It appears as though the Petraeus affair isn't quite over, after all. In today's Washington Post, Bob Woodward broke the news that in spring of 2011, Fox News head Roger Ailes attempted to persuade David Petraeus to run for president if Obama didn't appoint him Joint Chief of Staff, telling the then-general that News Corp head Rupert Murdoch would "bankroll" the campaign.
Of course, Ailes didn't make the offer to Petraeus in person; instead he sent Kathleen McFarland, a Fox News national security analyist and former Pentagon aide, to do his bidding. Woodward obtained a digital recording of the meeting between McFarland and Petraeus, which occurred in Kabul.
In addition to mentioning Ailes's advice, McFarland also told Petraeus that Ailes might resign from Fox News to help run the campaign.
When an understandably concerned Petraeus asked if the conversation was off the record, McFarland assured him it was. "His deal with me was that I was only supposed to talk to you," McFarland said. "And he is a little paranoid, so believe me, he doesn't have anybody in that room."
Naturally, Ailes told Woodward the whole thing was just a misunderstanding.
"It was more of a joke, a wiseass way I have," he [told Woodward]. "I thought the Republican field [in the primaries] needed to be shaken up and Petraeus might be a good candidate."
Ailes added, "It sounds like she thought she was on a secret mission in the Reagan administration. . . . She was way out of line. . . . It's someone's fantasy to make me a kingmaker. It's not my job." He said that McFarland was not an employee of Fox but a contributor paid less than $75,000 a year.
During the meeting with McFarland, Petraeus made it clear that he wasn't interested in the position, but he was sure to mention his fondness for Ailes.
While rejecting Ailes' advice, Petraeus said, "I love Roger. . . . He's a brilliant guy."
Petraeus said he "would love to see" Ailes on his next trip to New York, where Ailes has his office.
"Tell him if I ever ran," Petraeus said, and then laughed, "but I won't . . . but if I ever ran, I'd take him up on his offer. . . . He said he would quit Fox . . . and bankroll it."
"Bankroll it?" asked McFarland, who served as a senior aide to Henry Kissinger and later as a Pentagon spokeswoman in the Reagan administration.
"Or maybe I'm confusing that with Rupert," Petraeus said.
"I know Roger, he's done okay," McFarland replied, "but . . . no, I think the one who's bankrolling it is the big boss."
"That might be it," Petraeus said.
"Okay," McFarland said, "the big boss is bankrolling it. Roger's going to run it. And the rest of us are going to be your in-house."
"Yeah, right, okay," Petraeus said.
"We're all set."
"It's never going to happen," Petraeus said. "You know it's never going to happen. It really isn't."
His reasoning for not running? His wife, of course.
"My wife would divorce me," he added. "And I love my wife. . . . We have a beautiful house." Both Petraeus and McFarland laughed. "With his-and-hers bathrooms, believe it or not. I just want to live in it. I've never spent a night in it."
And we all know how things went with his marriage.
The recording of the meeting also offered insight into Petraeus's relationship with the media.
At one point, McFarland declared that "everybody at Fox loves you," adding that Ailes had directed her to ask Petraeus whether "there [is] anything Fox is doing, right or wrong, that you want to tell us to do differently?"
Petraeus didn't hesitate. "The editorial policy of Fox had shifted," he said. "It was almost as if, because they're going after Obama, they had to go after Obama's war as well." He said he had discussed this with Bret Baier, a key Fox anchor.
"Papers and news outlets have editorial policies," Petraeus said. "They know sort of how their bosses feel about things . . . and it causes a certain shading," Petraeus continued.
One example, according to Petraeus: "Off the record, the New York Times was never going to give Bush or Iraq a break. I don't care what happened.
"In fact, one time Thom Shanker [a Times military correspondent], who I think very highly of, wrote a piece. And it was on me, before I was going to testify one time, and they had - a pretty good piece, I mean, factual, in other words. Again, all we want is the truth. We're not out to spin. But then it had this sort of really odd thing inserted in it. And it was something that had been proven unfounded, but it sort of bounced around on the MoveOn.org kind of Webs. And I said, ‘Thom, where did that come from?' He said, ‘Oh, that was added by the editors.' "
Both Baier and Shanker denied making the statements to Petraeus.
[Image via AP]