I GUESS POWELL SAID NO AGAIN

In the annals of American presidential elections there have been some truly harebrained schemes, candidates, and movements. And on occasion some legitimately improbable things have happened, like Ross Perot winning almost 20% of the popular vote as an independent candidate in 1992 or the election of Richard Mentor Johnson as vice-president in 1836. Most seemingly implausible ideas end up where they belong: relegated to the fringes of the process and amounting to little more than the occasional amusing but nonviable independent campaign like that of John Anderson (1980). Most daydreamed proposals – "unity tickets" and surprise candidates chosen by brokered conventions – are little more than interesting barroom hypotheticals at best.

It has to count as the strangest story of 2016, an election hardly lacking in the absurd, that on Sunday major online media outlets were suddenly reporting the (obviously, transparently planted) "story" of a supposed effort by "conservative billionaires" to draft retired Marine Corps general James Mattis for an independent presidential run.
I'll pause while you try to figure out who in the hell James Mattis is. Other than Mrs. Mattis and possibly some of their children, no one has ever heard of James Mattis. This story could not be any more ridiculous had a name been chosen from the phone book at random. There might as well be a secret campaign to draft Leon Smerczynski, a Paterson, NJ carpet layer, for an independent run.

Not to go full House of Cards here, but clearly someone who is very good pals with Tim Mak (the Daily Beast correspondent who was the first, and for a while only, "real" media outlet to give this the time of day, although we certainly could debate the description of Tina Brown's Puke Funnel as a "real" media outlet) asked Timmy to do them a solid and plant the seed to give legitimacy to an idea so astronomically stupid that it strains credulity to believe that it isn't an elaborate prank. An absolute nobody with no political experience, openly backed by shadowy, probably-Koch "conservative billionaires" is going to put together an independent presidential campaign less than 8 weeks before the deadline for ballot access in several important states? To whom exactly is this cipher going to appeal, even in theory? The most optimistic view of such a scheme is that it would fail miserably; in reality it is unlikely even to get off the ground if it is tried.

If any part of this is true, it is damning evidence of how completely conservatives are giving in to panic, irrationality, and magical thinking. Most likely it is yet another trial balloon being floated in a desperate attempt to derail the Trump Train before it can destroy the entire GOP, possibly with the intention of making whatever lunatic move they are planning next look sane in comparison.

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36 Responses to “I GUESS POWELL SAID NO AGAIN”

  1. dloburns Says:

    http://terminallance.com/2016/04/08/terminal-lance-election-season-2016/

  2. Talisker Says:

    It worked for Eisenhower because he was already a popular national figure; and that was the case because he'd commanded an overwhelming military victory over a genuinely scary opponent.

    How many US generals since then could say the same? None, that's how many.

    I remember when Michael Moore and others were trying to push a Wesley Clark candidacy in 2004. They had similar fantasies about a real American hero, who would show those phony tough guys what was what. Clark turned out to be a hopeless campaigner who went precisely nowhere. And Marine General Whatsisname makes Clark look like a superstar.

  3. Katydid Says:

    Awww, Talisker…I saw Wesley Clark on The Daily Show back in 2004, and he at least seemed sane, unlike so many who run for President. I was willing to hear more from him, but he sank from view.

  4. Mark Says:

    Well, four more folks have now heard his name, so it seems to be working.

  5. Talisker Says:

    @Katydid: Clark looks sane compared to Trump, but so do a number of Batman villains. Other than running for President, Clark's main claim to fame is nearly provoking a military confrontation with Russia in Kosovo in 1999. A British general claims that Clark only backed down when he threatened to resign, rather than implement Clark's order to occupy Pristina airport: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/1562161/Gen-Sir-Mike-Jackson-My-clash-with-Nato-chief.html

    So I'm not convinced Clark would have made a great President. Better than George W Bush, but that goes for John Kerry or a potted geranium. It's probably telling that Obama never nominated Clark as Secretary of Defense.

    Generals may be good administrators and decision-makers, but they are typically very bad at the showbiz qualities needed to run for President. That was even true of Eisenhower, but the process was less of a freakshow in the 1950s, his opponent was even less exciting, and his reputation was so towering it didn't really matter.

  6. Major Kong Says:

    Make no doubt about it. Generals are politicians.

    It's rare for someone to make it past O-5 (Lt. Colonel) without being a politician.

  7. Jimcat Says:

    James Mattis? He's no Smedley Butler.

  8. Dave Dell Says:

    The electoral college makes it easy and inconsequential to vote for the non-mainstream party candidate here in NE. I've voted for Ross Perot twice, John Anderson twice and other long forgotten Greens and Socialists a time or three.

  9. Talisker Says:

    @Major Kong: I have no doubt of that. The same goes for senior cops and firefighters (once upon a time I worked in the same office as the top firefighter in Scotland). That's why I mentioned "showbiz qualities" — it's one thing to be a good politician in backroom settings, entirely different to gain a mass following in today's media landscape.

  10. Deggjr Says:

    … how completely conservatives are giving in to panic, irrationality, and magical thinking.

    Herman Cain, Ben Carson, Fred Thompson, Alan Keyes, etc.

  11. Phil Koop Says:


    If any part of this is true, it is damning evidence of how completely conservatives are giving in to panic, irrationality, and magical thinking.

    Yah. The Onion is on it: http://www.theonion.com/article/shimmering-immaculate-republican-candidate-appears-52710.

  12. Robert Says:

    The reference in the article to Clinton having "one foot in a jail cell" was unsurprising. The right wing noise machine has been predicting her indictment (by the FBI!) longer than I can recall off the top of my head.
    Any day now. . . any day now. Someone will be peddling that shtik the day before the election, at this rate.

    Oh, and Mattis has the vote of Erick, son of Erick. Ringing endorsement.

  13. Katydid Says:

    @Talisker; All I knew about Wesley Clark was that he seemed sane for 10 minutes on The Daily Show. Had his candidacy been longer, we would have found out more, just like we did with Kasich, who also appears sane in a 10-minute clip but in actuality is a violent, misogynistic nut.

  14. c u n d gulag Says:

    Why not run General Motors?

  15. anotherbozo Says:

    We don't have to resort to planted stories to be fascinated by every new turn in this Dada adventure. I'd love to be a fly on the wall as Cruz insiders work to convince Trump delegates to switch to their candidate. What would be their best arguments?

    Maybe someone will spill the frijoles, or a reporter will find some Trump supporter who has seen the light and wants to spread the good news. Chances are nothing I could imagine will beat the actual talking points.

  16. Major Kong Says:

    @Katydid

    Kasich is the most dangerous kind of violent, misogynistic nut.

    He does a very good job sounding reasonable and he's smart enough not to say the quiet parts out loud.

  17. Skipper Says:

    Why not Gen. James Mattoon Scott?

    http://www.imdb.com/character/ch0024479/

  18. democommie Says:

    Buck Turgidson 16!

  19. rogamoyost Says:

    You may want to look at http://terminallance.com/. He's pretty beloved among some parts of the Marine Corps (which doesn't necessarily have anything to do with his his qualifications for the Presidency).

    Can I be the only person to read Gin & Tacos and Terminal Lance?

  20. FDChief Says:

    The guy seems to have been more "tactical" than the typical post-Korea US GO; he was very focused on his missions and tended to lead from the front. Stratigically, maybe not so much; apparently the Obama Administration was worried that he REALLY wanted to get stuck into the Iranians at a time when "stability" in the Gulf region pretty much depended on not giving the Iranians a reason to make more trouble. That, to me, anyway, suggests that as a politician he has some real liabilities.

    But his liabilities pale in comparison to the dumpster fire that is the "conservative" movement, so maybe that's the attraction…

  21. eoinmonkey Says:

    It is still pretty obscure, but anyone who has read "Generation Kill" will recognise James Mattis' name. In the excellent HBO miniseries, he is played by Robert Burke. Robert Burke is the guy who replaced Peter Weller in Robocop 3.
    No idea what any of this has to do with American politics though- but then, I'm not sure American politics has much to do with politics anymore.

  22. JustRuss Says:

    From what I've observed of Wingnut:The Gathering, Marine General is one of the few cards that trumps (heh!) Billionaire Truth Teller. No way Mattis could win, but if you want to kneecap Trump he might peel off enough of his voters to get the job done. And I think there's a lot GOP elites who would love to kneecap Trump.

    It's a crazy story, sure, but honestly I don't know that Too Crazy to Be True is a thing anymore.

  23. Mark B Says:

    Eoinmonkey beat me to it – Mattis is the Marine general who commanded the charge through Western Iraq to Baghdad in 2003 (see "Generation Kill"). Anyone who was there knows that it was a total mess, lacking in long-term strategy and vision (skills in which general officers are supposed to be experts). I would go out on a limb and say that most veterans of the early years of the war would agree. Why anyone would think that electing someone from this loser generation of general officers is beyond me.

  24. Nate Says:

    @rogamoyost according to the first post in this comment section, that answer is no. You might be one of two. :)

  25. Katydid Says:

    @Major Kong; thanks to the internet (including a site you post to frequently), the truth came out about Kasich in fairly short order. It really speaks to the state of the Republican party when "Not *instantly* identifiable as a malicious crazy-person" is the best they can do. I mean, back in 2008, I was intrigued by "woman governor of Alaska, tapped for historic female VP role"…until she opened her mouth.

    Fun fact; my oldest was referred to Dr. Ben Carson as an infant to rule out a possible neurological condition. That was a couple of decades ago and I thought Carson was reasonably competent as a neurologist (and correctly diagnosed that there was no problem, saving the baby from invasive surgery). However, he was so obviously a token to be shot down this time around that I can't believe anyone would have been willing to vote for him. He was almost as nuts a choice as "Uz-beki-beki-beki stan".

  26. Emerson Dameron Says:

    @Talisker –

    Petraeus and McCain were reasonably popular nationally before their glorious implosions. That's not to say this doesn't reek of the foulest desperation, but it's getting really late in the day to start quashing Trump now.

  27. Robert Says:

    Powell got to be POTUS in the book "World War Z". Not a good time to get to do that, as it turned out.

  28. Montrealdude Says:

    Powell didn't have to say "no" because he was never asked and no longer will be asked to run by anyone : his role in starting the Irak war can never be forgotten. But event that aside, he's now wayyyyyyy too moderate for the current field of GOP contenders. If he ran as a Democrat, he would be barely to the right of HRC.both Which says a lot about both parties.

    What these plutocrats actually wanted was a Petreaus presidency until he was literally caught with his pants down.

    And I'm convinced that Mattis is the inspiration for the "Wild Man" of this infamous piece of internet poo : http://opinion.injo.com/2015/11/250238-what-defeating-isis-would-look-like/

  29. Brian M Says:

    Montrealdude: The fapping that was involved in writing that peace must have been epic.

  30. Aqualad08 Says:

    I propose a Colonel Sanders/ Capt. Crunch unity ticket for the GOP. Together they cover all three meals, and both can blame Obama for never being promoted to a higher rank.

  31. Misterben Says:

    Holy SHIT, Montrealdude, that article you linked to is nuts! I think my favorite part is that they interrupt "The Wildman" on the golf course to summon him back to service. That, or how the writer's fantasy "ISIS body count" is 26,000 ISIS fighters dead, and it clearly didn't even occur to him to guess how many civilians his ridiculous "plan" would kill.

  32. Tim Says:

    "Can I be the only person to read Gin & Tacos and Terminal Lance?"

    No, and I would love to see a serious political campaign from a retired 4 star, but Mattis wouldn't last 10 seconds once the media got hold of some of his sound bites from when he was in command.

    The USMC's love of him is a little too Hitler-youth for my liking, but there are some important lessons one learns about the world by serving as a general/flag officer in the military.

  33. Fiddlin Bill Says:

    In Eisenhower's era Gen. Douglas MacArthur was also seriously touted as Presidential, and had great stature amongst the voting public. He was not as seemingly politically "neutral" as Eisenhower (who debated whether to select the nomination as a Democrat, so I've read), but MacArthur, until the Truman dismissal for insubordination, was at least a serious political figure.

  34. J Goodwood Says:

    rogamoyost – Well, can't say I've ever read Terminal Lance (I served with the Marines during the Dark Ages before the Intertoobz) but I HAVE heard of Mattis. Regardless of Mark B's doubtless well-founded (/snark) skepticism of of Mattis' command skills, I find him wonderfully colorful (in the Chesty Puller style). Certainly can't vouch for his politics. But given the historic tendency of senior Marine commanders to lean hard to the right (thinking of Del Valle here and their intense suspicion of Evans Carlson) I really hope he preserves his dignity (as well as anonymity) and just sits this one out!

  35. democommie Says:

    FDChief @ 12:34PM:

    Not a dumpster fire so much as a shit spewing, methane engorged cesspit of political burnin'stoopit.

  36. Matt Says:

    Are they drafting Mattis to run for the regular election, or trying to pick out who they'll install in a military coup if they don't get their way?