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Scandal Strips Some of Influence

In the course of a few November days, three people plummeted from the top ranks of the powerful, falling down, and in one case off, the list.

Top editors had just finalized the top 10 for this project when retired Army Gen. David Petraeus abruptly resigned from his job as director of the CIA after admitting to an extramarital affair. The esteemed Petraeus, seen by many as destined for higher office and perhaps even the presidency, had been a fixture in the top 10 from the start.

That same day, Chris Kubasik, who had been slated to become CEO of Lockheed Martin in January, was fired for having an “improper” relationship with a fellow employee. Instead of having the bully pulpit afforded to the chief of the world’s biggest defense contractor, he became a nonfactor, tumbling off the list.

A few days later, it was Afghanistan War chief Marine Gen. John Allen’s turn. Caught up in the bizarre Petraeus scandal over emails he sent to a Tampa, Fla., socialite, Allen’s nomination to take over U.S. European Command was put on hold and the confirmation of his successor was accelerated. Allen plunged from the top 10 to No. 34. His recently completed plan for the last two years of the Afghanistan war is likely to survive him under his successor, the ascendant Marine Gen. “Fighting Joe” Dunford.

But Allen’s plunge was nothing compared to Petraeus, once the country’s most famous and admired general, whose waning influence came close to knocking him off the list — but not quite. Petraeus survives at No. 100 because of his many acolytes throughout the military and because history shows that rarely does such an aggressive, ambitious and dynamic leader remain in the shadows for long. America forgave Bill Clinton. It will forgive David Petraeus, as well.