The Washington Post's Bob Woodward obtained an audio recording of a conversation between David Petraeus, the general turned CIA Director who recently resigned in the midst of a sex scandal, and Fox News contributor Kathleen T. McFarland. The conversation took place in spring 2011 in Kabul, during the time that Petraeus was the commander of U.S. and coalition forces there. McFarland is a national security analyst for Fox News and has a long resume working for GOP administrations going back to Reagan.
McFarland stresses that she had spoken "directly" to the Fox News chairman. "First of all, is there anything Fox is doing right or wrong that you want to tell us to do differently?" she asks, a remarkable request from a reporter to a sitting general in command of U.S. troops. When the general says Fox can be against Obama, but should not be against "Obama's war," McFarland says "the headlines are easy to fix. The lady who does that sits next to me." Generals editing headlines about the war they are running, what could go wrong?
Secondly, McFarland states that the "advice to you from Roger Ailes is. ... He says that if you're offered [JCS] chairman, take it. If you're offered anything else, don't take it; resign in six months and run for president."
Petraeus makes it clear that he is not interested in running for president, but he is apparently impressed both with Ailes who he describes as "brilliant" and with his offer to "quit his job" and "bankroll the campaign."
McFarland: ... is that next time you go to New York you're going to stop by and see him?
Petraeus: I'd be happy. I would love to see him. I haven't seen him in a while, so ...
McFarland: I think he would very much appreciate the conversation.
Petraeus: I would love to see. ... Yeah. He's a brilliant guy.
McFarland: He is simply brilliant. I don't know if you've ever ...
Petraeus: He is. Tell him if I ever ran [laughs] but I won't ...
McFarland: Okay, I know. I know.
Petraeus: But if I ever ran, I'd take him up on his offer.
McFarland: Okay. All right.
Petraeus: He said he would quit Fox.
McFarland: I know. Look, he's not the only one.
Petraeus: And bankroll it.
McFarland: Bankroll it? [Laughs]
Petraeus: Or maybe I'm confusing that with Rupert. No. [Laughter]
McFarland: I know Roger, he's done okay, but ... no, I think the one who's bankrolling it is the big boss.
Petraeus: That might be it.
McFarland: Okay. The big boss is bankrolling it. Roger's going to run it. And the rest of us are going to be your in-house.
Petraeus: Yeah, right. Okay.
McFarland: We're all set. ...
As for the Fox News chairman, Ailes says McFarland is a contributor, not staff, and that the whole thing was a joke.
Why are we not laughing?
The audio of this remarkable interview is here and the transcript is here.