Speculation that Gen. David Petraeus may be under (super secret) consideration as former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney’s running mate — fueled by a report in the Drudge Report — is running wild in political Washington today.
1. He’s the head of the CIA: Petraeus has been the head of the Central Intelligence Agency — a position to which he was nominated by President Obama — just over a year. To not only leave that job behind but also leave it behind for an incredibly high profile role in support of the man trying to unseat his current boss seems totally anti-Petraeus and extremely unlikely.
2. He’s ruled out a political career: In August 2010, NBC’s David Gregory put the question of a political career to Petraeus. “I am not a politician, and I will never be, and I say that with absolute conviction,” Petraeus said, quoting Ulysses S. Grant, who, of course, did eventually run for president. Pushed on that point by Gregory, Petraeus clarified. “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,” he said. “No way, no how.”
3. Past performance=future results: You can usually tell what a person will do in the future by looking at what they have done in the past. Petraeus’ past has been filled with speculation about whether he might run for president (or some other office) — and not a single time has he even remotely flirted with the possibility. Petraeus’ situation is similar to that of Condoleezza Rice, another much speculated on VP possibility that isn’t going to happen. Rice has had umpteen chances to run for office and has always passed. That’s telling.
4. An economy election (still): Yes, a Petraeus pick would sure up questions regarding Romney’s expertise (or lack thereof) on matters of foreign policy and national security. But even a game-changer — we’re sending our royalty check for using that term to Mark Halperin/John Heilemann as we speak — such as picking Petraeus as VP wouldn’t likely change the focus of this election from the economy. And, on that, Petraeus gives Romney no boost at all.
5. Petraeus is smart. Petraeus knows that the second he entered the political arena, he could kiss his image as America’s top soldier — and beloved figure — goodbye. He only needs look at what happened to retired Gen. Wesley Clark during the 2004 campaign for evidence that the rules of the political road are very different from the ones that govern the military arena and the adjustment is not easily made. Or Al Haig in 1988. Colin Powell grasped that reality and took a pass. And, remember, the last high profile general to make the transition between the military and politics was Dwight Eisenhower six decades ago.