The 14-year-old boy in me is extremely excited about the tantalizing possibility that
CIA director David Petraeus, the most talented general of his generation and
one of the few broadly respected figures in American political life, is being
mooted as a potential veep pick for Mitt Romney. Picking Petraeus would inject
some real excitement into a race that has turned into the second coming of Clinton-Dole:
a real snoozefest. It would instantly transform the 2012 election from a race
over taxes, jobs, and health care (boring!) into one about the good stuff:
foreign policy and national security.
But the grownup in me realizes that this a pundit's fantasy,
not to mention a diversion of dubious provenance (I mean, come on -- are we
supposed to believe Obama bundlers go around whispering sweet nothings in Matt
Drudge's ear?). So here are five reasons why -- sorry, Bill Kristol -- it ain't
gonna happen. (See also Chris Cillizza's convincing
1. Petraeus doesn't
want the job
How many times has David Petraeus disavowed holding any
political ambitions? Here he is in
March 2010: "I thought I'd said 'no' about as many ways as I could. I
really do mean no ... I will not ever run for political office, I can assure
you." Here he is in August 2012 in an exchange on Meet the Press:
PETRAEUS: Well, I am not a
politician, and I will never be, and I say that with absolute conviction.
GREGORY: Well, that's what he said. But does that mean that you're totally
clear? That you'd never run for President?
PETRAEUS: Yeah, I really am. You know, and I've said that I'll adopt what
Sherman said and go back and look at what has come to be known as a Shermanesque
answer on that particular question.
GREGORY: No way, no how?
PETRAEUS: No way, no how.
Of course, political figures go back on their word all the
time. But as Petraeus himself has pointed out, it wouldn't be very auspicious
for his first political act to be a flip-flop.
Not yet convinced? NBC's Andrea Mitchell tweeted earlier today: "sources
close to Gen David Petraeus laugh off Drudge report he is a Romney veep
possible - #notgonnahappen."
2. He's head of the
CIA, for Pete's sake
Why would Petraeus want to leave his post as director of the
Central Intelligence Agency, still one of the top jobs in Washington even after
the post-9/11 "reforms," to be Mitt Romney's pilot fish? The vice presidency is
still, even in the wake of powerful veeps like Dick Cheney and Joe Biden, a
dog's breakfast. Or, as America's first No. 2, John Adams, once put it, "the
most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived or his
imagination conceived." (Or, if you prefer, "not worth a pitcher of warm piss,"
in the immortal words of FDR's otherwise unmemorable veep John Nance Garner.)
Even if you see Petraeus as an ambitious climber always looking for the next
branch, the vice presidency would be a step down, not a step up. In any case, he'd
probably rather run the Pentagon.
3. Petraeus doesn't
do domestic policy
Rice, Petraeus doesn't do domestic issues. And if anything, he's got even
less of a paper trail on things like education, where at least Rice showed some
private interest. Can you imagine Petraeus weighing in on heated debates about
abortion or tax policy? Me neither. Domestic issues may bore people like you
and me, dear FP reader, but they are full of pitfalls for amateurs who aren't
fully schooled in constituent politics. In any case, if Romney is clear about
anything, it's that this election will be about jobs and the economy. And I
don't think Petraeus's strong record of creating jobs for drone manufacturers
is going to cut it.
4. Romney doesn't
think outside the box
Even if you ignore the fact that Petraeus wouldn't take the
job, would Romney even offer it to him? That's highly doubtful. The Romney
campaign is all about avoiding John McCain's mistakes -- and one of those
mistakes was thinking outside the box to choose Sarah Palin, then the
little-known governor of Alaska. And we know how that worked out. No wonder
Team Romney is thought
to be in the hunt for an "incredibly boring white guy." The former
Massachusetts governor is not known for flights of fancy -- one associate told New York magazine that Romney "never
took big risks" as a business executive. As a politician, he's been even more
5. The White House
categorically denied it
In his item, Drudge attributed the speculation that Romney
might tap Petraeus to none other than POTUS himself. "President Obama whispered
to a top fundraiser this week that he believes GOP presidential hopeful Mitt
Romney wants to name Gen. David Petraeus to the VP slot!" he wrote.
But in Tuesday's press briefing, White House spokesman Jay
Carney left no room for interpretation as to whether Obama had said such a
thing. "I can say with absolute confidence that such an assertion [has] never
been uttered by the president," Carney said, adding a swipe at Drudge for
good measure. "And again, be mindful of your sources."
One usually has to parse White House statements for ye olde
non-denial denial, but that's pretty categorical.
MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images