The Republican Party’s double standard for handling top secret material has turned into an astounding example of that party’s embrace of white male privilege. General David Petraeus (four stars, ret.) is an American hero for his thirty-seven years of service and for orchestrating the 2007 “surge” during the Iraq War. As the Director of the CIA, however, Petraeus shirked his responsibilities and for some inexplicable reason put hundreds of classified documents at risk of exposure by transferring them to his mistress’ laptop computer.
That mind-boggling lapse of judgement one of America’s foremost military men lost his clearance, his profession and his innocence, eventually admitting guilt to federal proscutors for a misdemeanor crime, and paying a $100,000 criminal penalty.
Former Republican Secretary of State Colin Powell was gently reprimanded by the Secretary of State’s Office of the Inspector General for his use of classified documents in a private email account.
In contrast, Democratic presidential nominee and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is under federal investigation for the use of a private email server and the “retroactive classification” of emails sent or received long ago – crucially, they were not considered classified documents at the time.
David Petraeus betrayed not only his oath of secrecy while literally serving as our country’s top spymaster – but the crime was intimately tied to his extra-marital affair with his biographer.
Just imagine if Russian dictator Vladimir Putin had sent a biographer-spy to flatter the General and extract information. They’d have buttered him up, and could have had our nation’s secrets delivered straight into their spy’s hands, using the timeless weapons of a General’s ego and the agent’s feminine wiles. A former Russian General described it thusly in Foreign Policy magazine:
“In America, in the West, occasionally you ask your men to stand up for their country. There’s very little difference. In Russia, we just ask our young women to lay down.”
Republicans in Congress were ready to condone a criminal violation of our nation’s top secret classification system – as recently as last month – from one of their potential presidential candidates, and spilled the beans on big secrets to his mistress.
That’s right. Paul Ryan and his establishment Republicans wanted to “draft” Petraeus to as their #NeverTrump candidate, but that idea withered and died a blessedly natural death. On the flip side, Republicans have spent $7,000,000 on the Benghazi witch hunt to uncover a bunch of ultimately meaningless, technical violations that former Secretaries of State Powell and Clinton stand accused of committing.
Republicans are using this episode to demonstrate the naked chase for political power which is all their party stands for. At the same time Republicans proved that their party’s moral rules of government document handling will forgive a convicted white male like Petreus for his egregious crime with a side course of family values hypocrisy in the form of a little extra-marital debauchery. But if you’re a woman like Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, or African-American like former top General Colin Powell and served your country honorably, the Republican party will find the world’s tiniest axe in a pile of any paperwork you’ve ever done, and find someone named McCarthy to grind that axe in front of the cameras, at taxpayers’ expense until nobody will ever want to serve our country, ever, again.
Grant Stern is the Executive Editor of Occupy Democrats and published author. His new Meet the Candidates 2020 book series is distributed by Simon and Schuster. He's also mortgage broker, community activist and radio personality in Miami, Florida., as well as the producer of the Dworkin Report podcast. Grant is also an occasional contributor to Raw Story, Alternet, and the DC Report, and an unpaid senior advisor to the Democratic Coalition.