Petraeus Biographer’s Co-Author Can’t Distance Himself Enough From All In

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Gen. David Petraeus, commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, gives his assessment of ongoing operations there during a program hosted by the National Journal and The Newseum, Friday, March 18, 2011, in Washington. (AP Photo)
Photo: STF

Vernon Loeb, the Washington Post editor who partnered with Paula Broadwell on her biography of former CIA director David Petraeus, had a particularly advantageous position to suss out whether there was anything going on between the two. On Monday night he broke his silence on the matter for the first time, writing in the lede of his Post story that he was "clueless" to their affair, but not for lack of whispers that the pair had developed an inappropriately close relationship. Loeb is not clueless as to the effect that affair has on the reputation of the glowing account he and Broadwell rendered with All In, which describes a year in the life of the then-four-star general in charge of the war in Afghanistan — an account that has aready been labeled a hagiography.

"I had no say over the book’s ultimate take on Petraeus, which some have found excessively laudatory. Broadwell was free to make whatever revision or modifications she desired to the text, and did so liberally," Loeb wrote. He described his role as that of a "ghostwriter" (though his name appears on the book's cover), recalling the process in the Post: "I sat in my basement in Maryland and wrote what was virtually a real-time narrative fashioned from the torrent of e-mails, documents and interview transcripts Broadwell sent my way." It's clear Loeb wants to put distance between himself and the biography, just as he wants to throw as much cold water as he can on the notion that he could have known about Petraeus and Broadwell's affair.

Loeb makes it clear throughout his piece that he didn't think there was anything untoward between Broadwell and Petraeus, despite the gossip that surrounded them: "Surely, eyebrows were raised, given the access she received. Female colleagues of mine weren’t shy in remarking about Broadwell’s good looks and her affinity for flashy, cocktail party attire even at staid national security conferences." But, Loeb recalls, "I never thought they were having an affair," and he told his snarky colleagues as much. "I always thought that Broadwell’s motives were pure, and I always wondered why Petraeus was granting her the access that he did." If Loeb had known the full story behind that unprecedented access, he would have had an obligation to report it or get off the biography project, neither of which he did.