Carol Felsenthal
On politics

Rahm Emanuel and David Petraeus

The man that the White House—then Chief-of-Staff Rahm in particular—feared most as a 2012 opponent on the Republican ticket was the brilliant, disciplined general.


 

Our mayor is an above-the-national-news-fold kind of guy. So no surprise to me that in a Sunday New York Times story, Rahm appears in the account of the stunning resignation of four-star retired General David Petraeus, 60—architect of the successful surge in Iraq, commander in both Iraq and Afghanistan, Princeton PhD, and, until President Obama accepted his resignation on Friday, director of the CIA. (Petraeus resigned after news broke that an FBI criminal investigation showed he had carried on an extramarital affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell, 40, leaving him vulnerable to blackmail.)

It seems that the man the White House—then Chief-of-Staff Rahm in particular—feared most as a 2012 opponent on the Republican ticket was the brilliant, disciplined (think triathlete with a six-minute mile) Petraeus. In his 2010 Obama book The Promise, Jonathan Alter describes Petraeus as “ferociously ambitious” and a registered Republican in New Hampshire who was “well positioned to run as a Colin Powell-type alternative to Mitt Romney….” 

Petraeus kept insisting he wasn’t interested—“What part of no don’t you understand?”—but Rahm is not the sort to leave anything to chance. So he had his talk with Petraeus and, according the Times, received assurances that Petraeus “had no intention of running for president.”

Also known for his networking prowess, Mayor Emanuel used that meeting earlier this year when he asked Patraeus to serve as grand marshal of Chicago’s Memorial Day parade. “The mayor, hizzoner, hit me up in Washington a couple of months ago at some event, and I said I’d be honored to do it,” Petraeus said. A photo from the event shows Emanuel, CIA director Petraeus, and Patraeus’s now humiliated wife of 38 years, Holly, walking on North State Street.

Petraeus likely won’t be marching in any Chicago parades anytime soon, but a look at Bill Clinton’s post presidency, his slide into ignominy after an Oval Office affair, and his return to soaring popularity and respect, should assure that the ex-CIA director can soon start to take the first steps to redemption. He’s probably ruined his chances of becoming president of Princeton, where he was awarded his PhD in 1987. (He was often mentioned as having a good shot at that job.)

 

Photography: Chicago Tribune

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