The political world is abuzz with speculation about President-elect Donald Trump’s consideration of former CIA Director David Petraeus as his choice for secretary of state – but Petraeus’ positions on a variety of issues, including gun control, could upset conservatives if he is indeed selected for the slot.
Trump met Monday with the retired Army four-star general at his offices in Trump Tower in Manhattan. In a Twitter post minutes after the meeting, Trump tweeted: “Just met with General Petraeus – very impressed!”
But if Trump selects Petraeus to be his chief foreign affairs adviser, he runs the risk of upsetting his conservative base. Petraeus is a fervent advocate of gun control and expansive government. He supported the program to resettle Syrian and Iraqi refugees in the United States. Petraeus has pressed for shutting down Guantanamo Bay prison, backed Obama’s Iran policy, decried U.S. favoritism toward Israel and even advocated reconciliation with the Taliban.
The Trump transition team did not respond to WND’s request for comment regarding why Petraeus is being considered for the post.
“Refugees are victims, not perpetrators, of terrorism,” the letter stated. “Categorically refusing to take them only feeds the narrative of ISIS that there is a war between Islam and the West, that Muslims are not welcome in the United States and Europe, and that the ISIS caliphate is their true home.”
WND recently listed eight terror attacks in the last 18 months that were carried out by Muslim immigrants or sons of Muslim immigrants. At least four of the attacks on the list were carried out by Muslims who came to America through the United Nations refugee resettlement program overseen by the U.S. State Department.
Petraeus also helped launch a gun-control group this summer. In June of this year, he and retired NASA astronaut Mark Kelly, husband of former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, teamed up to launch Veterans Coalition for Common Sense to encourage legislators to toughen gun laws, “close the loopholes in our background check laws” and “do more to prevent gun tragedies.”
If he were to be chosen as secretary of state, Petraeus would play a pivotal role in determining whether to remove the U.S. from the U.N. Arms Trade Treaty, an agreement that Gun Owners of America Executive Director Larry Pratt told WND could result in “a national gun registration and licensing scheme” inside the U.S.
He also led the charge to allow gay troops to serve openly in the military – more than a year before the Obama administration repealed the armed forces’ “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.
In March 2010, Petraeus declared “the time has come” for the military to reconsider the rule. In the same month, Petraeus told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria he served with homosexuals in the CIA and didn’t believe troops would have difficulty adjusting to working with openly gay service members.
Petraeus has expressed support for Obama’s calls for shutting down Guantanamo Bay prison and condemned American use of interrogation strategies such as waterboarding.
“With respect to Guantanamo,” Petraeus told Radio Free Europe, “I think that the closure in a responsible manner, obviously one that is certainly being worked out now by the Department of Justice … But doing that in a responsible manner, I think, sends an important message to the world, as does the commitment of the United States to observe the Geneva Convention when it comes to the treatment of detainees.”
Petraeus testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee in March of 2010, saying the perception of U.S. favoritism toward Israel has fomented anti-Americanism. He told the committee, “enduring hostilities between Israel and some of its neighbors present distinct challenges to our ability to advance our interests in the area of responsibility.
“Arab anger over the Palestinian question limits the strength and depth of U.S. partnerships with governments and peoples [in the region].”
Petraeus’ remarks came after a week of stressed U.S.-Israel relations following Israel’s announcement of plans to build 1,600 homes in East Jerusalem.
His critics have blasted him for being soft on crime, reconciling with the Taliban and supporting Sunni militias in Iraq’s Sunni Awakening.
“I think that you have to have at least an open mind about this because this is historically the way counterinsurgency efforts ultimately have been concluded,” he told CBS News’ Katie Couric in 2010 prior to the Obama administration’s drawdown of U.S. forces from Afghanistan.
Asked what the U.S. and Afghanistan have to offer the Taliban, he replied, “They can live is No. 1. No. 2, perhaps they could return to their country of origin. A lot of them are tired of, again, living their life on the run, of being pursued, of living outside the country and so forth. And so I think that those are all fairly powerful incentives for them.”
On the issue of Iran going nuclear, Petraeus told “Meet the Press” on Feb. 21, 2010, that he believed Iran is “a ways” away from obtaining a nuclear weapon and agreed with continuing the “pressure track” the Obama administration was on at the time. But in 2015, he told the Senate Armed Service Committee the Obama administration’s nuclear agreement with Iran had some key weaknesses.
“The nuclear agreement negotiated by the Obama administration contains many positive elements,” he said. “It also contains some problematic elements.”
Related stories (story continues below):
While he said the deal would apply restrictions to the regime for the next decade, he warned of providing new resources to Iran “to pursue maligned activities,” causing the risk of nuclear proliferation to increase.
As of this date, Petraeus’ name is also on the membership roster of the Council on Foreign Relations, a U.S. foreign-policy think tank that, critics say, promotes world government.
Many of Petraeus’ views on fiscal policy and social issues are unknown. Several pundits have questioned his political positions. Much like retired four-star Army Gen. Colin Powell, who served under President W. Bush from 2001 to 2005, Petraeus is often seen as a moderate who sometimes supports centrist or Democrat-backed causes.
A 2008 report in the New Yorker stated, “Petraeus is registered to vote as a Republican in New Hampshire – he once described himself to a friend as a northeastern Republican, in the tradition of Nelson Rockefeller – but he said that around 2002, after he became a two-star general, he stopped voting.”
But Max Fisher, associate editor at The Atlantic, argued in 2010 that Petraeus has “big-government” views.
Worst of all, he’s a big-government liberal: His strategy in Iraq relied on numerous population-centric strategies that are called counterinsurgency when deployed inside a war zone but, if implemented in the U.S., would be called social welfare programs on the scale of FDR’s Works Progress Administration or Johnson’s Great Society. Petraeus uses government resources to put unemployed locals to work on massive infrastructure projects, he works hard to secure fair political representation for aggrieved minorities, and he builds strong, public social services like hospitals and schools. President Reagan’s edict, “government is not the solution to our problems; government is the problem,” doesn’t seem to hold for Petraeus in Iraq. Would it hold for Petraeus in Washington?
Petraeus’ wife, Holly, works in the Obama administration as the assistant director for servicemember affairs at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the agency founded as a part of the Dodd-Frank Act. The administration named her to the $187,605-per-year job in 2012 after Petraeus resigned his position as CIA director in the wake of news he had an extramarital affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell. He later pleaded guilty to mishandling classified information, which he provided to his mistress. In April 2015, a federal judge sentenced him to two years probation and a $100,000 fine.
Through the years, Petraeus has repeatedly insisted he has no political ambitions.
In August 2012, in reaction to media buzz that GOP nominee Mitt Romney was considering Petraeus as his vice-presidential running mate, CIA spokesman Preston Golson said, “Director Petraeus feels very privileged to be able to continue to serve our country in his current position, and as he has stated clearly numerous times before, he will not seek elected office.”