Gen. Misconduct?

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Gen. James "Hoss" Cartwright in Afghanistan in November / DoD photo

We’re wrapping up one war, waist-deep in another, overpaying for our national security, inflating the Chinese threat – and Pentagon reporters are consumed trying to figure out if the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff was too friendly with a young female aide? The Pentagon’s inspector general found Marine Gen. James Cartwright was indeed unduly familiar with his military aide, but his civilian overseers found it didn’t warrant even a slap on the wrist.

An anonymous hotline complaint triggered the probe, which ended a year ago but was only released Wednesday in response to Freedom of Information Act request from the press. Cartwright, widely viewed as being close to President Obama, is one of the front-runners to succeed Adm. Mike Mullen as chairman of the Joint Chiefs when Mullen retires this fall.

It’s funny-sad what drives journalism. I was going to say “what drives journalism these days,” but it has always been like this. It seems we are consumed by the peccadilloes of the powerful, with an eagerness to embrace schadenfreude that isn’t always appealing.

This sanctimonious might make sense if we held only those in uniform to such standards. After all, the chain of command is forged in blood, and promotions and careers in uniform can be more easily derailed – or helped – by former or current flames. Plus, such friendships hurt what the military calls “good order and discipline,” which is why they’re barred under the Uniformed Code of Military Justice.

But we Americans also routinely subject civilian officials to such bedroom scrutiny, as well. The Europeans tend to think our views on such matters are bizarre, and I, for once, agree with them. You can check out the full IG report here. The good parts, assuming there were any, have been blacked out.