Opinion: He’s not running: No ifs, ands or buts

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There’s a tradition of American military leaders turning to politics when their careers as soldiers come to a close. Gen. George Washington led the colonies in their revolt against British rule and reluctantly became the first president of the United States. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant‘s Union Army defeated the Confederacy, propelling Grant to the presidency in 1869, only four years after the end of the Civil War. And Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, the architect of the D-Day invasion of Europe during World War II, resigned his position as the Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, to make a winning White House run in 1952.

(More recently, retired Gen. Wesley K. Clark, one of Eisenhower’s successors as head of NATO forces, wasn’t quite as successful in his quest for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2004, and retired Gen. Colin L. Powell, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the 1991 Gulf War, withdrew from consideration for the 1996 GOP nomination to run against Bill Clinton -- in part because of his wife’s opposition.)

There has been speculation in some quarters that the top U.S. military commander in Iraq, Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, harbors similar political ambitions. Appearing on ‘Fox News Sunday,’ he was asked directly by host Chris Wallace: ‘Any interest in that, sir?’

‘None, Chris, at all. Thank you,’ Petraeus replied. ‘I have great respect for those who do choose to serve our country that way. I’ve chosen to serve our country in uniform. And I think that General Sherman had it right when he gave what is now commonly referred to as a ‘Shermanesque response’ when asked a similar question.’


In 1884, Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman -- perhaps best known in the history books for the ‘scorched earth’ policy that devastated the Confederacy in the final year of the Civil War and gave Grant his victory -- emphatically shut the door to the Republican presidential nomination with this reply: ‘If drafted, I will not run; if nominated, I will not accept; if elected, I will not serve.’

-- Leslie Hoffecker