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Few things are more laughable than Republicans pontificating about vice presidential picks, maybe because their own bench is so weak. On Saturday John McCain strongly praised Barack Obama's selection of Joe Biden, describing it as "wise". Meanwhile McCain was releasing an attack ad demanding to know why Obama hadn't chosen Hillary Clinton instead. Which leads me quickly to my thesis: These Republicans are goofballs.

Case in point is Tim Pawlenty. After reciting the threadbare GOP talking points about how disappointed they all are by Obama's selection of Biden, Pawlenty topped the list off with this ornament to stupidity (h/t Matt at Think Progress):

Pawlenty said he believed Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, would have been a better choice for Obama. "He's an outstanding leader and somebody who would better represent the mainstream of the country," Pawlenty said.

In other words, to hell with military regulations that prohibit active duty officers from campaigning for or holding partisan political office. To hell as well with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, who wrote an open letter this spring reiterating the policy that "the U.S. military must remain apolitical at all times and in all ways".

Pawlenty's call to politicize the military did not just come out of the blue, however. Republicans have been gibbering for the last year about wanting to nominate Gen. Petraeus for high office. This spring McCain was forced to apologize after he used Petraeus' photo in a fundraising letter. But even then McCain's campaign still wasn't finished dragging Petraeus into the presidential race. Just last week we learned:

People close to the [McCain] campaign also floated a wild-card choice, Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top American commander in Iraq. They said it was not beyond the realm of possibility that Mr. McCain would ask him to join the ticket, although General Petraeus has no experience in elective government and has said repeatedly that he is not interested in the vice presidency.

One adviser characterized General Petraeus, who presided over a recent reduction of violence in Iraq, as more of a wish-list candidate for Mr. McCain, who, like the general, long supported sending additional troops to quell the insurgency. The adviser said the campaign was putting forth his name in part in a bid for attention at a time when Senator Barack Obama’s choice of running mate, which is to be announced in the next few days, was dominating the media.

In other words, the demands of the news cycle practically require Republicans to politicize the military. For the GOP an Army general is just a pawn in political game-playing. No wonder poor Tim Pawlenty figured that it made just as much sense to insert Gen. Petraeus into contention on the Democratic side of things as well. There was no sense to begin with, so what difference did it make?

Setting aside the damage being done to the military by the Republicans' creepy stalking of Petraeus, it also looks pretty foolish politically:

  • Politicizing the military is one of the surest ways of demonstrating that a McCain presidency would mean a continuation of George Bush's policies.
  • McCain claims he's expert in foreign and military affairs, especially Iraq. His campaign also insists that Obama chose Biden to fill in a gap in such expertise. By that logic, doesn't McCain's continued obsession with Petraeus suggest that he's lacking in the very expertise his campaign is based upon?
  • Republicans have acted for two years as if all hopes for success in Iraq depend upon the military genius of this one man. To hear John McCain talk, Gen. Petraeus is practically the reincarnation of Alexander the Great. Now it turns out that he's not essential to victory after all, and his time can be put to better use back in the US on the campaign trail.
  • For months the Republican rallying cry has been that Obama has too little experience in Washington. But hark, David Petraeus is at hand. Who ever said anything about the need for political experience, anyhow?

Even with several months' time to prepare some VP talking points, McCain's campaign still can't turn out anything coherent.

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Mon Aug 25, 2008 at 12:24 PM PDT.

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