In Petraeus, a CIA pick with political heft

WASHINGTON Thu Apr 28, 2011 1:03am EDT

General David Petraeus arrives at Downing Street on his way to meet Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron in London October 14, 2010. REUTERS/Toby Melville

General David Petraeus arrives at Downing Street on his way to meet Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron in London October 14, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Toby Melville

Related Topics

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama's choice of General David Petraeus as CIA director will bolster his national security team with a Republican favorite who is sometimes seen as a future White House aspirant.

The pick put a quick end to occasional Washington speculation that the commanding general in Afghanistan might ride to the rescue of Republicans as a 2012 White House or vice presidential candidate against Obama.

Petraeus, credited with turning around the war in Iraq, had denied interest in a post-military political career in recent years even while giving interviews and making speeches with the zeal of a politician during his trips home.

The imminent departure of Defense Secretary Robert Gates, a Republican holdover from the Bush administration, left a need on Obama's national security team for a reliable conservative with allies among Republicans in Congress.

"Republicans see him as a solid conservative with obviously strong ties to the military and the intelligence aspects of defense policy," said Cal Jillson, a political scientist at Southern Methodist University in Texas.

"This is good for everybody involved. It's good for Obama and it's good for Petraeus," he said. "Petraeus is the leading military officer of his generation but it was not clear where he would go after Afghanistan."

The pick drew applause from Republican lawmakers.

"Without question, General David Petraeus is a national treasure," Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said. "I believe his talents will be well utilized as the new director of the CIA."

'IS THERE NOBODY ELSE?'

The appointment of Petraeus is part of a restructuring of Obama's national security team that includes naming Leon Panetta, a veteran Washington politician and current CIA director, to be the new defense secretary.

Trouble-shooting diplomat Ryan Crocker, the former ambassador in Iraq and Pakistan, will be named ambassador to Afghanistan.

Not every Republican praised the choices, however, with one consultant questioning why the experienced Petraeus, Panetta and Crocker were being rotated again into important national security jobs.

"There are 310 million Americans and Obama keeps choosing the same guys over and over," said Republican strategist Rich Galen. "Is there nobody else?"

Much of the speculation about a political future for Petraeus had stemmed from dissatisfaction among Republicans about the quality and chances of the party's potential presidential candidates.

In the CIA post, Petraeus will broaden his experience in Washington, where he could build support for a campaign in 2016 or beyond, knowing that one former U.S. spy chief, George H.W. Bush, later moved into the White House.

But retired General Wesley Clark's disastrous 2004 Democratic presidential campaign offered a fresh example of the difficult transition from the military to politics, and the growing intensity of the debate over spending and debt lessened the need for a military savior for Republicans.

"The way 2012 seems to be playing out, the Republicans might be better off looking for a captain of industry to step in," said Andy Taylor, a political scientist at North Carolina State.

(Editing by Philip Barbara)

FILED UNDER:
We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (4)
anonymot wrote:
On the one hand, Obama’s rational for choosing self-aggrandizing, egocentric political appointees is as obvious and simplistic as watching a child’s motivations for action. On the other hand, those appointees have backfired on him every time by either owning him in their department (Gates and Clinton) or by serving him badly (his Wall Street choices for economics.) And like a 3-year old, this President, who was to be the intellectual opposite of Bush, doesn’t seem to learn. It’s both incredible and tragic. A Republican mole could not serve the opposition better.

Apr 28, 2011 2:35am EDT  --  Report as abuse
Pupista wrote:
“…retired General Wesley Clark’s disastrous 2004 Democratic presidential campaign offered a fresh example of the difficult transition from the military to politics”.

But Clark is as dork…

Apr 28, 2011 2:45am EDT  --  Report as abuse
avgprsn wrote:
A very intelligent move.

Apr 28, 2011 3:30am EDT  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.