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David Petraeus ghost-writer"dumbfounded" by Broadwell affair

Vernon Loeb, the Washington Post editor who worked with Paula Broadwell on the bio of David Petraeus, says he was blind-sided by the affair that ended Petraeus' stint as CIA director. "My wife says I’m the most clueless person in America," he begins in a first-person piece in the Post, describing his involvement in the book "All In."

Loeb says he got involved after a call from his agent about collaborating on a book about Petraeus' leadership. Loeb was a logical choice -- he had embedded with a division under the general's command in 2003, while covering the Pentagon.

But Loeb says he mainly recast Broadwell's original material, and only met Petraeus once during the course of his work on the book. As he wrote in the Post: "My role was far less dramatic: 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. ...

"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. To my mind, in any event, the book remains a valuable chronicle of his year in command and makes clear that the war wasn’t going all that well."

With his limited contact, Loeb may not have been in a position to judge the personal dynamics of the Broadwell-Petraeus relationship. But as co-author, he shares some responsibility for the final product. It's a shame he operated without complete access to Petraeus. Loeb's journalistic instincts might have uncovered a hint of the relationship with Broadwell -- and changed the glowing tone of the book.

Loeb wrote of his meeting and long-distance run with Petraeus: "I could scarcely believe I suddenly had this kind of access." As a long-time reporter and editor, he knows only too well that if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. 


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