As reported by the Washington Post on Tuesday, in spring 2011, the longtime Republican media guru, founder of Fox News and its current chairman Roger Ailes asked a Fox News analyst headed to Afghanistan to pass on his thoughts to General David Petraeus, who was then the commander of U.S. and coalition forces there. Petraeus, Ailes advised, should turn down an expected offer from President Obama to become CIA director and accept nothing less than the chairmanship of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the top military post. If Obama did not offer the Joint Chiefs post, Petraeus should resign from the military and run for president, Ailes suggested.
Mr. Ailes himself could in such case resign as head of Fox to run a Petraeus presidential campaign.
Petraeus demurred, saying he would consider the CIA directorship if Obama offered it, as the president did several weeks later. Petraeus was confirmed and sworn in as director on September 6, 2011.
Indeed, the Post report sheds additional light at the whole story of David Petraeus career – not so on the facts that did take place, but more on what could have happened if...
Besides being a popular war hero, David Petraeus is (or, rather was until recently) also an acknowledged politician, one of the most prominent figures in the Republican camp. Many analysts claim that had he run for presidency in 2008, he would have had good chances of defeating Barack Obama. In 2012, the chances would have been even greater – his triumph would have all but been guaranteed.
He did not. There may be an explanation that he refused to run for these or those personal reasons, but the most recent story of an extramarital affair with his biographer that ruined his whole career shows that the general expectations in the camp of his would-be opponents was such that he still presented an obvious threat for whoever in the Democratic camp runs for presidency in 2016.
The whole affair was surely "planted" on David Petraeus eliminating him from the presidential race long before it started.
We said above that the affair was directed to clean the way for "whoever in the Democratic camp runs for presidency in 2016." But the name of this "whoever" is already known, as it was known back in 2008, and even earlier, when the former First Lady ran for the US Senate.
And Ms. Hillary's campaign has already started. Unlike General Petraeus who agreed to take top public position which eventually led to his fall, Hillary Clinton is cautious enough to take a break for some time. She is stepping down from the Position of Secretary of State. The reason is obvious – with all the past, present and future failures of President Obama's policy both at home and abroad, it would be suicidal for a 2016 candidate to associate himself (in this case, herself) with the current administration. So, most probably, for some time it would be wiser for Hillary Clinton to keep a low profile avoiding public attention, and simultaneously working out an unexpected way to return to politics.
As if proving the thesis that some break is needed for now, there is another report in the New York Times saying that Hillary Clinton turned down an offer by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, whose term expires in December 2013, to run for the mayoral position. The story goes on that Mr. Bloomberg is dissatisfied with possible candidatures and Hillary Clinton, despite being from the opposite political camp, seemed to be the perfect fit for the post.
The US Secretary of State, according to people briefed on the conversation, made it very clear: she was not interested in seeking the mayoralty.
In fact, had she accepted the offer, this would mean an obvious and steady decline in her status – from First Lady to Senator, to Secretary of State, to mayor.
But more likely, this is not the only reason why she turned down Mr. Bloomberg's offer. As General Petraeus' story shows, an early start makes the candidate's position too vulnerable. And therefore avoiding the public's attention for the time being is the wisest option.
Later, depending on achievements and failures of Barack Obama's second term, Hillary Clinton may decide whether to exploit her status as a member of Obama's team, or vice versa – explain her resignation as an evidence of deep disagreement with the president's policies and present herself as Obama's most ardent critic.
But to see what exact line she will take, we should wait for at least two more years.
Boris Volkhonsky, senior research fellow, Russian Institute for Strategic Studies