I endorse Bill Kristol’s approach here. On a day when news is slow, why not make your own news by trolling the left?
As we went through Kemp’s political career, I was reminded again of his boldness, especially of course in economic policy, of his willingness he to take on the conventional wisdom and the establishments of both parties. And of his populism. Which I’m convinced more than ever has to be a big part of the GOP message in 2016. I know populism has a problematic history and remains something of a mixed bag, and a few friends and allies have expressed surprise to me in recent months at the kinds words I’ve had for populism, at least populism rightly understood. But then you read an article like this in the New York Times, and you think about how to frame a 2016 race against Hillary Clinton (by the way, a savvy friend is absolutely convinced her running mate in 2016 will be David Petraeus—something worth thinking about, perhaps). And I think you’ve got to conclude that the way to defeat “the first woman president” (but also an elitist and dynastic one) is with a candidate from Middle America who speaks for Middle America in ways understandable to Middle America.
Petraeus did say she’d make a “tremendous president.” So why won’t this happen? Let us count the ways.
1. She doesn’t need him. Petraeus’s chief value to Hillary would be to signal to voters that she’s a hawk, which is supposedly crucial for the first woman presidential nominee. But it’s already well known that she’s hawkish by Democratic standards. She voted to invade Iraq, served on the Armed Services Committee in the Senate, and, as noted, has already kinda sorta been endorsed by Petraeus. Stan McChrystal is, allegedly, left-leaning; he might be willing to endorse her too, and if he isn’t, rest assured that some other prominent Democratic military officer will be recruited. You don’t need to put Petraeus on the ticket to make the point that she’s tough enough.
2. If anything, picking him as VP would damage Hillary’s already frayed relationship with the left. They lined up against her in 2008 in part because of her Iraq vote and now, eight years later and with the Clintons eager to heal the rift, she’s going to name as her running mate … the guy who commanded U.S. operations in Iraq? C’mon. That’d be especially silly if she ends up facing Jeb Bush, who will himself be desperate to shed any Iraq connection due to his last name. Democrats are desperate to paint Jeb as Dubya II; the last thing they need in that effort is their own nominee deciding to run with Dubya’s handpicked Iraq deputy.
3. Petraeus is an especially bad choice because he aggravates two of her sore spots. One is the adultery mess that led to him leaving the CIA. As much as voters like Bill, no one’s eager for another round of scandals in the White House. Inviting Petraeus increases the odds and leaves Hillary open to GOP attacks that, for all her feminist rhetoric, she’s awfully forgiving of men who behave badly. The other, more significantly, is Benghazi. “The U.S. effort in Benghazi was at its heart a CIA operation,” the Journal reported back in 2012, citing intel officials as its sources. It was Petraeus who was in charge of the CIA the night things went south at the consulate. Hillary will run from Benghazi at every opportunity on the trail in 2016; that becomes harder if the guy on the bottom of the ticket was the other cabinet official responsible for the fiasco that night.
4. Nominating Petraeus as VP would be a pitch to centrists and independents given his association with a president from the other party. But with a Clinton as nominee and Bill Clinton campaigning all-out for her, Democrats don’t need to worry about centrists. What they need to worry about is turning out Obama’s coalition in the same numbers that O did — young voters, single women, minorities, and well-educated liberals of all demographics. Petraeus doesn’t help with that. Someone like Cory Booker might.
5. Last but not least, she voted against a Senate resolution in 2007 that condemned MoveOn’s infamous “General Betray Us” ad before distancing herself from it later. Not a huge deal, but awkward fodder for plenty of attack ads.
Exit question: Clinton/McChrystal 2016?