David Ignatius proposes a bad solution for the Republicans’ presidential nomination problems:
How can the GOP escape this demolition derby? Some have proposed a unity bid by House Speaker Paul Ryan (Wis.), or the redux of former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney. But these politicians would look like opportunists — stealing the nomination from the two candidates who won most of the primaries and caucuses — and the result might be even more divisive for the GOP.
Enter the candidates on horseback [bold mine-DL]: It may sound like a crazy idea, but this country is hungry for the leadership the U.S. military, at its best, embodies.
The reason why this sounds like a crazy idea is that it is one. There is nothing inherently absurd in drafting a former general to run for president as a normal candidate to compete for the nomination as anyone else would, but that’s not what we’re talking about. There is something wrong with resorting to drafting a retired officer as part of an effort to dismiss and override the preferences of two-thirds to three-quarters of the primary voters in a nomination contest. It would be bad enough to install Ryan or some other time-server in a convention coup, but to impose some random general would be even worse. As dysfunctional and fractured as the GOP is, it can surely do better than settling for quasi-Bonapartism.
It wouldn’t win back any alienated Trump and Cruz supporters, so the overall result would be the same: a shattered party headed to a major loss in the fall. It also wouldn’t do the nominee any favors, since the respect that the public has for military officers stems in part from the fact that the institution is perceived to be apolitical and not tarred by the squabbles of partisans. Once a former officer joins the fray as a candidate, he forfeits that advantage. In Petraeus’ case, a nominee already tainted by personal scandal would be in an even worse position. Ignatius says that the GOP should “consider a nominee who might actually be able to lead the country out of the wilderness,” but never explains why any of the people he names would be able to do that.
The impulse to turn to former military officers in a situation like this makes even less sense when we are coming off of more than a decade of failed wars. In the past, former military officers have become nominees after having been part of winning a war, but the U.S. hasn’t won any of the recent wars in which these officers served. That isn’t necessarily their fault, but it hardly recommends them as obvious presidential material. Even if we grant that some of the people Ignatius mentions have a record of competence in their military careers, that doesn’t necessarily translate into being a good politician or political leader. I doubt that any of the people he names would be suited to running a modern presidential campaign, and anyone foolish enough to accept the nomination under such unusual circumstances would be taking on a thankless task.