Petraeus’ Presidential Fetish

Flickr/<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/hectoralejandro/4288979429/">hectorir</a>

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For a guy who doesn’t want the job, Gen. David Petraeus sure talks about the presidency a lot. So says the Associated Press in its dispatch today.  The AP followed the head of US Central Command—who’s credited with writing the book on counterinsurgency, turning Iraq around, keeping Afghanistan close, and generally making patriotism sexy again—as he participated in Q&A’s around the country. And every time he was asked a question that bordered remotely on politics, he steered it into a denial that he’s trained his sights on the White House:

Part of his stock reply to the politics question—even when it’s not asked—is to cite lyrics from a Lorrie Morgan country-western song about rejecting an unwanted suitor: “What part of ‘no’ don’t you understand?”

Then he chuckles as if to suggest he’s a bit embarrassed by the fuss—fuss sometimes of his own making.

Is he keeping his options open?

By a long stretch, this isn’t the first time “Petraeus” and “presidency” have been joined in the same sentence; two and a half years ago, MoJo‘s own DC-based Dan Schulman reported in great detail on the general’s electoral potential. Even Bob Dole weighed in last year to give the noncandidate his endorsement for commander in chief. And no grassroots candidacy is truly complete without the occasional Astroturf blog of support.

But on further review (and ignoring the obvious concerns about militarism in electoral politics), a Petraeus candidacy might be healthy for the GOP—and for the country. He publicly supported the Obama administration’s now-stalled plan to shutter Guantanamo Bay’s detention facility and end torture. He holds a doctorate from Princeton and has surrounded himself with intellectuals, left and right, in and out of uniform, who embrace out-of-the-box thinking—no small feat in the military’s often stultifying bureaucracy.

Most important, Petraeus has reportedly identified himself as a “Rockefeller Republican,” a rare breed of urbane, educated, big-state social liberal that’s been excommunicated from the Grand Old Party of late (see also Crist, Charlie; Chafee, Lincoln). Since Barack Obama’s election, the GOP has sought to co-opt ultraconservative, right-wing, and Tea Party anger as its brand of choice, effectively marking moderate Republicans as Godless traitors. But who’s going to level such attacks on the uniformed, mythical superman who averted disaster and “pacified” Iraq? He could debate the ins and outs of health care policy without being labeled a socialist. He could shut down military tribunals and expand diplomacy without being called an Al Qaeda sympathist. He could discuss the finer points of social policy without being shouted down as a pinko libertine.

In effect, only someone of Petraeus’ unassailable stature could force mainstream Republicans back to the political center—and whether or not it’s enough to win an election in 2012 or 2016, his candidacy could be an undeniable victory in America’s protracted war with rightist extremism.

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WHO DOESN’T LOVE A POSITIVE STORY—OR TWO?

“Great journalism really does make a difference in this world: it can even save kids.”

That’s what a civil rights lawyer wrote to Julia Lurie, the day after her major investigation into a psychiatric hospital chain that uses foster children as “cash cows” published, letting her know he was using her findings that same day in a hearing to keep a child out of one of the facilities we investigated.

That’s awesome. As is the fact that Julia, who spent a full year reporting this challenging story, promptly heard from a Senate committee that will use her work in their own investigation of Universal Health Services. There’s no doubt her revelations will continue to have a big impact in the months and years to come.

Like another story about Mother Jones’ real-world impact.

This one, a multiyear investigation, published in 2021, exposed conditions in sugar work camps in the Dominican Republic owned by Central Romana—the conglomerate behind brands like C&H and Domino, whose product ends up in our Hershey bars and other sweets. A year ago, the Biden administration banned sugar imports from Central Romana. And just recently, we learned of a previously undisclosed investigation from the Department of Homeland Security, looking into working conditions at Central Romana. How big of a deal is this?

“This could be the first time a corporation would be held criminally liable for forced labor in their own supply chains,” according to a retired special agent we talked to.

Wow.

And it is only because Mother Jones is funded primarily by donations from readers that we can mount ambitious, yearlong—or more—investigations like these two stories that are making waves.

About that: It’s unfathomably hard in the news business right now, and we came up about $28,000 short during our recent fall fundraising campaign. We simply have to make that up soon to avoid falling further behind than can be made up for, or needing to somehow trim $1 million from our budget, like happened last year.

If you can, please support the reporting you get from Mother Jones—that exists to make a difference, not a profit—with a donation of any amount today. We need more donations than normal to come in from this specific blurb to help close our funding gap before it gets any bigger.

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