With no evidence of presidential ambition, the mainstream press deems Gen. David Petraeus an ‘appealing candidate’ for 2012. Why, and should we listen?
In 2008, Arizona Sen. John McCain was hailed by the mainstream press as the heir apparent of the Republican Party. His second-place finish in 2000 to George W. Bush in a hotly-contested primary was the reason provided, but the media’s motivation in promoting McCain through a surprisingly deep group of GOP hopefuls last year was far more sinister but, sadly, hardly unexpected: they wanted the Republicans to lose.
And so it was. McCain racked up endorsements from left-leaning editorial boards and producer cabals from coast to coast. They applauded his penchant for reaching across the aisle to work with Democrats with regard to issues like campaign finance and immigration reform. They wrote glowing pieces about his service and sacrifice. They waxed poetic about how the Republican Party should be re-made in his likeness.
And then McCain won the nomination, and the GOP was forced to do just that (albeit temporarily). Those in the media who had been so friendly turned on him quicker than a jilted, penniless former intern at the Late Show with David Letterman. Splashed across the front page of The New York Times, within days of McCain proving to have the nomination in the bag was a sourceless, libelous article accusing the senator of a tryst with a D.C. lobbyist.
At this point, about a year before the 2012 presidential campaigns get into full swing, two questions in particular seem to be bandied about more and more by wonkish nerds like myself:
- Who, among the Republicans, will break away from the pack and emerge as the GOP’s new truly conservative voice for 2012?
- Who, among the Republicans, will the media begin to play up as the new face and leader of the GOP?
Right now, the answer to the second question appears to be Gen. David Petraeus. Is he a brilliant military tactician? Absolutely. Is he a bona-fide American hero? You bet. Would he make a good president when we need someone to counteract the exponential expansion of the federal government? Nobody knows. Does he even want to be president? Nobody knows.
Yet he’s already being discussed as a serious contender. The September 4, 2009 Politico article by Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei was the first I’ve seen to really force-feed the idea of a Petraeus candidacy to the American public. They cited a characterization offered by former centrist Republican presidential hopeful Bob Dole, that Petraeus could be a “latter-day Ike [Eisenhower].” They said he could be an “appealing candidate.”
Even though the folks at Politico acknowledged that Petraeus himself has been silent about any potential politico aspirations, and that he “might not even be a Republican.” But they promote him as a “top-tier candidate for president” anyway.
More curious yet is the piece in yesterday’s New York Times, in which writer Elizabeth Bumiller suggests his candidacy without suggesting it, and immediately thereafter dismisses the idea as “absurd.” Look for yourself:
But the general’s closest associates say that underneath the surface of good relations, the celebrity commander faces a new reality in Mr. Obama’s White House: He is still at the table, but in a very different seat.
No longer does the man who oversees the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have one of the biggest voices at National Security Council meetings, as he did when Mr. Bush gave him 20 minutes during hourlong weekly sessions to present his views in live video feeds from Baghdad. No longer is the general, with the Capitol Hill contacts and web of e-mail relationships throughout Washington’s journalism establishment, testifying in media explosions before Congress, as he did in September 2007, when he gave 34 interviews in three days.
The change has fueled speculation in Washington about whether General Petraeus might seek the presidency in 2012. His advisers say that it is absurd — but in immediate policy terms, it means there is one less visible advocate for the military in the administration’s debate over whether to send up to 40,000 additional troops to Afghanistan.
Perhaps I’m just a rube, but I cannot fathom how Bumiller gets from Point A–Gen. Petraeus’ likely discontent with his role in the Obama administration–to Point B–a presidential run in 2012–without any factual or even insinuated support whatsoever. Is it just me, or do the only sources (and anonymous ones at that) actually go out of their way to explain that the general has no such ambition?
His advisers say that it is absurd. Sounds pretty clear to me. Not “under consideration.” No “keeping his options open.” Nothing of the sort. Absurd.
“General Petraeus has not hinted to anyone that he is interested in political life, and in fact has said on many occasions that he’s not.” And this from his former executive officer. Again, not even the slightest bit of innuendo.
No matter how you look at it, there is no evidence whatsoever that Gen. Petraeus has even given the slightest bit of consideration at all to the presidency. Sure, I’m fairly certain that someone in his position, dealing with the Obama White House, has from time to time thought to himself: “Geez, I could run this joint better than he is.” But that’s not enough for the Times to cite “speculation in Washington” and overtly suggest a presidential run.
Ever since I was vigorously pulling for anybody but John McCain in the spring of 2008, I’ve been trying to explain that the political left and its mainstream press will choose for us exactly who we should and should not run in any given upcoming election. They love McCain, and his candidacy last year was a harsh lesson in the effectiveness of moderate Republicans in national elections. They love Gen. Colin Powell, and it doesn’t take a genius to remember how Powell put his weight behind then-candidate Obama at the time where it would be most hurtful for McCain and the GOP, or how he told the Wall Street Journal in May that America has changed, that “Americans do want to pay taxes for services,” and that “Americans are looking for more government in their life, not less.”
And just as the left and the press will explicitly tell us who they’d like to see the Republicans run in 2012, they’ll inform us just the same of who they’re scared of most. Last fall, Joe Wurzelbacher scared the Obama-loving media to death, so they did their level best to savage an everyday American who, just trying to make a living, dared ask a question of the frontrunner for the presidency. A month before that, the media was shocked and frightened by Sarah Palin’s uncanny ability to relate to people, and they went after her personally; in some cases, Palin helped by being unprepared for interviews, but in others the media just went too far. And most recently, when radio and television host Glenn Beck had single-handedly taken down communist Obama adviser Van Jones, the left got scared, and we saw MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann make a desperate plea to lefties at the Daily Kos for information with which he could smear Beck or his co-workers.
In truth, anybody from the right side of the political spectrum who emerges as someone who knows and can articulate the proper size, scope, reach and role of the federal government will find themselves at some point as the target of the left’s politics of personal destruction. Right now, even people who don’t pay attention to politics feel that something isn’t right. Perhaps it’s the change in topic at the nearest watercooler, or the Gadsden Flag that suddenly popped up in a neighbor’s yard. The federal government owns General Motors, is setting caps on executive pay, and is obviously not telling the truth with regard to health care reform. People know that something is up and, in 2010 and 2012, the sliding scale of liberal vs. conservative will be out, replaced by a more broad and meaningful distinction between liberty and tyranny, freedom and totalitarianism.
Find a well-spoken Republican who can tap into those misgivings with government, adequately convey that government is not the answer, and put into understandable terms exactly how this administration–and, in some part, the previous one–has failed America and why, and a Democratic Party fractured by failure will have a formidable foe. And the media will be relentless in its effort to disparage and defame the candidate, and derail the candidacy.
In short, if the media likes someone, and claims that the GOP should put their trust in them, that someone is absolutely, 100 percent wrong for the Republican party and for the country. The people to whom we should look for principled leadership are the ones who are savaged by the press. Look to the one who argues with facts and garners only emotion in return. Look to the one who has become a celebrity in their ability to generate pure animosity from the left. That’s the one we should look to. That’s the one that is worst for the American left, and thus best for America.
Therefore, the lesson remains that we should always beware the media bringing gifts. In the case of Gen. David Petraeus, who just two years ago was all wrong in the eyes of the press, it’s obvious that they’re up to no good by laying the groundwork now for an entirely presupposed presidential run.