The Last Word | November 13, 2012
>> well, i certainly think wouldn't call it welcome.
>> that was jay carney today, trying to explain how the president feels about the mess that is the petraeus affair. in the spotlight tonight, another day, another four star general investigated. this time it is general john allen who took over as commander of the u.s. forces in afghanistan and petraeus became director of the cia . in october, allen was also nominated by the president to be the supreme allied commander in europe, but the white house put that nomination on hold after it found out that allen is currently being investigated by the defense department for sending potentially inappropriate and flirtatious e-mails to jill kelley , the same jill kelley who received questionable e-mails from paula broadwell. the fbi 's investigation into those e-mails eventually revealed broadwell's affair with general petraeus which eventually led to petraeus ' resignation. remember her fbi friend that started the investigation? turns out he was also the person who called house majority leader eric cantor and told him what he knew. one more character connecting petraeus and allen in this messy web, jill 's twin sister natalie, just weeks ago both generals wrote letters in support of natalie in a custody battle over her four-year-old son. "the washington post " is now reporting according to advisers close to petraeus , petraeus only resigned after national intelligence director james clapper told him to do so. joining me now, spencer ackerman , senior writer for "wired" who writes for their national security blog, the danger room , and nbc's richard wolf . richard, i don't know, i don't know much about waging war . i do know a little bit about living life. and these generals are writing absolutely crazy letters which i don't have time to read to a judge in a custody battle.
>> a woman who has lost custody of her son, and in this country it is not easy for women to lose custody of children in these situations, the judge has decided she is a liar, she changed the kid's name without telling the father, took the kid out of state without telling the father, all sorts of crazy stuff documented in the case, and you have these two generals writing to the judge as if they know something about it, telling him that oh, no, no, she should get more custody of the child. these letters to the judge i think are the major evidence of just how out of it these two generals are.
>> right. look, i don't know that any of us can pronounce on the rights and wrongs of any other person's family business , but what on earth are these generals thinking of. do they not have enough to do? one was responsible for u.s. forces in afghanistan . as i recall, there may be a conflict going on there and there has been for some time. does the fbi not have enough to do that one of its agents can pursue what seems to be something driven by personal motives, never mind, whether he can keep his clothes on or not, you wonder, the general, general allen , who again, supreme allied commander nominee, but at the time engaged with the war in afghanistan is reported to have sent 20 to 30,000 pages of documents to these ladies. is there not enough work for either of these people there?
>> there's not a reasonable judge in america that would read a letter from someone not involved in the case, doesn't know the evidence in the case, and in any way adjust their judgment accordingly, which means these generals naively, stupidly wrote these letters september 20th , and on september 22nd , thinking they could actually influence a judge in this case. if they don't have lawyers that they would check with and say should i write this letter, then they are just incompetent at living their daily lives.
>> the thing that was so strange to hear today was to watch the pentagon insist to reporters that there's nothing they know of that's untoward besides flirtation revealed in the e-mails between kelley and general allen . allen has had an absolutely star crossed tenure in afghanistan . he had scandal after scandal from the bails attacks that left 16 innocents dead to the koran burnings, to images coming out of marines urinating on a dead taliban militant, and he's been able to level with a lot of us in the press about the progress not really being as rapid as he would like, and you see this happen, to have allen swept up in all of this was kind of cataclysmic at the pentagon. a lot of us went to sleep thinking it was a scandal about general petraeus , and then suddenly allen is involved in it. it was absolutely surreal.
>> and richard, one of the things that happened over the years, petraeus has been glorified by the media, it is not something i felt capable of contributing to since i don't know anything about the military, never having spent a day in it, but that doesn't inhibit other reporters judging these guys as if they can tell who is good at this generaling thing and who isn't. and there's just a lot of revision the media itself has to go through on these people.
>> look, petraeus has, it is no secret, he has run the best press operation of any general anywhere in the armed forces for many decades, and that has given him no cushion, no insulation among the same reporters who gleefully report about this now. from the conservatives on the right, it is a sex story and compelling to the media. that's what it is. i used to work in the tabloid papers. this is a voyeuristic exercise. you can dress it up. people in the white house briefing room can try to articulate questions in an intelligent sounding way, but that's what it is, a sex story. it is painful for the individuals involved, but whatever his reputation on the battlefield has very little to do with this.
>> spencer, as we know dwight eisenhower had an affair that was conducted reasonably and quietly, never broke out wildly like this. what you're seeing with petraeus and with general allen is associations with people who are not reliable people, they're not stable people, which means that they aren't stable people themselves. i mean, these two generals are not stable enough to carefully choose their associations so their lives don't collapse as a result of it.
>> i am not going to psychoanalyze either of these men.
>> that's what i am here for, you don't have to.
>> what seems to be the case with petraeus , he seemed to have thought that he could have survived this incident, and it is his boss, director clapper sort of sending him back to reality, in effect firing him. we know as recently as the week of october 29th , he had talked to the fbi . his mistress and the fbi had known he had confessed to the affair, and he had no intention of resigning. it is hard to understand how this guy could have thought he could survive this, and yet he did.
>> i tell you, when i read the crazy letters to the judge, i don't want these guys making any serious judgments about anything. they don't know what evidence is. it is just breathtaking. spencer ackerman , richard wolffe , thanks for joining me tonight.
>> thanks, lawrence.
>>> coming up, the newspaper that's already picked its presidential candidate for 2016 . and the senator, the republican senator who wants his party to go far to the left of the democratic party on some issues, including drug prosecutions. that's next