For a guy who doesn't want the job, Gen. David Petraeus sure talks about the presidency a lot. So says the Associated Press in its dispatch today. The AP followed the head of US Central Command—who's credited with writing the book on counterinsurgency, turning Iraq around, keeping Afghanistan close, and generally making patriotism sexy again—as he participated in Q&A's around the country. And every time he was asked a question that bordered remotely on politics, he steered it into a denial that he's trained his sights on the White House:
Part of his stock reply to the politics question—even when it's not asked—is to cite lyrics from a Lorrie Morgan country-western song about rejecting an unwanted suitor: "What part of 'no' don't you understand?"
Then he chuckles as if to suggest he's a bit embarrassed by the fuss—fuss sometimes of his own making.
Is he keeping his options open?
By a long stretch, this isn't the first time "Petraeus" and "presidency" have been joined in the same sentence; two and a half years ago, MoJo's own DC-based Dan Schulman reported in great detail on the general's electoral potential. Even Bob Dole weighed in last year to give the noncandidate his endorsement for commander in chief. And no grassroots candidacy is truly complete without the occasional Astroturf blog of support.
But on further review (and ignoring the obvious concerns about militarism in electoral politics), a Petraeus candidacy might be healthy for the GOP—and for the country. He publicly supported the Obama administration's now-stalled plan to shutter Guantanamo Bay's detention facility and end torture. He holds a doctorate from Princeton and has surrounded himself with intellectuals, left and right, in and out of uniform, who embrace out-of-the-box thinking—no small feat in the military's often stultifying bureaucracy.