Governor Mitt Romney’s campaign made a clever move by floating the name of General David Petraeus as a possible Republican vice presidential nominee. Team Romney even managed to pull Obama into the act, and if nothing else, there’s a certain comic value in getting your opponent to help spread your campaign’s media teases.
The much-admired Petraeus would indeed add national security and foreign policy heft to Romney’s economic bona fides – a vast experience in the troubled Middle East where many, but not all, of our most pressing national security issues lie.
But the choice of a former military figure so closely associated with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan might not be so appealing to those of a more libertarian bent, such as Congressman Ron Paul’s many supporters.
General Petraeus is undoubtedly a patriot and deeply experienced in his craft – but is he a small government constitutional conservative?
Based on the public record, no one really knows.
As a flag officer, Petraeus has been confirmed by the Senate numerous times. We know he commented favorably on doing away with the Pentagon’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on homosexuals serving in the military, but beyond that, his views on the conservative social agenda are obscure.
Most of the assumptions about Petraeus’ alleged "conservatism" derive from his many friends and associations in the neo-con foreign policy and defense establishment. In 2010, he received one of the neo-cons' top prizes, the Irving Kristol Award from the American Enterprise Institute of Public Policy, for his "notable intellectual or practical contributions to improved public policy and social welfare."
In Washington, you are likely to be known by the friends you keep, so Petraeus’ associations with neo-cons automatically makes him a “conservative” in the eyes of an establishment media all too often ill-informed and dense about conservative politics.
Is he the kind of “boat rocking” conservative we are looking for to change Washington? Where does he stand on the right-to-life, same sex marriage, policies to support the family, education and welfare, cutting spending and the size and growth of government?
We just don’t know.
For his part, whenever the idea of running for President has come up – and it has come up more than once in the past – General Petraeus has firmly stated that he has no interest in running for elective office.
We doubt that floating General David Petraeus’ name for Vice President is anything more than a clever ploy by Mitt Romney’s campaign staff. General Petraeus is a much-admired man who has, ably and sometimes brilliantly, served our country in the best tradition of the American armed forces.
However, if Governor Romney is seriously considering David Petraeus for Vice President, he cannot and must not be given a pass on a thorough examination of Petraeus' commitment to the small government constitutional conservative agenda.