Will others follow Sen. Kirk's lead and vote Petraeus for president?
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It might be seen as a kind of legal coup d'etat given that tycoon Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpDemocrat calls on White House to withdraw ambassador to Belarus nominee TikTok collected data from mobile devices to track Android users: report Peterson wins Minnesota House primary in crucial swing district MORE has already sealed the delegate count for the Republican nomination. But in times of breakage or impending crisis, America has traditionally defaulted to a distinguished military leader to regain stability and focus and to turn the corner to a new rising era. George Washington comes to mind. The Civil War fighting went in circles until President Lincoln discovered Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and the post-war world only began to take its direction with President Dwight Eisenhower.

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All else would follow inevitably for decades. But now the Pax Americana is starting to unravel like a cat toying with a ball of yarn. The tragic murder of a British member of Parliament last week and the pending devolution of the European Union vividly illustrates the complexity of crises arising abroad and the contest ahead between two candidates — one with a 70 percent unfavorability rating, the other with 55 percent — well illustrates America's unprecedented dilemma in the presidential race of 2016.

Neither a distinguished senator like Ben Sasse (R) of Nebraska nor an honorable governor like 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney conveys the same status as a highly regarded military officer like retired Gen. David Petraeus under these circumstances. Today, neither could pull it off. But maybe Petraeus could.

The Hill reports that Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) intends to vote for former CIA Director Petraeus for president, declaring that presumptive GOP nominee Trump is "too bigoted" for the state of Illinois: "'I think if he announced, he would just light up the political spectrum,' Kirk said."

And the thought has very likely crossed the mind of Petraeus. His colleagues have long suggested that he would like to be president. Recently, he has been working closely with Robert Zoellick, former head of the World Bank, on a new comprehensive approach to culture, economy and foreign policy. It unveils a completely new defense posture, perhaps one more suited to the times and to America's position in the world as we rise into the new millennium.

Trump wants to build a fence on the border of Mexico. Petraeus and Zoellick might suggest a fence as well, but only a psychological line on the southern border of Mexico, to include a healthy and democratic Mexico within it.

Before he retired, Petraeus was "broadly considered one of the world's top experts on asymmetric warfare and counter-insurgencies," Candice Malcolm of the Toronto Sun wrote last summer:

So it came as a surprise that after his retirement, rather than writing about Iraq, the rise of the Islamic State and broader security concerns in the Middle East, Petraeus's top concern is Canada and its relationship with Mexico and the United States.

Petraeus teamed up with the former president of the World Bank, Robert Zoellick, to co-chair an independent task force and release a report entitled "North America: Time for a New Focus."

The report calls for improving the relationship between the three NAFTA partners and revitalizing efforts to strengthen the overall partnership. Unlike the EU experiment, Petraeus is promoting a North American union based upon respecting the sovereignty of each country, while increasing the benefits of economic and regulatory integration.

As the Council on Foreign Relations noted about the Petraeus and Zoellick collaboration, "The Task Force proposes a comprehensive set of recommendations for deepening North American integration, concentrating on four pivotal areas—energy, economic competitiveness, security, and community."

Adding:

"It is time to put North America at the forefront of U.S. policy," says the Petraeus/Zoellick report. "The development and implementation of a strategy for U.S. economic, energy, security, environmental, and societal cooperation with its two neighbors can strengthen the United States at home and enhance its influence abroad."

I thoroughly agree with Kirk that, given our dangerously unstable times, Petraeus would today be the best person for the job by whatever legitimate means through which he could get there. A legal putsch at the Republican convention in Cleveland? A third-party entry?

But clearly, Petraeus has another problem. In March last year, he pleaded guilty to one federal charge of removing and retaining classified information as part of a plea deal. And although there are important differences, comparison has already been drawn between presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonNAACP seeks to boost Black voter turnout in six states California Dems back Yang after he expresses disappointment over initial DNC lineup The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden picks Harris as running mate MORE, who would be running against him, and other high-profile cases, including Petraeus's.

There may be a path here: If Clinton is to be let off the hook, so might Petraeus be.

Quigley is a prize-winning writer who has worked more than 35 years as a book and magazine editor, political commentator and reviewer. He lives in New Hampshire with his wife and four children. Contact him at quigley1985@gmail.com.