Petraeus, Suddenly With Plenty of Free Time, Ponders His Next Move

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ARLINGTON, Va. -- Here on an expensive but otherwise unremarkable street in the suburbs of Washington, David H. Petraeus is managing a new life in the doghouse.

He is seeking forgiveness from his furious wife, missing his old job as director of the Central Intelligence Agency, fighting off cabin fever -- and plotting a comeback.

Friends say that Mr. Petraeus, who resigned from the C.I.A. on Nov. 9 because of an extramarital affair, so far has offers to teach from four universities, a grab bag of book proposals from publishers in New York and an interest in speaking and serving on corporate boards. He has hired Robert B. Barnett, the Washington superlawyer, to handle his future, and friends say he has not even ruled out becoming a talking head on television.

But no one in Mr. Petraeus's tight circle of defenders disputes that for now the world of one of the nation's most celebrated generals has shrunk spectacularly. Once talked of as a future Republican candidate for president, the former commander of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan spends his days largely at home in self-imposed exile, e-mailing and talking to friends on the phone. He works out on a stationary exercise bike, unable, at least in the first days of the scandal, to get out for his daily runs.

Friends say he remains as ambitious as ever, but sounds different.

"Basically he's the same guy but considerably more subdued, in terms of his spirit," said Mr. Petraeus's close friend Jack Keane, the former vice chief of staff of the Army. "And that's understandable. His voice doesn't have the same peppiness in it."

Friends fret that a man used to a turbocharged schedule -- not to mention motorcades, secret trips to the Middle East and invitations to the best tables in Georgetown -- has too much time on his hands.

"I asked him whether he'd seen a certain article, and he said: 'No, send it my way. I'm looking for something to read right now,' " said a close friend who asked not to be identified discussing Mr. Petraeus's private life. "He kept such a grueling schedule. This is uncharted territory for him right now."

Another friend, who also asked not to be named, had similar thoughts. "Several of us are concerned," the friend said. "He's a very active individual. He needs to stay active."

Mr. Petraeus's friends say his first priority is to make things right with Holly Petraeus, his wife of 38 years, and their two grown children, but Mrs. Petraeus has not been keeping her husband company at home during the day. A spokeswoman for the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, where she works, said on Wednesday that Mrs. Petraeus has been at the office every day since the scandal broke.

Mrs. Petraeus, who runs the agency's Office of Servicemember Affairs as a consumer advocate for military families, wrote two blog posts for the agency's Web site this week: one with a co-worker warning about deceptive mortgage advertisements, and another, written solo, about the perils of buying a flood-damaged used car. "Once you've signed the contract you're committed, so Know Before You Owe!" she concluded.

Her expertise, USA Today reported earlier this year, comes from the financial mistakes she and Mr. Petraeus made as newlyweds: buying a red sports car that spent more time in the shop than on the road, putting down a deposit on an apartment they had not seen, acquiring a foosball table as their first piece of furniture.

Now the man who married up -- Holly Petraeus was not only the daughter of the superintendent of West Point when Mr. Petraeus was a cadet there, but the descendant of military officers going back to the Civil War -- is taking it a day at a time with his wife. "They will weather this storm," said John A. Nagl, a friend of Mr. Petraeus and a retired Army lieutenant colonel who fought in Iraq. "And that's mostly because Holly is a deeply forgiving soul."

Their house, on a verdant Arlington street of $1 million and $2 million homes -- for security reasons, the address is listed in no public property records -- is expected to be Mr. Petraeus's center of operations at least until the first of next year, the earliest his friends say he could venture out from the wilderness with a Barnett-approved new job or position.

Mr. Barnett's clients have included Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, fired by President Obama in 2010 as the NATO commander in Afghanistan, and Oliver L. North of the Reagan-era Iran-contra affair.

Mr. Petraeus, who remains under investigation by the C.I.A. for whether he misused the perquisites of his position to facilitate the affair, is in the meantime, friends said, mulling over how he became entangled with Paula Broadwell, whom he met when she began researching a book on him.

"The way he describes it, he said, 'You know, I wasn't sure right away that she was writing a biography; I thought it was a book on Afghanistan,' " said one of the friends, referring to Ms. Broadwell's decision to turn her unfinished dissertation into a book on Mr. Petraeus. The friend did not explain how Mr. Petraeus could have had such a view. "It sort of developed over time, and he realized belatedly that it was about him."

When Ms. Broadwell told Mr. Petraeus that her book advance was well into the six figures, the friend said Mr. Petraeus decided, "Well, I better help her to get it halfway right rather than pushing her away to have something come out that was half-baked."

Mr. Petraeus has said that he broke off the affair over the summer, but friends said he told them he continued a relationship with Ms. Broadwell to help her with her dissertation. "He was trying to put it back on a more professional plane," the friend said. "He thought he could do that."

Friends say Mr. Petraeus will never write a book about his experiences, although one confidant said the former C.I.A. director is considering a book on what the friend termed "leadership."

As Mr. Nagl put it: "He's the most ambitious guy I've ever seen. I'm absolutely confident he's going to succeed again."

Doug Mills contributed reporting.

nation

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.


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