Petraeus for president? Fox’s Ailes seemed to like the idea

Dylan Stableford

Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes wanted Gen. David Petraeus to run for president in 2012.

Ailes, former adviser to Richard Nixon, asked a Fox News contributor headed to Afghanistan in the spring of 2011 to deliver the message to Petraeus, The Washington Post's Bob Woodward reports. The recently disgraced director of the Central Intelligence Agency was then commander of U.S. and allied forces in Kabul.

Kathleen T. McFarland, the contributor and a former national security and Pentagon aide, spoke with Petraeus for 90 minutes in the general's office there. Woodward obtained an audio recording of the conversation, which was put on the Post's website.

"[Ailes] loves you, and everybody at Fox loves you," McFarland told Petraeus at one point.

Near the end of their conversation, McFarland relayed the message from Ailes: If President Obama offered Petraeus the job of chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he should take it. "If you're offered anything else," McFarland said, "don't take it. Resign in six months and run for president. OK?" "And I know you're not running for president," McFarland added. "But at some point when you go to New York next, you may want to just chat with Roger. And Rupert Murdoch, for that matter."

"Well, Rupert's after me as well," replied Petraeus, who seemed to laugh off the idea. "Look, what I have told people is, I truly want to continue to serve my country if it's in a, you know, a quite significantly meaningful position."

"I'm only reporting this back to Roger," McFarland assured Petraeus. "That's our deal."

Petraeus said he would consider the position of Joint Chiefs chairman and possibly "one other" post, "but that's about it." He added that he has no interest in going to "NATO meetings for the rest of my life, or fight[ing] service budget battles or anything like that."

Petraeus was appointed CIA director in September 2011. He resigned last month after admitting to an extramarital affair with Paula Broadwell, his biographer.

Ailes confirmed to Woodward that he did give McFarland advice to deliver to Petraeus, but it was meant in jest.

"It was more of a joke, a wiseass way I have," Ailes said. "I thought the Republican field needed to be shaken up and Petraeus might be a good candidate. It sounds like she thought she was on a secret mission in the Reagan administration. ... She was way out of line. ... It's someone's fantasy to make me a kingmaker. It's not my job."