With the force of an earthquake, the announcement that Central Intelligence Agency Director David Petraeus had resigned after admitting an extramarital affair came late Friday afternoon.
With the onetime commander of U.S. forces in Iraq and then Afghanistan informing President Obama of the news on Thursday, Petraeus??? resignation and its accompanying admission of the affair was kept under wraps for most of the following day — including at White House Press Secretary Jay Carney???s briefing for reporters, which followed the president???s own remarks on the nation’s fiscal situation.
Almost immediately, speculation began on who would succeed Petraeus at the Central Intelligence Agency, with the two most often-mentioned names being those of Deputy CIA Director Michael Morell and former Utah Gov. — and once Republican presidential hopeful — Jon Huntsman. Coming little more than a week after the CIA released a timeline on the events on Sept. 11 in Benghazi, which led to the death of the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three Americans, Petraeus??? resignation also raises questions as to what he will say now about the incident as a private citizen when congressional investigations begin soon.
Much as Deputy Directors Richard Helms in 1965 and George Tenet in 1996 followed Agency heads who resigned amid controversy, Deputy Director Morell is considered the favorite to succeed Petraeus at the helm of the spy agency. Like Helms and Tenet, Morell is a career CIA man who has worked in the Middle East. He also headed the desks at the Agency dealing with the Pacific and Latin American regions, and was executive assistant to Tenet.
Huntsman’s name had surfaced earlier in the day as a possible successor to Hillary Clinton as secretary of state. Earlier this year, the former Utah governor made a bid for the Republican nomination for president but exited somewhat early because of his close identification with Democrat Obama, who had named him ambassador to China with considerable praise.
As politicians in both parties praised Petraeus for a lifetime of service and patriotism, virtually no one mentioned what the general himself called his ???unacceptable??? and ???extremely poor judgment??? that he says led him to this moment.