By Jonathan Karl
Among Republicans, there is no more popular general than David Petraeus, the commander credited for salvaging the Iraq war and the architect of the counter-insurgency strategy pursued by President Bush. Petraeus has always shied away from politics, but in a new book he is quoted lavishing so much praise on Hillary Clinton, he seems to be endorsing her as a candidate for President.
“She’d make a tremendous president,” Petraeus says in the new book “HRC” by Jonathan Allen and Aimee Parnes.
And for Petraeus, Exhibit A in why she would be a tremendous president is the very thing for which Republicans most aggressively attack Clinton: her performance as Secretary of State when the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, was attacked.
“Like a lot of great leaders, her most impressive qualities were most visible during tough times,” Petraeus tells Allen and Parnes. “In the wake of the Benghazi attacks, for example, she was extraordinarily resolute, determined, and controlled.”
Petraeus was director of the Central Intelligence Agency at the time of the attacks, which killed four Americans, including two who worked for the CIA and the U.S. ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens.
The book does not specify what, if anything, Petraeus had to say about the failure of the State Department to respond to repeated requests for improved security in Benghazi in the weeks and months before the attacks.
Petraeus’s glowing assessment is especially interesting given his uneasy history with Hillary Clinton. She essentially accused Petraeus of lying about progress in Iraq when he was President Bush’s commander there and she was a senator preparing to run for president.
During a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee in September 2007, Petraeus testified that the surge of additional troops into Iraq and led to a dramatic decrease in violence. Then-Senator Clinton said Petraeus’s assessment required “a willful suspension of disbelief.”
Clinton’s courtship of her erstwhile foe began shortly after President-elect Obama nominated her as Secretary of State in 2008. She invited Petraeus, then the military’s top commander for the Middle East, to her home in Washington, D.C., to share a bottle of wine and talk about the Middle East.
Allen and Parnes write that the session went so well, she invited him back for another meeting the following night, and another bottle of wine.
After Petraeus was forced to resign as CIA Director over an extramarital affair, Clinton sent him a note expressing sympathy and harkening back to her struggles on the other side of an adultery scandal.
“I have a little experience,” she wrote.