Conor Friedersdorf gives Petraeus too much credit here:
The messenger, Fox national security analyst Kathleen McFarland, told Petraeus that if he ran, Ailes might quit his job at Fox News to run the campaign. In other words, Ailes apparently lacks the self-awareness to understand that a widely respected retired general would, if running for president, do everything in his power to distance himself from deeply polarizing purveyors of partisan propaganda. Outside the conservative movement, Ailes is regarded as a cynical, ethically compromised man so unprincipled in what he broadcast that he elevated Glenn Beck’s chalkboard rants. The quality of presidential wannabe who’d potentially hire him is Herman Cain.
Conor assumes that Petraeus dislikes or objects to “polarizing purveyors of partisan propaganda.” That could be true, but I’m not sure how we would know that. Considering how important those purveyors have been in building up Petraeus’ reputation and lending support to the cultish admiration for the man, he might not have seen anything wrong in working with one of them. As much as Conor might dislike it, an association with Ailes would have lent him additional credibility with Republican voters.
Had Petraeus become a candidate, he presumably would have wanted someone acting as an effective purveyor of propaganda for him. Ailes’ reported eagerness to change news coverage on Petraeus’ say-so probably would have made Petraeus more favorably inclined towards working with him. What makes Conor think that Petraeus wouldn’t want to have “a sycophantic propagandist” working on his behalf? Hasn’t Conor seen the way Petraeus cultivated journalists so that they became more or less exactly that?
This gets to the heart of why fantasies about a Petraeus candidacy were always just that. Petraeus was as widely respected as he was because he was not considered an ordinary partisan figure, and if he had decided to run for president he would have instantly become one to the detriment of his reputation. Petraeus would have immediately become less popular and less respected if he had run for president no matter who worked on his campaign.