Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Last Call For The Fall Of David

And David Petraeus's military career and political ambitions end with a plea deal to keep him out of a lengthy prison sentence.

Mr. Petraeus will plead guilty to one count of unauthorized removal and retention of classified material, which carries a maximum penalty of one year in prison. Mr. Petraeus has signed the agreement, said Marc Raimondi, a Justice Department spokesman.

The plea deal completes a spectacular fall for Mr. Petraeus, a retired four-star general who was once discussed as a possible candidate for vice president or even president. He led the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and was the architect of a counterinsurgency strategy that at one time seemed a model for future warfare.

The mistress, Paula Broadwell, is a former Army Reserve officer who had an affair with Mr. Petraeus in 2011, when she was interviewing him for a biography, “All In: The Education of General David Petraeus.”

Mr. Petraeus resigned as the director of the C.I.A. in 2012, three days after President Obama was re-elected. At the time, Mr. Petraeus acknowledged the affair. He has since denied any criminal wrongdoing.

The plea deal spares Mr. Petraeus a high-profile trial where embarrassing details about the affair would have been presented to the jury and made public. Mr. Petraeus is still married to Holly Petraeus.

And while his political ambitions are toast, don't feel bad for the guy.

Mr. Petraeus has also made a significant amount of money since leaving the C.I.A. He is a partner at one of the world’s largest private-equity firms, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, and he has taught at some of the nation’s most prestigious universities, including Harvard.

Nice work if you can get it.

Please Get This Man Some Help

I'm beginning to think the former Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber, who resigned earlier this year in disgrace over ethics issue with his fiancee, is in serious need of a mental health assessment.

Police were called to an Oregon landfill on Feb. 20 after the state's former Gov. John Kitzhaber (D) and his fiancee were spotted there dumping trash amid a federal investigation surrounding his time in office, The Oregonian newspaper reported on Friday.

Kitzhaber and his fiancee, Cylvia Hayes, had rarely been seen in public since his resignation on Feb. 18 when the couple left Salem, Ore., the paper reported.

Both Kitzhaber and Hayes have been the subjects of a federal investigation, the Oregonian reported.

On Feb. 20, the couple was seen at the Knott Landfill near Bend, Ore. throwing away trash, the director of the Deschutes County Solid Waste Department told the Oregonian.

Due to a credit card processing error, the landfill's system was reportedly locked and a supervisor was forced to reset it. However, during the incident, law enforcement officials were alerted and deputies from the Deschutes County Sheriff's Office arrived at the landfill, the paper reported.

You're under federal investigation...and you go to a landfill to dump trash in full view of everyone.  The guy needs help, in all seriousness, and I hope he gets what he needs.  If he really is this brazen, well, the law will certainly have a lot more questions for him now.

Giving In To Both Sides

Vox's Matthew Yglesias gives in the "both sides do it" narrative and takes it to the extreme, declaring America is simply done for.  Yggy's gone full emoprog:

Some day — not tomorrow, not next year, but probably sometime before runaway climate change forces us to seek a new life in outer-space colonies — there is going to be a collapse of the legal and political order and its replacement by something else. If we're lucky, it won't be violent. If we're very lucky, it will lead us to tackle the underlying problems and result in a better, more robust, political system. If we're less lucky, well, then, something worse will happen.

Very few people agree with me about this, of course. When I say it, people generally think that I'm kidding. America is the richest, most successful country on earth. The basic structure of its government has survived contested elections and Great Depressions and civil rights movements and world wars and terrorist attacks and global pandemics. People figure that whatever political problems it might have will prove transient — just as happened before.

But voiced in another register, my outlandish thesis is actually the conventional wisdom in the United States. Back when George W. Bush was president and I was working at a liberal magazine, there was a very serious discussion in an editorial meeting about the fact that the United States was now exhibiting 11 of the 13 telltale signs of a fascist dictatorship. The idea that Bush was shredding the Constitution and trampling on congressional prerogatives was commonplace. When Obama took office, the partisan valence of the complaints shifted, but their basic tenor didn't. Conservative pundits — not the craziest, zaniest ones on talk radio, but the most serious and well-regarded —compare Obama's immigration moves to the actions of a Latin-American military dictator.

In the center, of course, it's an article of faith that when right and left talk like this they're simply both wrong. These are nothing but the overheated squeals of partisans and ideologues.

At the same time, when the center isn't complaining about the excessively vociferous complaints of the out-party of the day, it tends to be in full-blown panic about the state of American politics. And yet despite the popularity of alarmist rhetoric, few people act like they're actually alarmed. Accusations that Barack Obama or John Boehner or any other individual politician is failing as a leader are flung, and then abandoned when the next issue arises. In practice, the feeling seems to be that salvation is just one election away. Hillary Clinton even told Kara Swisher recently that her agenda if she runs for president is to end partisan gridlock.

It's not going to work.

The breakdown of American constitutional democracy is a contrarian view. But it's nothing more than the view that rather than everyone being wrong about the state of American politics, maybe everyone is right. Maybe Bush and Obama are dangerously exceeding norms of executive authority. Maybe legislative compromise really has broken down in an alarming way. And maybe the reason these complaints persist across different administrations and congresses led by members of different parties is that American politics is breaking down.

Obama really is as lawless as Bush, there's no discernible difference between the parties, partisans will make sure that ever-escalating Constitutional crises will eventually destroy America's government, and most of all, there's no reason to vote.

Your money shot:

The idea that America's constitutional system might be fundamentally flawed cuts deeply against the grain of our political culture. But the reality is that despite its durability, it has rarely functioned well by the standards of a modern democracy. The party system of the Gilded Age operated through systematic corruption. The less polarized era that followed was built on the systematic disenfranchisement of African-Americans. The newer system of more ideological politics has solved those problems and seems in many ways more attractive. But over the past 25 years, it's set America on a course of paralysis and crisis — government shutdowns, impeachment, debt ceiling crises, and constitutional hardball. Voters, understandably, are increasingly dissatisfied with the results and confidence in American institutions has been generally low and falling. But rather than leading to change, the dissatisfaction has tended to yield wild electoral swings that exacerbate the sense of permanent crisis.

We're all suckers apparently, but none more so than Yglesias.

The best we can hope for is that when the crisis does come, Americans will have the wisdom to do for ourselves what we did in the past for Germany and Japan and put a better system in place.

Because history of course shows us that when a democratic government collapses after being bled dry by the moneyed elite, its replacement is better.



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