The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, 11/16/12, 7:00 PM ET

Rewriting what the Petraeus affair is about

Much of the media coverage involving the resignation of former CIA Director David Petraeus has focused on his affair with biographer Paula Broadwell. In the Rewrite, MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell explains it isn't the sex, but Petraeus' lack of judgment...

O’Donnell: Petraeus’s real failing was ‘reckless judgements’

Updated

In Friday’s Rewrite segment, msnbc’s Lawrence O’Donnell addressed misconceptions over the David Petraeus and Paula Broadwell affair. The issue isn’t power or sex, O’Donnell said it’s about judgement.

He used the much-analyzed Clinton marriage to shape his argument.

“I think the Clinton marriage works. It works for them. And it does not include sexual exclusivity,” The Last Word host declared. Using the Clintons’ marriage or their understanding of the marriage as an example, O’Donnell delineated the dichotomy between marital fidelity and sexual exclusivity.

“Bill and Hillary Clinton are both smart enough and loyal enough to each other and love each other enough to realize that that sexual exclusivity deviation from the norm - which, by the way, actually is the norm in the real world - was never going to be a big enough problem to end their marriage, because they don’t define marital fidelity as simply sexual exclusivity.” He added, “the Clintons obviously judge marital fidelity to be something much bigger than that. And their judgement has been proven right, about their marriage, anyway.”

O’Donnell argued the lesson from the Petraeus scandal revolves around exhibiting good judgment, especially as a four-star general and CIA director when those roles rely so heavily on it.

“The 1950s spy novel notion that extra-marital sex somehow could make Petraeus subject to blackmail is utterly childish,” said O’Donnell. “His terrible judgment is not about the sex - it’s about the emails about the sex. General Petraeus engaged in risky behavior involving his email, and he did it with a person who engaged in even more risky behavior with her email.”

Broadwell allegedly sent threatening messages to a Tampa socialite, Jill Kelley, about General Petraeus, which led to the unraveling of the series of terrible judgments made by Petraeus. Petraeus’s second slip-up was to reportedly befriend military “groupies.”

Admittedly, Petraeus is not the first high-ranking general or CIA director to have an affair, but O’Donnell concluded that “a four-star general and CIA director who had the profoundly bad judgment to engage in the kind of affair that got wildly out of control and left hard-drives full of proof of the affair.” And that this scandal should be a useful window into Petraeus’s judgement, or “a series of very reckless judgements.”

O'Donnell: Petraeus's real failing was 'reckless judgements'

Updated