William Katz:  Urgent Agenda

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WEST WING STORY? – AT 8:47 A.M. ET:  General Petraeus has arrived at the Capitol for his Libya testimony before Congressional committees today.  Reminds me a little of the rumble in "West Side Story."  Inevitably, thoughts go to the West Wing and the key question that investigators want to ask:  What did the president know and when did he know it?

Petraeus may be pulled in two directions this morning.  On the one hand, he wants to restore a shattered reputation.  On the other, the Obamans have possible legal action hanging over him.  If their "investigation" can prove that he started his affair with Paula Broadwell while in uniform, Petraeus could face charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.  Fox News has a reasonable interpretation of this day's festivities:

Former CIA Director David Petraeus was expected to tell lawmakers in a pair of closed-door hearings Friday morning that he believed the Libya attack was terrorism within the first 24 hours and suspected a regional Al Qaeda affiliate and the militant Ansar al-Sharia were behind it, a source close to Petraeus told Fox News.

Petraeus arrived to meet with House lawmakers early Friday morning. His account would be sure to raise more questions from lawmakers, considering the conflicting narratives that have emerged from the intelligence community and other agencies about the attack. Petraeus himself gave a briefing three days after the attack, according to sources, in which he described it as a protest over an anti-Islam film that spun out of control.

It was similar to the account given on five Sunday shows on Sept. 16 by U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice -- and Rice's defenders have since insisted she was merely basing her statements on the intelligence at the time.

Yet Petraeus, Fox News was told, on Friday was planning to bring with him the original "talking points" prepared by the CIA.

The source said Petraeus "has no idea what was provided" to Rice or who was the author of the talking points she used.

"He had no idea she was going on talk shows" until the White House announced it one or two days before.

Petraeus' testimony before the House and Senate intelligence committees Friday morning could fuel, rather than dampen, the ongoing conflict in the administration over why officials initially stressed the anti-Islam film. Fox News has learned that his testimony will be under oath; he has already started to meet with lawmakers on the House committee.

While Petraeus resigned last Friday over an extra-marital affair, his testimony Friday was expected to focus on Libya as opposed to personal matters.

COMMENT:  I believe that this is a much larger, and more important, scandal than Watergate.  It involves American lives and national security.  The great difference of course, is that Watergate involved a president despised by the press, and this one involves a president adored by the press.  You'll see the difference in the news coverage.

But some Republicans, clearly including John McCain, are determined to see the investigation grow, and we hope they get their wish.  It is clear that McCain has little regard for Barack Obama, who defeated him in 2008 and then treated him, not with the respect that McCain was owed, but with contempt.  In one incident at the White House in 2009, when McCain, as part of a visiting Congressional delegation, was debating a policy point, Obama abruptly told him, "The election is over, John," an appalling comment in a democracy where elected senators have serious responsibilities. 

Today's hearings will be behind closed doors, but watch the leaking begin almost immediately. 

November 16,  2012