Petraeus Goes Off the Republican Reservation.

Remember how Republicans used to gaze in worship at Gen. David Petraeus' stony visage, dreaming of the day he would run for the GOP nomination for president? When an insult directed the Great Man's way was enough to generate a congressional resolution of condemnation? Well, I think we can start packing up the boxes at the "Draft Petraeus Committee." First, the general informed his superiors that the continued Israeli-Palestinian conflict -- and particularly Israeli intransigence -- is harming U.S. military interests in the Middle East. Not quite what conservatives want to hear. In their current dogma, everything that's wrong in that conflict is the Palestinians' fault, and Israel is without sin. Then, Petraeus came to Capitol Hill today and said this about the ban on gay Americans serving in the military:

“I believe the time has come to consider a change to Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, but I think it should be done in a thoughtful and deliberative matter that should include the conduct of the review that Secretary Gates has directed that would consider the views in the force on the change of policy”. It would include an assessment of the likely effects on recruiting, retention, moral and cohesion and would include an identification of what policies might be needed in the event of a change and recommend those polices as well.

Sen. Carl Levin, chair of the Senate Armed Services committee, then asked Petraeus to repeat publicly what he had told him privately, that the study being undertaken on the the effects of repealing DADT could show that the effects could either be negative or positive. Petraeus responded, "It could. It could, yes sir."

While Petraeus didn't go so far as to come out directly in favor of repeal as did Adm. Mike Mullen, chair of the Joint Chiefs, he's gone about as far as he could short of that. Not only did he say the time has come to consider repeal, he also admitted that it's possible a repeal could have positive effects on the military, an idea a real Republican would never entertain.

Of course, it's still possible that Petraeus sees a future for himself in the GOP. His military record would allow him to step outside traditional Republican ideology here and there and still be competitive. But criticizing the actions of the Israeli government? Looking favorably on the sinister homosexual agenda? That kind of thing is going to get him put up on the base's "dead to me" list. And did you know he has a Ph.D.? Obviously some kind of pointy-headed, chardonnay-sipping elitist who hates the troops.

-- Paul Waldman

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