to see Marv doing broadcasts again.

    let Winston Churchill, the greatest wartime leader of the century

    Simon’s wrong.

    Churchill was a racist, stubborn prick. An idiot, whose claim to fame is he “mindfucked” Hitler into bombing London, which allowed the RAF to rebuild its runways and hold off the Germans.

    He could’ve gotten a lot more support from India, but refused to even consider Indian independence for India’s unconditional support to the British, i.e. if WWII was a battle between Democracy and Fascism, you have the Brits being great dictators in the subcontinent.

    The two leaders, who really decided the war were Stalin and Roosevelt. Churchill is an overrated third wheel.

    Roosevelt conducted the war in Asia against the Japanese. The Japanese had handed the Brits loss after loss. The Chinese took it on the chin, in their war with Japan and helped tie up large portions of Japanese forces, but it was the Americans that won the Asian war.

    The Soviets won the European war. They took the worst of what Hitler threw at them and then proceeded to rebuild their forces and decimate the Germans.

    Also, too without the Lend/Lease Act neither the Brits nor the Soviets would’ve lasted as long as they did.

  34. 34
    trollhattan says:


    That description so easily transfers to Willard and his failed candidacypublic life.

    A man of his people. Just his people.

  35. 35
    Ben Franklin says:

    Lieberman (exit, stage right) has a farewell FU to McCain and huckleberry.

    Next stop, AIPAC


  36. 36
    gene108 says:


    Did you read what right-wingers were saying about Christie after the election?

    Choosing to be honest about the fact Obama’s not a 3-horned-monster-from-the-9th-pit-of-hell cost him a good bit of support.

  37. 37
    Elie says:

    @Linda Featheringill:

    I think that the issue is about a leader with immense responsibility who takes unecessary risks that put critical missions in jeapardy. This guy makes life and death decisions and puts many operatives in harms way everyday. He should not be doing ANYTHING to eff that up. All sorts of people put their lives at risk in clandestine operations. He needs to keep his head focused on the right things and on minimizing any risk in harming our interests or our missions. And to make it worse, that whole group in Tampa seemed pretty loose, petty and stupid. What the eff is he doing writing notes to a judge support the custody fight of some chick (Jill Kelley’s twin sister)? And another moron general – Allen — apparently has time to send endless emails?

    Where the hell are their heads? In Allen’s case, how doe he provide an appropriate example about following rules for men and women he is going to command to obedience because people can actually die? How can he expect the corporal to follow and obey rules is he is spending his time doing what he wants?

    Its not really about sex to me. Its about seriousness and integrity. Neither of these dudes seem to take their roles and mission seriously. I truly do not understand why Allen did not resign also.

    And someone needs to check in on that crazy social circle down in Tampa. Also.

  38. 38
    The Very Reverend Battleaxe of Knowledge says:


    The other thing about Churchill is that in his loooooooooong career, he was usually wrong, and often horrible. From Gallipoli through the 1920s crash and into the 1950s – take out the 5 years of glory & he’d be remembered as a disaster.

    I’ll go along with the rest of it, but blaming Churchill for Gallipoli is unfair. He sent the Royal Navy to put Constantinople under their guns and knock Turkey out of the war. They couldn’t believe the Dardanelles wasn’t heavily defended, dithered around until it was, tried to sail in, got shot at, and ran like dogs.

    Then they decided to land troops on the Gallipoli peninsula and take the city from the rear overland. The army could have secured it in two hours, but they stood around with their thumbs up their butts until the Turks infiltrated and took the high ground. Then they were basically stuck in the Mule Shoe at Spottsylvania Courthouse until they were withdrawn, again because the navy refused to stand in close enough to use their guns effectively.

    If the navy had just, you know, followed the fucking orders Churchill gave them, they could have seized Constantinople in an afternoon—it would have been one of the greatest coups in history, and Churchill would be being worshiped for it instead of denigrated.

  39. 39
    geg6 says:

    The definitive take on Patraeus was published in today’s NYT and written by Lucian Truscot III.

    Siman is wrong about Patraeus, very very wrong. Not about the sex thing or “morality” or whatever judgmental bullshit you want to ascribe to his personal life. But about Patraeus being some sort of indispensable man who is the only one who could keep us safe by heading the CIA. There is no evidence whatsoever that Patraeus is some sort of military genius or that we are losing anything at all by not having him near the levers of power. Not a shred of evidence. And Truscott, who had grown up around and interacted with truly great military minds, points put that Petraeus’ one and only talent was self-aggrandizement. And he was talented at that that even the great and cynical David Simon has fallen for it hook, line and sinker.

    Don’t have a link, but Kathleen Geier over at Ed Kilgore’s place has the link. A simply brutal takedown of that phony, Patraeus. I needed a cigarette after reading it.

  40. 40
    Chris says:


    I’ve been betting for ages that Christie would be the nominee, but after his performance during Sandy and, more importantly, the right wing’s reaction to it, I’m not sure anymore. We’ll see if he can bounce back.

  41. 41
    Zaftig Amazon says:

    Glenn Greenwald rightly points out that David Petraeus should have been forced to resign over his job performance.


  42. 42
    Chris says:


    Where would Russia and America have been if the British hadn’t held on for about a year all by themselves? Wouldn’t it have made a difference if Hitler had been able to throw the full force of the Wehrmacht against Russia, without having to worry about fighting the British? Wouldn’t it have made a difference if the Americans hadn’t been able to use Britain and its colonies close to Europe like Egypt as forward bases from which to win in North Africa and then push into Europe?

  43. 43
    elftx says:

    gonna take O’Neill over Petraeus anyday…whom I think was up to some Repub shenanigans as the great white savior of mankind

  44. 44
    aimai says:

    I agree. I thought that Simon piece was incredibly wrongheaded.

    1) The cemeteries are full of “indispensible men.” Petraeus wasn’t nearly the only person to say, of the Iraq war “I know how it begins but I don’t know how it ends.” There were hundreds of thousands of people who pointed that out, rather loudly. Petraues might have done something about the folly of that war because unlike those of us who were mere civilian critics, it would have made a splash if he had resigned over being asked to fight a stupid, useless, unwinnable war.

    2) No government should staff its military or its spy ranks with other than exemplary, incredible, active, thoughtful generals and staff. You should always be ready to have good people step into the shoes of great people who leave your organization one way or another. The worst thing about what happened to O’Neill isn’t that he was forced out for being a loose cannon but that his portfolio wasn’t picked up by a similarly talented guy–but that is a ball dropped at a much higher level than O’Neil’s immiediate superiors. It was dropped all the way at the top of the organization chart.

    3) Counterinsurgency is not something that only one guy in the universe can do–and its far from clear that Petraeus is really doing COIN as it was meant to be done. The vast numbers of civilians killed in Afghanistan, and the Iraqis he seems to have betrayed, are kind of an indication that his version of COIN is purely for show.


  45. 45
    Ted & Hellen says:

    @Zaftig Amazon:

    Glenn Greenwald rightly points out that David Petraeus should have been forced to resign over his job performance.

    Uh oh.

    You have spoken the name of he who must not be named at BJ.

    Because, you see, he is almost relentlessly correct.

    But more to your point, what you say cannot be true because PBO was ready to go to the matt for The Great Man Petraeus, and ergo, subsequently, ex post facto ininitum, etc…

  46. 46
    Chris says:

    The last paragraph in the second link.

    I don’t need rectitude from my leaders. I need competence. I need results. If you have someone better than Petraeus, then that’s one thing. If he’s the best at counterinsurgency, then he is not expendable at this time, when insurgency and our response to it mean actual American lives in the balance.

    If Petraeus is THE best at counterinsurgency (not saying he is but if he is), then why is he at CIA? Why didn’t he stay in the military and keep shaping counterinsurgency doctrine there, since DOD is by far the agency most heavily involved in COIN?

  47. 47
    xian says:

    @JoeShabadoo: you are reading too much into what Simon wrote. He did not dispaae other alcoholics, but rather claimed that Churchill was perhaps the most functional alcoholic of his epoch. Saying that other drinkers hold jobs or accomplish things doesn’t really get at what it meant to defeat the Nazis.

  48. 48
    JWL says:

    @someguy: That two-fer is already an accomplished fact. There is no way in hell that Christie will gain the 2016 nomination, not after lauding Obama and blowing off Romney in the aftermath of Sandy.

  49. 49
    JWL says:

    @Downpuppy: 50 years before the Albert idiocy, Leo Durocher posed with his wife and Willie Mays for the cover of Look magazine (or some other prominent national magazine). The magazine and the New York Giants were then swamped with letters from people outraged that Durocher’s wife had her arm draped around May’s shoulder in the photo. You see, she was white, and May’s isn’t.

  50. 50
    JWL says:

    @The Very Reverend Battleaxe of Knowledge: As a wartime acquaintance of Churchill put it (I paraphrase), “Winston was quite often right, but when he wasn’t, my God”,

  51. 51
    gene108 says:


    From what I’ve gathered, the British were on the path to defeat, but Herr Hitler decided he needed to flatten London in retaliation for an inconsequential suicide run that dropped a couple of bombs on Berlin and changed the battle plan that freed up the RAF.

    If not for that decision, Germany could well have managed an invasion of Britain.

    I’m sorry, I just flat out think Churchill is one of the most overrated figures in history.

  52. 52
    Ben Franklin says:


    you must be old…like me :)

  53. 53
    JWL says:

    @gene108: It was certainly a strategic error to spare the British airfields in order to hit their cities, but the German army was never really in position to launch a successful invasion. Witness the preparations needed to invade Normandy 4 years later, and consider Britannia stilled ruled the seas as well as its own air space. As Marshall explained to a Soviet General (in Stalin’s presence, no less), “If an army is repulsed crossing a river, it’s a defeat. If destroyed with the sea to its back, it’s a catastrophe”. I paraphrase, but that was the gist of it.

    Incidentally, when the allies invaded Sicily in 1943, the Japanese ambassador to Berlin recommended the Luftwaffe adopt kamikaze tactics against the combined fleet off that island. Hitler declined the advice.

  54. 54
    JWL says:

    @gene108: Overrated? Again, if Churchill accomplished nothing else, he almost single handedly prevented those agreeable to cutting a deal with Hitler from doing just that.

  55. 55
    JWL says:

    @Ben Franklin: Yeah, I’m old enough. But more to the point, I read history, and draw conclusions from my reading. I love time travel.

  56. 56
    Ben Franklin says:


    perspective is underrated…..

  57. 57
    Some Loser says:

    That still doesn’t prevent him from being overrated. As long as the hype is more than the substance. (Look at me ma, I’m being pedantic!)

    Not that I personally care too much about Mister Churchill’s reputation.

  58. 58
    JWL says:

    @Some Loser: Tell me, Some Loser: which Ally WW2 principals don’t you consider over-rated? They were all all too human, you know.

  59. 59
    Cranky Observer says:

    = = = The prisoners knew the entire 911 plan, down to the names of every hijacker. This story was detailed by PBS Frontline under the title: “The Man Who Knew.” = = =

    I’d really, really, really need to see some hard evidence on that one. First, the principle of compartmentalization of information about operations was known to the Pharaohs, and the idea that a very shrewd operator such as OBL would violate it is a bit hard to believe.

    Second, I’ve dealt with a few of these supposed larger-than-life characters in the business world and read about them in popular history. Three characteristics they all seem to share are (1) the ability to spin a very, very convincing line of b######t about their accomplishments (2) the ability to convince some newspaper reporter somewhere that said line of b######t is accurate (and ‘being suppressed by the powers that be’) (3) the trail of damage, wreckage, and failure they leave in their wake, disguised by abilities 1 and 2.


  60. 60
    Some Loser says:

    Not many. I don’t care either way. Calm down. I was just being pedantic and noting the definition of the word supported gene108’s position. I don’t know much about WW2 because I have a poor education, so I tend to not form anything other than vague opinions on the matter. My idea of Churchill and the allies? They were the good guys. Though, to be fair, I do have a strong opinion of FDR: really, really overrated.

  61. 61
    The Sailor says:

    IRT to Pilot, here’s technical review by an airline pilot:

  62. 62
    JWL says:

    @Some Loser: Calm down? Hell, I was calm as potted plant when I wrote that.

    And you can obviously read and write, so don’t give me that “uneducated, what’s a simple mind to think” jazz. Perhaps you underrate yourself the most of all.

  63. 63
    AA+ Bonds says:

    A hack whines about his favorite pet piggies. Fuck this guy.

  64. 64
    AA+ Bonds says:

    Man, I like Democrats when they don’t have the intelligence agencies’ dicks in their mouths.

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