Peter Beinart: Petraeus is the only candidate who can unite the GOP

posted at 10:21 pm on October 13, 2009 by Allahpundit

I wish he was wrong.

As personalities, the syntax-mangling Ike and the self-consciously intellectual David Petraeus don’t have much in common. But politically, they’re in a parallel position. Today’s GOP has a right-wing base that can damage Obama, but none of its favorites have a prayer of winning the White House. The reason is that just like the Republican right of the early 1950s, which kept insisting that the New Deal constituted socialism (or fascism), today’s conservative activists have not accommodated themselves to some basic shifts in public mood. Over the past couple of decades, the American people have grown more pro-environment, more culturally tolerant, and more suspicious of the unregulated free market, and yet the Republican Party has responded with a series of litmus tests for its presidential candidates that represent the political equivalent of sticking your fingers in your ears and yelling “la la la, I can’t hear you.”…

Like McCain in 2008, Petraeus could largely skip the Iowa caucuses, which evangelicals dominate, and instead focus on New Hampshire, where independents can vote. In both 2000 and 2008, it was New Hampshire that boosted McCain, and New Hampshire, as it turns out, is the closest thing Petraeus has to a home state. From there it would be on to South Carolina, where military pedigrees go a long way.

All this is wildly speculative, of course. But there’s a political logic to it: Parties that have grown narrow and extreme tend to spiral downward until they nominate someone who is not beholden to their narrow, extreme base. That person has to be so popular that he or she can defy the normal rules about how candidates get nominated. Right now, David Petraeus is the only Republican who fits the bill. In the weeks ahead, McChrystal may become a conservative folk hero for opposing Obama on Afghanistan. But for Democrats looking toward 2012 and 2016, it’s Petraeus who represents the real threat.

We’ve been over this before. He gave a Sherman statement to Chris Wallace back in 2007. Even if he was inclined to renege, it’s hard to believe he’d do it to challenge his own commander-in-chief in 2012. If it’s going to happen, it’ll happen in 2016, and that’ll require another crushing GOP defeat against The One.

That said, Beinart’s larger point is well taken. Among the major Republican candidates, the only one who truly excites the base is Palin, yet she’s sufficiently poisonous to moderates at the moment that Bob McDonnell won’t even take her up on her offer to campaign for him in Virginia while sitting on a nine-point lead. Petraeus is the only person on the landscape, it seems, capable of intriguing the base and centrists. His problem is that, for the foreseeable future, the country’s problems don’t play to his strengths. Ike was an easy choice for post-war America because he epitomized strength and victory at a moment when the red menace was top priority; our own top priority for most of the next decade, I imagine, will be unemployment and debt unless Iran or North Korea does something astoundingly nutty. Why look to a general to deal with that? Like Beinart says, a serious look at Petraeus would require another Republican flameout in 2012, driving the party to such desperation that they’ll practically be forced to look outside the box. He’ll only be 64 in 2016. Why not?


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You MIGHT see a Palin/Petraeus ticket, but I promise you Sarah will never, ever, ever run as someone else’s number two again. It doesn’t work for her.

Sarah is an alpha and needs to be calling the shots. She’s the one with the leadership skills and the political savvy. Sarah has proven herself to be a natural.

Had Sarah been running the show instead of McCain and his band of fools we might have a very different group of folks in the WH right now.

No second chair for Sarah Palin!

gary4205 on October 14, 2009 at 2:38 AM

I would love the ticket in any order – but I am fairly confident Sarah would accept a VP nomination from Petraeus.

Mitt Romney, Ron Paul, Pawlenty she might tell to kiss her ass – I think Petraeus is another matter entirely.

Mr Purple on October 14, 2009 at 2:46 PM

Back to Basics for the Republican Party

modifiedcontent on October 14, 2009 at 2:54 PM

Republican heroes

modifiedcontent on October 14, 2009 at 2:56 PM

Thaddeus McCotter

modifiedcontent on October 14, 2009 at 2:57 PM

Parties that have grown narrow and extreme tend to spiral downward until they nominate someone who is not beholden to their narrow, extreme base.

Pointed it out in headlines, will reiterate here:

Somebody needs to google “1980″ and “1994.” The most energized GOP electorates in recent history have come about by a clear appeal to basic principles, not an amorphous platform that seeks to satisfy the ever-changing “independent” mind.

cs89 on October 14, 2009 at 3:04 PM

Why do all these wizards always talk on as if Ronald Reagan never happened?

cjk on October 14, 2009 at 3:12 PM

Somebody needs to google “1980″ and “1994.” The most energized GOP electorates in recent history have come about by a clear appeal to basic principles, not an amorphous platform that seeks to satisfy the ever-changing “independent” mind.

Yes, the Republican party should stand for clear, basic principles, but that does NOT mean “the conservative base” should dictate the agenda and veto candidates like Giuliani.

As a former Democrat, divorcee, actor from Hollywood, Ronald Reagan would never have gotten the nomination in the current Republican party.

The resurgence of the Republican party is coming from libertarians and the tea party movement, despite “the conservative base”. Conservatives are not standing up for individual liberty and capitalism.

Sarah Palin understands this. That’s why she’s going rogue. It’s an uphill battle, made much harder by clueless conservatives and birther idiots.

modifiedcontent on October 14, 2009 at 3:19 PM

I’ve argued with Jetboy about many issues and slammed him without mercy for what I thought were his terrible statements about Mis California and a few other topics. However, I’ve never disparaged him for his sexuality

Loxodonta

I have to agree. Platypus my friend, no need to be unkind, its uncalled for.

beachgirlusa on October 14, 2009 at 3:51 PM

An awesome ticket would be Patreaus/ Jindall , Sarah Palin had her chance and I believe she’s damaged goods. I’d like to see how the media could even begin to demonize P/J.

ntmaloney on October 14, 2009 at 4:38 PM

Ayatollah Khamenei has died. The formal announcement is expected to be made tomorrow morning (Tehran time).

There are said to be many tears (of joy) in Tehran.

J_Crater on October 14, 2009 at 4:42 PM

As a former Democrat, divorcee, actor from Hollywood, Ronald Reagan would never have gotten the nomination in the current Republican party.

Bull, you’re full of it.

cjk on October 14, 2009 at 5:27 PM

modifiedcontent on October 14, 2009 at 3:19 PM

The current “conservative base” is stricter than Falwell and the “Moral Majority?”

In what galaxy?

cs89 on October 14, 2009 at 8:57 PM

I’d like to see how the media could even begin to demonize P/J.

ntmaloney on October 14, 2009 at 4:38 PM

You’re kidding, right? Anyone can be demonized when there’s no concern for truth. Just make up crap, throw it at the wall, and see what sticks. And something would stick.

ddrintn on October 14, 2009 at 9:57 PM

An awesome ticket would be Patreaus/ Jindall , Sarah Palin had her chance and I believe she’s damaged goods. I’d like to see how the media could even begin to demonize P/J.

ntmaloney on October 14, 2009 at 4:38 PM

You’re very naive if you don’t believe that the media will give Petraeus and Jindal the Sarah Palin treatment. And you’re not a very loyal Republican to run away from Palin because the media beat her up.

Hey look … I don’t care who we nominate – they’re going to get pummeled by the press. If you think Petraeus won’t then you don’t remember the ad that the NYT ran that said “General Betrayus”. Jindal? Hehe – he made the GOP response to the SOTU this year. He peaked his head up above the weeds for five minutes and the media gave him a crew cut with a machete. “Not ready for prime time” … “What’s that … a Southern Plantation he’s speaking from?”

And my favorite …

Helen Thomas’ remark … “Slumdog Millionaire”.

It was enough for Jindal to go silent for six months. He’s only now peaking his head above the bushes again.

Everyone gets the Sarah Palin treatment bro – everyone becomes damaged goods. But the fact is – Sarah Palin survived it while most don’t.

HondaV65 on October 14, 2009 at 11:07 PM

Patreaus? He didn’t get the nickname betrayus for nothing. We need more troops, less troops, more agressive, less agressive tactics, and he is a republican or a democrat depending on who is asking and where it gets him.
He is the last person I would vote for!

respectamerica on October 15, 2009 at 12:14 AM

i would hope Patreaus would not want to step into the vicious political system we have.

centryt on October 15, 2009 at 1:23 AM

Personally, I think a Romney/Patreaus ticket wouldn’t be a bad idea.

Conservative Samizdat on October 15, 2009 at 2:04 AM

Reagan didn’t win the first time around.

My vote is for Romney the second time.

scotash on October 15, 2009 at 3:00 AM

Some of our most noted presidents were also military leaders. George Washington, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Zachary Taylor (okay, so not all of them were “most noted”)… It might just work. Provided he considers running.

Aronne on October 15, 2009 at 10:53 AM

scotash on October 15, 2009 at 3:00 AM

Exactly. That’s why he gets my vote in 2012.

Conservative Samizdat on October 15, 2009 at 12:18 PM

scotash on October 15, 2009 at 3:00 AM
Exactly. That’s why he gets my vote in 2012.

Conservative Samizdat on October 15, 2009 at 12:18 PM

He was my vote in the primaries. If there isn’t another stronger candidate, I’ll vote for him again.
He’s extremely intelligent & gets crap done.
Didn’t like his health care thing in MI-but I’m confident he can push this country in a much better financial direction than any other candidate.
But I bet they’ll shoot him down again for being a Mormon.
The prejudice is so nasty out there.

Badger40 on October 15, 2009 at 2:12 PM

But I bet they’ll shoot him down again for being a Mormon.
The prejudice is so nasty out there.

Badger40 on October 15, 2009 at 2:12 PM

Shooting Mitt down because he’s Mormon may not work in 2012. People will either get tired of bigotry or just see right through it.

There are good and bad politicians that belong to every religious denomination. For example, Mitt Romney is a great LDS politician but Harry Reid is a crappy LDS politician. So, religion doesn’t matter.

Besides, people will have seen Mitt since the election and through the years and will see what Mitt is really like as a person and as a politician.

Conservative Samizdat on October 16, 2009 at 3:06 AM

Beinart doesn´t know what he´s talking about. He is fixated on a caricature of Republicans. Besides, I don´t believe people have become more suspicious of free markets. Obama dreams of being the next FDR or LBJ but he cannot even go as far as they did without running into trouble.

Petraeus is a great general and might be a great president but there is no evidence that he can be an effective candidate.

Most likely, the GOP candidate will be a former governor (Jindal, Jeb Bush, Romney, Pawlenty, Daniels, Huckabee etc) and they all know the political realities and they are all both pragmatic and conservative enough.

el gordo on October 16, 2009 at 9:28 AM

Everyone gets the Sarah Palin treatment bro – everyone becomes damaged goods. But the fact is – Sarah Palin survived it while most don’t.
HondaV65 on October 14, 2009 at 11:07 PM

Sorry, but if she had survived she would still be governor of Alaska. She had to step down, in effect ending her career. I like her, but politically that is not “surviving”.

Your general point is correct. They will do this to every GOP candidate, no matter who he is. Let´s not forget: even a moderate squish like John McBipartisan was demonized as a senile cancer victim who liked to bomb civilians.

el gordo on October 16, 2009 at 9:34 AM

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