Franks '08: The Stature We Crave, the Incompetence We've Grown Accustomed To


Bill Gertz is drumming up support for Gen. Tommy Franks on a GOP ticket in 2008, claiming that three unnamed Republicans might draft him as a running mate.

The choice of Gen. Franks as vice president would be a direct affront to antiwar Democrats, who plan to make opposition to the Bush administration's handling of the war the main plank of their campaign platforms.

A staunch Republican, Gen. Franks hails from Oklahoma but considers Texas his home state. Having him on the ticket would boost Republican prospects in the must-win Lone Star state.

OK. Two things.

1) It's not just "antiwar Democrats" who'll be campaigning against "the Bush administration's handling of the war" in 2008. Mitt Romney has criticized the administration's handling of the war. So, obliquely, has Rudy Giuliani. So has John McCain, albeit from the position that we needed more troops—that Franks was completely wrong, in other words. Franks was successfully lobbied by Rumsfeld to limit the number of soldiers in the ground invasion and famously dithered in the crucial few months after the fall of Saddam.

2) Texas is, indeed, a "must-win" Republican state, as they haven't been in any danger of losing it since 1992. If that's even on the map, the party is heading for a Dukakis-shaped landslide defeat.

But does Franks have any political drawing power? Republicans tested Franks as a Senate candidate in Florida in 2006 (he lives there, too, I guess) and he polled a respectable 44 percent, nearly tied with incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson. Or was that respectable? Shouldn't a gritty general who makes liberals cower in their Guccis be able to, you know, easily crush a nonentity like Bill Nelson? Compared to Norman Schwartzkopf or Colin Powell (the obvious comparison here), Franks has missed out on the popularity surge that comes with winning a war. He's not William Westmoreland, exactly, but neither does he have any appeal to the voters who think the war was botched. If Gertz is right, those three GOP candidates are in deep, deep, Saddam-in-spider-hole-deep denial about this.

I suppose I haven't addressed the issue of Franks' political readiness for the VP job, or for the presidency after President Huckabee pulls a Jim Fixx during a brisk morning run, but neither has anyone who might draft him.