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Lieutenent John F Kennedy leading his PT109 crew to safety .
Artist: McBride from “Finding Out” Number 46, 1963
The General is contemplating a fresh campaign. At least that is what the press says. And the press saying it is mostly British. The Daily Telegraph on Saturday 12 March, had the bit firmly between its teeth claiming General David Petraeus is looking for a run at President in 2012. Based largely it seems on his giving a speech this week in Saint Anselm, New Hampshire.
I’m not so sure. There are a number of reasons why ol’ man Betrayus is unlikely to run.
Despite what the British tend to think, the United States electorate are not dead struck on war heroes for Presidents. Not being a military man is said to play badly. But. Baby Bush, who we remember slipped off elsewhere when he might have been asked to step up to Vietnam, managed to get over the debility, indeed he was pilloried for turning up on the deck of that carrier in an air force jumpsuit with an exaggerated cod piece. Clinton too was excoriated in the campaign for his avoidance of war duty but still won. Kerry was less lucky. Kennedy who did serve, and did win, was never as popular a President as the hagiography likes to claim. True, Papa Bush was an air force pilot who served in World War Two, but then so was my father and thousands of other men. His military service was nothing special in that generation.
Even a true-blue-dyed-in-the-wool-cold-war-warrior like Wes “Third world War” Clark only ranked as one of the jokers in the last Presidential round, and we all remember what Truman did to General McArthur’s Presidential ambitions.
Okay, Petraeus is compared to Eisenhower even if it is only by The Telegraph. Well, hardly. Eisenhower was a one off, largely because he had led an American army in a war where, for once, they were on the winning side.
For all she spends more than the next ten countries put together on her military, America hasn’t won a war in decades. Russia won the Second World War for the allies, though she got damn all thanks for it. The US ran Korea to a score draw; Cuba was an embarrassment; Vietnam was a wipe-out, and everything since has been, at best, patchy. Gulf War One, run as a franchise with lots of help was hardly an example, Gulf War Two when the big boy was left to do it himself, degenerated into a disaster both militarily and diplomatically. Afghanistan is simply lost.
Even if he was a contender, Obama had him nicely sidelined when he shoved him into McCrystal’s job. Davy has a two year contract he can’t really break and retain credibility. He is unlikely to break it to run against his boss.
But his real disadvantages are closer to home. He has no political family, no oligarchical connections. He presents as a bit of a cold fish, he is no General Colin Powell lacking Powell’s public gravitas. He is a figure less of “Stormin Norman” Schwarzkopf’s daring-do, more the office wallah totally lacking in Presidential charisma. And a rodent like face does not enhance his credentials.
Being stuck with the job of constantly apologising for his staff shooting children out gathering sticks, or accidentally topping off Harmid Karzai’s cousins doesn’t help either.
Copyright David Macadam 2011