When Beltway bright-boy David Petraeus left public service in disgrace last year, Buzzfeed reporter Michael Hastings threw down a gauntlet, detailing how his industry had gone soft on the ex-general for too long. This morning, Hastings' boss at Buzzfeed picked up that gauntlet and took a long, sugary piss in it.
That stream of saccharine waste is a newly published puff piece, "General Petraeus' Next Campaign," by Buzzfeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith and staffer Emily Orley (lately the author of "11 Major Passover Food Fails"). In it, we learn that Petraeus has undertaken "a quiet and conventional path from shame to redemption" since he confessed to an affair with his biographer and resigned as CIA chief. He has an image makeover consultant, and is getting invited to DC dinner parties again! Now comes the shock and awwwwww offensive:
"The rollout is devised like the invasion of Iraq," said one person who spoke recently to Petraeus.
So expect it to be long and costly and to involve black hoods, naked prisoners, and car batteries at some point.
There's not much in the piece that couldn't be gleaned from a similar Slate piece from a month ago... except for a few new fawning Petraeus facts:
- "Petraeus has always been famous both for his intelligence and for his ability to manage the press, and he has signaled that he has thought hard about his predicament," Smith and Orley write. Hard thought! Can a think-tank presidency be far off?
- Clearly this is frealz, since Petraeus' betrayed wife Holly "appears to be on board for his rehabilitation." You don't walk away from greatness just because greatness inserted his penis into another woman's vagina.
- Petraeus is flinging himself into vets' causes, because who hates vets? Socialist jihadis, that's who. However, some of these vets, like ex-Navy Seal Kaj Larsen, were cautious about being used by the general for a photo opportunity, until Super P and his bulging biceps laid those concerns to rest:
But after a conversation, and after a "hellacious" dash down the beach in Venice at 6:00 the next morning — Petraeus, 60, insisted on engaging in a pull-up contest against the much younger former Seal — Larsen was persuaded.
Smith and Orley may be celebrating this military reporting coup with a couple of Bud Light Limes today. But they may also have a hard time reconciling it with Hastings' Buzzfeed postmortem on l'affaire generale last November, titled "The Sins of General David Petraeus":
More so than any other leading military figure, Petraeus’ entire philosophy has been based on hiding the truth, on deception, on building a false image...it’s not what actually happens that matters — it’s what you can convince the public it thinks happened....
Most of the stories written about him fall under what we hacks in the media like to call "a blow job."
After detailing the general's professional sins—taking false credit for the pacification of Iraq, glossing over ethnic cleansing there, overselling the prospect of success in Afghanistan—Hastings asks:
How did Petraeus get away with all this for so long? Well, his first affair — and one that matters so much more than the fact that he was sleeping with a female or two — was with the media.
Judging from Buzzfeed's love letter this morning, Petraeus and the press still can't quit each other. Yet readers seem to be the only people who are getting screwed.
Update: I reached out to Hastings for a comment, and he replied after this post was published. Here's his reply in its entirety:
I disagree with your take on this one. I think Ben's piece is very well done and driven by original reporting about Petraeus's rehab campaign. The reporting is fresh and I haven't seen it elsewhere. I thought it read fair, on the whole. I think the way Petraeus is trying already to recover from his fall is a fascinating story that's worth closely scrutinizing, as Ben has done. Plus, classic picture of King David doing pull ups on Venice Beach!
[Image via AP]