Petraeus for President? and the Fall of Penn, Inc.

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It was announced a short bit ago that Mark Penn is stepping down (well, has been fired) as chief strategist of the Clinton campaign. My colleague and friend Mark Schmitt was the first to really nail the problem that Penn had in serving union-busting clients and foreign governments on trade deals while co-heading a presidential campaign that was sending love notes to unions and promising to rip up trade treaties.
On another front, I speculated a while back that General David Petraeus may be a Wes Clark in the making for the Republicans — particularly for the 2012 presidential race.
The possibility of seeing a new General turn President emerge was focused on in the New York Times over the weekend with a nice nod in an article, “Generally Speaking” by Steven Lee Myers to the original piece I wrote. And I stand by it. I do think that much of the country is looking for a new Eisenhower.
— Steve Clemons

Comments

27 comments on “Petraeus for President? and the Fall of Penn, Inc.

  1. Kathleen says:

    Ike said Beware the Military Industiral Complex… what about that doesn’t Petraeus get?

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  2. David says:

    Not only is David Petraeus not Dwight David Eisenhower, he’s not really even close. And the more I learn about the later DDE, the more I think he, like Carter, had the capacity for growth as a civilian political leader, no small feat for a general. The other general in that category is Wesley Clark, and I just don’t see Wesley Clark’s positive civilian attributes in Petraeus. And as I’ve said before, I don’t think Petraeus is intellectually honest with himself, although apparently he did admit to Robert Wexler in his testimony that the US is in Iraq to further US interests (he did then try to wrap it in the standard nonsense about Iraqi interests, but he was momentarily candid). He is also either quite duplicitous, or else just a company man when he ignores Maliki’s desire for the US to leave. The most blatant absurdity, of course, is Bush’s position that David Petraeus should decide how long US troops should remain in Iraq. Excuse me? Maybe Bush could go one step further and say that Exxon/Mobil should decide how long US troops should remain in Iraq.
    When people speak to you about a preventive war, you tell them to go and fight it. After my experience, I have come to hate war. War settles nothing: Dwight David Eisenhower : 34th president of the United States, 1890-1969

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  3. David says:

    Very well put, Pauline. And god love Joe Biden for coming through (and earning his paycheck and his stripes) with that exchange.

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  4. pauline says:

    Steve,
    I wanted to make your topic here just a bit more relevant thanks to Christy Hardin Smith.
    “That was a very significant moment at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearings with Amb. Ryan Crocker and Gen. David Petraeus. Joe Biden asked Amb. Crocker whether it would be better for American national security interests to eliminate Al Qaeda in Iraq or Al Qaeda along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. Crocker had nowhere to hide with that question. Spencer Ackerman describes the outcome.
    Crocker, in an impossible political position — give the correct answer and humiliate the Bush administration; give the administration’s answer and look like a fool — dodged as much as he could. Then Biden forced him down. Crocker: “I would therefore pick Al Qaeda on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.”
    Game over.
    Every single argument that the Administration and their lapdogs like John McCain have made or are making break down after that answer. The Ambassador to Iraq just admitted that Iraq is not the central front in the war on terror. He just admitted that the potential for Al Qaeda to gain a beachhead in Iraq should the United States withdraw is miniscule compared to the already-established beachhead along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. He admitted that the global fight against terror is currently misdirected.”
    see —
    http://firedoglake.com/

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  5. ben cronin says:

    I think the commenter above is right, Steve — as much as I admire your work (one of the strengths of which is its connection to the power centers in DC) — there is very little yearning for a general/man on white horse out here in the provinces.
    Maybe you and Yglesias should spend a semester or something in Michigan or New Mexico, or hell, even Boston or NYC or LA, get a better sense of the people.
    Truly meant as a friendly suggestion.

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  6. David says:

    Wes Clark did not act, talk, or think like a warrior king. Thus he did not tap into the tribal human attraction for same. I think Steve correctly asserts that [many] Americans are looking for an Ike, which is truly sad. As generals go, Ike made an ok president, and he did come to realize what a threat the military-business community unholy marriage was becoming. And he did stand as a symbol of a nation uniting to defeat the greatest military threat of its era. But he was not a great president, the country did not do all that well under his two administrations, and the horror show that is the current nightmare in the Middle East got its contemporary start with the US’s criminal overthrow of the democratically elected government of Iran, thanks to the myopic anti-communism of Ike’s secretary of state John Foster Dulles and the criminal greed of British petroleum interests. It was also on Ike’s watch that we overthrew the democratically elected government of Guatamala, which was inspired by the criminal greed of United Fruit.
    I think Steve was correct to remind us of this political phenomenon, and I am depressed that there is at least some validity to his assertion. But since I was ages 10 through 18 during the Eisenhower years, I have to agree that Petraeus is no Eisenhower. I think the analogy to Westmoreland is much more apt. Petraeus is Westmoreland with a higher iq, but also possibly with less personal integrity and much more political ambition, as well as a worse case of being blinded by his own ego. If he can say with a straight face that the surge is accomplishing something genuinely positive, or that the Iraq War is anything besides a highly destructive disaster, he is either intellectually dishonest or else able to lie quite effectively to himself.

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  7. arthurdecco says:

    Reading Steve’s comments on Gen. Petraeus got me quietly humming the Gang of Four’s, “I Love a Man in a Uniform”. (Just for the infectious hook, of course.)
    As for the Ike/Patraeus comparison…
    yikes!

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  8. JohnH says:

    Paul Norheim gets it right. Steve is about ambiguity, not clarity.
    Why is the US in Iraq? No comment, until Greenspan let the cat out of the bag last September. After all, why would anyone care to speculate about why we’re throwing $3Trillion down the rat hole?
    Why was Bush threatening Iran, given the latest NIE which discounted Iran’s drive for nuclear weapons and the “success of the surge” which made it hard to reconcile with Iranian trouble making? No comment, not worth discussing. Why would anyone possibly care about America’s real goals and ambitions for Iran?
    What is the US’ current strategy in Iraq? Why were Cheney and McCain in Baghdad at the same time? Why did al-Maliki attack al-Sadr a week later? Were the two connected? No comment, not worth speculating about, not interesting. Why would anyone care that the US is trying to get the elections fixed for al-Maliki in advance?
    http://www.salon.com/opinion/feature/2008/04/01/basra/index.html
    Or that Petraeus might blame Iran for waging war on the US via al-Sadr? Why would anyone care if Petraeus is setting the stage for war with Iran?
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2008/04/05/wiran105.xml
    Everything is open for discussion except what really matters. It’s better to speculate about Petraeus’ possible presidential ambitions than his immediate goals for more war in Iraq and Iran.

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  9. redneckrepub says:

    From your lofty perch atop the think-tank, foundation, and blathering but otherwise useless conference-going elite, along with the DC cocktail-wienie circuit inhabited by the likes of Broder, the Roberts’s, Novack, Will, and the rest of the assorted self-absorbed commentariat and press corpse, you fail to realize that Petreaus is certainly not Eisenhower, he’s actually Westmoreland; a seemingly decent, semi-competent General given an impossible task by ego-driven politicians who’s own son’s and daughter’s would never be involved in the resulting quagmire.
    Westmoreland was a failure and, more importantly, a loser, as is Petraeus and American’s don’t usually reward losers. Of course, that in no way means that he won’t become President; after all, the politically naïve American public did manage to elect Nixon and two Bushes to the office, and from the looks of it are ready to elect McCain, who if given the chance will definitely be runner-up to Dubya as the worst President in the history of this once great country.

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  10. Kathleen says:

    Mark Penn: From WhiteWater to BlackWater…We’ve come a long way, baby… or have we?
    I’ve been more concerned about penn’s close association with BlackWater, a very profitable no-bid contractor in Iraq…
    What happened to the legal proinciple of “Arm’s length” associations? I guess Penn was within book-bag hurling distance… too close for comfort, shall we say?

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  11. Tiparillo says:

    I do think that much of the country is looking for a new Eisenhower.
    Based on what? Out in “real” America I have not heard one person ecxpress anything that would make me think there is a longing for Ike, nor that Petraeus is highly enough regarded to make this comparison valid. Maybe its just the circles I run in.
    Steve, I think you need to get out of the Beltway

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  12. DonS says:

    I want to apologize for the typos in my earlier post. Never the greatest editor (contrary to my wife’s constant reminders), I posted my somewhat visceral reaction to the notion of Petraeus on the white horse out of a continuing sense of disgust at the imbecilic way in which the pols and the media continue to regard questions of importance. Even acknowledging that the American public wins no awards for real attention to substance, it doesn’t help to condescend with clichés.
    While it makes for sexy entertainment, what might be some real issues a military person turned politician should be flogging that might have actual import? Reducing the size of the military to a reasonable portion of GDP; crafting a military that supports a retooled diplomatic approach to dealing with the world; exposing the excesses and corruption of the military-industrial complex that Ike presciently warned about. And, I might add, proposing a military for a world in which the United States is no longer hegemonic.
    Massive military threat and power is so irrelevant to the challenges of this time. Our politicians apparently lack the imagination or courage to set a different course. The fate of the Roman Empire is lost on us. I don’t give much of a hoot for the institutions of power that are becoming more and more irrelevant the day — although I do fear the rise of paranoiac surveillance and control. But I do mourn for the people who really suffer under a government that is increasingly incapable to providing the underpinnings that support continued basic needs on a reasonable basis, the only really meaningful security for the individual.
    So, by all means, let’s speculate about the wonder of a President Petraeus. The best of “America’s finest”. What could be more apposite?

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  13. Paul Norheim says:

    “And I stand by it. I do think that much of the country is looking
    for a new Eisenhower.”
    Here we encounter Steve Clemons` well known ambiguity again.
    Apart from the alleged similarities between the two generals,
    what is this supposed to mean?
    That the Americans are looking for someone who may, let`s say
    criticize, or confront the military/industrial(/congressional)
    complex? And that General Petraeus is likely to do so?
    Or that the Americans (and Steve Clemons?) are looking for a
    General to become the political leader of the nation?
    Or perhaps something else?
    Ambiguities, ambiguities…
    The good thing about this, is that it may generate, or provoke
    good comments (from people with more knowledge about
    American politics than myself). Mr. Clemons knows very well
    that he is provocative. In his original post in August he said:
    “Petraeus would be the Republican’s version of a Wesley Clark –
    – a new Eisenhower. . .perhaps (though one senior retired
    military friend of mine nearly tossed it up when the comparison
    to Eisenhower whom he admires came up).”
    And now he repeats that comparison.
    However, the readers of his blog have to ask themselves:
    When are Mr. Clemons`statements to be read as well (or not-
    so-well) informed speculations? And when do they also reflect
    his own opinions?
    And when do they reflect, let`s say 50% of his opinion on a
    certain issue (the rest of his opinion going in the opposite
    direction)?
    And when (and this is where the reader may have more trouble
    with the whole enterprise) does it simply reflect his wish to
    flatter some faction among the powerful? And within the
    flattering business: when does he do this for political reasons,
    and when for personal reasons, private ambitions etc?
    All of this may become clearer the day Steve Clemons quits this
    blog, being asked to work for a new administration.

    Reply

  14. Dan says:

    I second all those above who do not see a comparison to Ike. Secondly, why do you think America is looking for a military leader? Haven’t Americans actually been saying that they’ve had enough of war? Does it make sense to then say that they want a war leader when they don’t want more war?

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  15. Mr.Murder says:

    Petey- or whatever other name dubya calls the gen’ral, is far from being Ike material.
    As for Penn, his departure is good news. Even when he’s right he finds wrong ways of communicating the fact. His client list had multpile conflicts with trying develop transparency in government.
    His firm got the Exelon payroll too. Good riddancew.

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  16. they live says:

    2012 is a long way away. Methinks the USA will be in a much different place. Petraeus will be yesterday’s general in the way Schwartzkopf or Franks are.
    But isn’t it kind of shameless that Petraeus has allowed himself to be used by Freedom’s Watch? His image is all over their ads on the right-wing blogs. Has he asked them to stop using him?

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  17. pt says:

    What makes you think Petraeus is a Republican?

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  18. Cee says:

    Please. Penn quit because he lost a paying client.
    Someone needs to ask Bill Clinton about his good relationship with Uribe.
    Alert the press.

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  19. JohnH says:

    I can just see Steve’s dream ticket for ‘012: Patraeus (a million dead Iraqis, $3 Trillion down the drain) and Chuck Hagel, a man with such leadership skills that he can’t even convince himself to vote for what he proposes.

    Reply

  20. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Why not run this lyin’ sack of shit Feith for Pres?
    After all, he and Petraeus are cut of the same cloth.
    Hell, if we are going to use a lack of integrity as a presidential qualification, which we would have to do should we deem Petraeus qualified, there is no shortage of candidates in Bushworld. We have a whole legion of qualified Senators and Congress people, as well as the entire cabinet of the Bush Administration. We could throw in a few dozen think tankers as well.
    Ah heck, lets just run Limbaugh or Coulter.
    http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2008/04/03/60minutes/main3992653.shtml
    Asked why was the decision made to go after Saddam Hussein after 9/11, when even then, the United States government realized Saddam didn’t have anything to do with the attacks, Feith answers, “What we did after 9/11 was look broadly at the international terrorist network from which the next attack on the United States might come. And we did not focus narrowly only on the people who were specifically responsible for 9/11. Our main goal was preventing the next attack.”
    Kroft follows up, asking, “So you’re saying you didn’t think it was that important to go after the people who were responsible for it — more important to go after people who weren’t responsible for it?”
    “No,” Feith explains, “I think it was important to go after the people who were responsible for 9/11. But it was also important to disrupt the international terrorist networks and prevent whatever plans there were for follow-on attacks.”

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  21. carsick says:

    The “Republicans Wesley Clark”? Yeah, that went well for the Democrats in the primaries. Petraus has no charisma. On a completely shallow level, Ike looked and sounded like a commander, Petraus looks like and sounds like a middle manager.
    I would like to see Wesley Clark in the cabinet though.

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  22. Bartolo says:

    Petraeus heads a different kind of war from WWII.
    WWII could not really be called popular but was mainly deemed necessary; Iraq not so much.

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  23. DonS says:

    Comparing Ike to Patreaus dishonors Ike.
    I realize the media can package anyone to appeal to a polpulace who accepts anything. They’d probably package Patraeus as some f*****g anti-terrier genuis. What’s he doing? Lying for this corrupt administration while folks die in a war that never should have been fought, and should be ended ASAP. Not saying this NOW distinguishes Patreaus how?
    To compare Ike’s command with Patreus is a joke.
    Its easy to tell who was alive at when Ike was and has some respect for the genuine article versus some media construct. And I’m not even an Ike “fan” like many of my generation.
    The comparison dishonors Ike.

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  24. PissedOffAmerican says:

    There can be no greater abomination than a general who will sacrifice his troops, and the truth, for political ambitions.

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  25. Mike Claussen says:

    I do appreciate your insights, from time to time, but to think that a fruit salad general has something to say to the country is stretching things a bit. Medals are for a box; a coffin or a cigar box stuffed in a closet. Come to think of it, so are meaningless comments, like this one.

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  26. John Shreffler says:

    Try MacArthur. Davy P. is no Ike, as you can easily tell by all the
    meaningless fruit salad Davy P. wears in front of the cameras. Ike
    wore a couple of rows and let the rest hang.

    Reply

  27. latelyfishing says:

    Steve, congrats on the hearty mention in the New York Times’
    Week in Review. it has been clear to me for a long time that you
    are one of the best synthesizers of trends and political movements
    in the business and its to our great benefit and delight that you
    share your thinking with us. I know you get beat up on by some of
    your readers now and then, but they really all love what you do and
    how you provoke them with your sensible provocations.
    Keep up your great work, and thanks from a fan.

    Reply

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