OKAY, two things: first, like a lot of you, I'm still trying to figure out what that first round of Petraeusmania had to do with a little thing some of us like to call "Reality", and second, by the time the Times turned up yesterday I was well into Day Two of my inquiry into how many Vicodin you have to take before it feels like you're on drugs.
Add in the Automotive Cultural Component, or ACC, which comes from watching the start of the F-1 race at Bahrain early in the AM, during which I was reminded a) that beginning in 2009, Formula One will require a so-called Kinetic Energy Recovery System, or KERS, which will turn some of the braking energy now lost as heat into stored electrical energy--compare American stock car racing, which took a decade to figure out how to run on unleaded fuel, and b) that the F-1 announcing crew manages to complete entire seasons without screaming anything on the order of NOW IT'S ALL ABOUT THE RACING!, something NASCAR can't get though a 30-second spot without, and I was in a mood even before I got to the Week in Review, I tells ya. Then I come upon this:
Iraq may be President Bush’s war, but Gen. David H. Petraeus has become its front man: a clear-speaking, politically savvy, post-Vietnam combat veteran with a Ph.D. from Princeton. Given the failures that have plagued the mission from the start, he may yet be Mr. Bush’s best hope for sustaining public support for an unpopular war once his presidency ends.
Uh, what? Someone 'fess up, now; you youngsters are just putting "post-" in front of shit just to fuck with the rest of us, right?
Now this astutely political general faces a season of political trials in the politically charged atmosphere of a presidential campaign — not to mention military ones, as illustrated by recent fighting in the southern city of Basra, which calls into question his efforts to prepare the Iraqi Army to stand on its own.
Or, in other words, the 1200-word piece (Is the White House General Petraeus' Next Command?) someone assigned three weeks ago to coincide with his Congressional testimony this week sorta self-destructed in the past ten days, but why waste all that typing?
Such is General Petraeus’s position that President Bush has repeatedly said that he would do nothing not recommended by his chosen commander in Iraq.
Dear reader, try to calculate what sort of salary it would take to get you to type that sentence in 2008.
And so successfully have the two men — civilian and soldier — managed to sustain the war in defiance of public opinion that some in the punditry and blogosphere have given voice to visions of him as a military man with a political future.
Or that one.
Great horned toads! You'd imagine the front page of the Week in Review might be one place where the half-witted droolery of "some in the punditry and blogosphere" was sharply reprimanded and forced to stand outside so as not to offend the sensibilities of the literate, not used as a springboard into idiocy.
While a Draft Petraeus campaign today may be little more than wishful thinking on the right, the buzz alone, from conservatives who relish the idea to liberals who seem mostly to loathe it, illustrates an abiding tradition of American politics. Anyone tough enough to battle through the fog of war, it is generally assumed, ought to be able easily to cut through the hot air of American politics.
Buzz? Buzz? You heard any out your way? Know any liberals who care one way or another whether David Petraeus competes for whatever Republican campaign donations might still be out there next time around? Hell, I can't find many who've given a thought to what President Obama will do on Day Two. In the world of friendly card games we call that a "tell".
“I think the psyche is looking for a new Eisenhower,” said Steven Clemons of the New America Foundation, a bipartisan research organization in Washington, who was among the first to discuss the prospect of a Petraeus presidential bid in his Washington Note blog last August. He outlined a scenario that had a newly retired Petraeus recapturing the White House for the Republicans in 2012 from a failed Democratic administration.
Let's be fair to Clemons: he was writing--last August--at the height of the ersatz Petraeusmania, and reporting a scenario being brutted about "by some in the military set , and increasingly among some pols". It was long enough ago that the "failed Democratic administration" was Hillary Clinton's.
Honestly, now, why should it have required the utter collapse of the whole The Surge Must Be Working, Otherwise We'd Still Be Reporting On The War business over the past two weeks to have consigned this one to the crapper? Are the other mindless fantasies of that bunch newsworthy? (I mean the ones they own up to, the ones involving Star Trek military technology and body-painting a pneumatic and malleable Yvonne Craig.)
The idea is as old as the Republic — from George Washington through Ulysses S. Grant to Dwight D. Eisenhower. But it is most fecund in times of war. Douglas MacArthur flirted with presidential politics in 1952 after President Truman fired him, and in 1968 there was buzz about William Westmoreland before Vietnam went all wrong.Is this just another one of those post- gags? 1968 was not "before Vietnam went all wrong". That was 1945.
I was somewhere between eleven and fifteen when this would have happened, so I had other things on my mind, but I did read the papers and for the life of me I don't remember the name of William Westmoreland being attached to anything in those days except strings of expletives. (Wikipedia insists that Time mentioned him as a potential candidate in 1967; but the article itself says his name is "sure to crop up", without suggesting where, exactly, and notes:
...though he would have to come home with a clear-cut victory in Viet Nam and that is at best a remote possibility
so we'll give them 1 out of 2.)
Washington, Grant, and Eisenhower. It's possible the recently comatose might miss the fact that their victories were highly popular (victories usually are), even if their wars weren't always overwhelmingly so. To the list of general officers we can add William Henry Harrison and Rutherford Birchard Hayes (breveted); Jackson and Teddy Roosevelt were heroic colonels. On the other hand voters also chose the draft-evading Grover Cleveland and (arguendo) the combat-avoiding Clinton and Bush II. John McCain seems the last hope for any combat veteran of Korea or Vietnam to be elected, and any veteran of any Iraq war to manage the feat will almost certainly be competing against the tendency, in the Republican party at least, of not actually going in for that sort of thing on a personal level.
You might think that, when recent memory offers up electoral duds like Powell and Clark, let alone a Westmoreland, LeMay, Ridgeway, or MacArthur, and when every schoolboy ought to remember how George McClellan's national political career turned out, that this sort of thing could be overcome with just the timely application of a cold washcloth and a few horizontal minutes.