The parade begins. Here's Spencer Ackerman delivering a catalog of self-criticism over his (former) enchnantment with David Petraeus:
Next, James Fallows:
When it came out that CIA Director David Petraeus had an affair with his hagiographer, I got punked. “It seems so obvious in retrospect. How could you @attackerman?” tweeted @bitteranagram, complete with a link to a florid piece I wrote for this blog when Petraeus retired from the Army last year. (“The gold standard for wartime command” is one of the harsher judgments in the piece.) I was so blind to Petraeus, and my role in the mythmaking that surrounded his career, that I initially missed @bitteranagram’s joke.Link. Ackerman goes on to write a fascinating piece on the Petraeus publicity machine and how one journalist (ahem) got caught up on it. Compulsive reading, but it obscures the fact tht Petraeus, even if a master spinmeister, might still have been a pretty good general. Even Macarthur, the gold standard at self-promotion and press manipulation, carried off a few daring and brilliant militry maneuvers. Also a few stinnkers but let that be: the point is that success at smoke and mirrors does not necessarily preclude success in substance.
But it’s a good burn. Like many in the press, nearly every national politician, and lots of members of Petraeus’ brain trust over the years, I played a role in the creation of the legend around David Petraeus. Yes, Paula Broadwell wrote the ultimate Petraeus hagiography, the now-unfortunately titled All In. But she was hardly alone. (Except maybe for the sleeping-with-Petraeus part.) The biggest irony surrounding Petraeus’ unexpected downfall is that he became a casualty of the very publicity machine he cultivated to portray him as superhuman. I have some insight into how that machine worked.
Next, James Fallows:
Fred Kaplan, who was the first person to reveal Paula Broadwell's name as the woman with whom David Petraeus had been involved, had an assessment of the similarities and differences in Petraeus's and Broadwell's backgrounds here. Broadwell, whom I have met, is a recognizable type among high-flyers in the modern military. Kaplan explains a particular part of that culture, the "sosh" department at West Point. The easiest non-military analogy might be to the image created by Paul Ryan during his years of favorable press coverage leading up to his vice presidential nomination. Among admirers he was seen as super-intellectual ("brainiac on the budget" "I wouldn't have time to get into the details") and also super-disciplined and high-performing in physical attributes ("same body fat as an Olympic athlete" etc). A similar combination was part of the image and influence of David Petraeus in the military, and also of the self-presentation of Broadwell (a West Point grad) and other rising young officers.Link. The difficulty is that quite a few people recognized Ryan as an empty suit from the get-go, and quit a few do not recognize him as such yet. At least Petraeus' publicity machine was more effective, and at the end of the day his intrinsic merits may prove to be more palpable (wouldn't be hard).