ANALYSIS: Dave the Dull
The New York Times updates us on the burgeoning White House-Pentagon split over Afghanistan and how it relates to Gen. David Petraeus’ potential presidential bid in 2012,
No longer does [Petraeus] 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.
Petraeus is lying low in part because his potential presidential bid “worries” political aides at the White House, the Times reports. The remarkable general’s closest aides say idea he’s running for president is “absurd,” but that the administration is “rightly” suspicious because of rampant speculation.
General Petraeus’s aides now privately call him “Dave the Dull,” and say he has largely muzzled himself from the fierce public debate about the war to avoid antagonizing the White House, which does not want pressure from military superstars and is wary of the general’s ambitions in particular.
The article says President Obama himself is not worried about Petraeus’ potential presidential bid, “at least according to one of his top advisers.”
The Times story offers important contributions to how the White House-Pentagon split is affecting a potential bid for the presidency from Gen. Petraeus.
For instance, the small chance Petraeus will run against Obama is seemingly terrifying the president’s political advisors — so much so that the man in charge of the Global War on Terror “overseas contingency operations” has to keep his head down. An American general in charge of two wars must lie low rather than face the wrath of Rahm “it through” Emanuel.
(”What the f*&#” are you doing? That’s terrible politics,” Emanuel, Obama’s Chief of Staff, said when presented with the Treasury Department’s considered plan to save our economy.)
And lets be clear here, Petraeus isn’t at fault. He’s never said he’s interested in running. All he’s ever done is successfully turn around a complete debacle in Iraq and continue the hard work in his new position of managing both that war and Afghanistan. But importantly, Petraeus is smart enough to navigate the petty political tyrants in the White House.
He knows how to make his way through minefields like this,” said Jack Keane, the former vice chief of staff of the Army.
Another interesting point from the Times article is that Petraeus’ aides are vehemently denying the speculation that he will run for President in 2012. What does that mean, exactly? We’ve heard denials from Petraeus before, but it hasn’t stopped speculation he will run. Why not? Because he is “the most political general of our generation,” as some have said?
“He understands the Congress better than any military commander I’ve ever met,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Republican, who said that General Petraeus had the nationwide influence to serve as a spokesman for the administration’s policy on the Afghan war.
Your correspondent’s opinion is that the speculation continues because Gen. David Petraeus is a beacon of competence when most citizens disdain the feckless political class that continues to enmesh Washington in silliness and scandals. With a man as successful as Petraeus, speculation is only bound to grow. Some hope the denials are not serious.