A private matter -- with some potential political and national security implications -- has taken center stage with no indication of relinquishing the spotlight.
Not the first. Won't be the last. And, this is just the tip of the iceberg.
As a crisis management professional, I have been through this before. Nearly two decades ago I was involved in counseling the Lewinsky family during that presidential level scandal. I can tell you that while we pay lip service to the 'Personal Tragedy' and the 'Private Family Matter,' we often lose sight of the human points of view of those involved.
While the public can't get enough of the drip, drip, drip of public disclosure, these are real people with families, children, careers and responsibilities.
In a situation like this, as I have addressed in my book, "Where's My Fifteen Minutes?" the advice is to tell the story right up front. Rip off the Band-Aid. Get in out there first and tell the truth. Write a book to get the full detail and contrition recorded, then, move on.
We know from news reports that General Petraeus himself is not under any criminal investigation. In fact, he may be the victim of friendly fire damage in some ways because of the way this investigation has unfolded, its timing and the course it has taken.
Unfortunately, it seems the bit players in this drama are going to be responsible for its protracted examination in minute (and salacious) detail in the media. General Allen and Mrs. Kelley have unearthed another aspect to the situation guaranteed to play out in the newspapers, tabloids and gossip sites. How long before the shirtless FBI agent texts are splashed across the pages of the highest bidding publication or broadcast outlet?
The national security and military issues are fair game. They were, no doubt, the original trigger for the investigation.
This is, however, why we are nowhere near the end of this story. A figure like General Petraeus does nothing without leaving a trail. As a military commander and head of the CIA, he has been under constant protection for years. He can't just hop in the car and check into a hotel without potentially dozens of people aware of his movements, his credit cards and ATM transactions, even his calls and texts.
Indeed, of all the men in the world, he is uniquely among a select few who understand that everything is transparent, now. Maybe that is why the use of the Gmail Drafts folder as a means of communications, a trick well known to terrorists and teenagers alike, is so confusing to the pundits.
There are others accountable for the enabling of this affair, though. So we can expect a long investigation and lots of money to be spent, to say nothing of political posturing and ever present conspiracy theorists, both amateur and professional.
As it relates to General Petraeus and his family, he has done the honorable thing. Americans support those who do the right thing. We can forgive lapses of judgment. He took responsibility. He will be back.
He didn't offer long explanations. He took responsibility for his actions. If that was the end of it, that would likely be the end of it.
The revelations about General Allen, Mrs. Kelley, Eric Cantor and the inevitable disclosures of the enabling of the affair guarantee that this is just the tip of the iceberg for this story and the pain it brings.
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