November 20, 2003
Former Air Force general backs Dean

I don't know if this counts as a trend, but I like it anyway.

Retired Gen. Merrill "Tony" McPeak, the former Air Force chief of staff who endorsed George W. Bush in 2000, has left the Republican fold and is backing Democrat Howard Dean in the 2004 race for president.

McPeak, who lives in Lake Oswego, joins a small but growing list of top military veterans who have parted ways with the president at least partly because of the war in Iraq. McPeak's decision could be an important boost for Dean because critics have accused the former Vermont governor of lacking the experience and knowledge needed to be the nation's commander-in-chief.


McPeak, who headed the Air Force during the Persian Gulf War in 1991, criticized the Bush administration's policy toward Iraq before the invasion in March. He also said he has become disenchanted with the president's economic policies.

"I don't think the younger Bush has put a foot right since he entered the White House," said McPeak, who changed his registration from Republican to independent in April.

When it comes to Iraq, "we couldn't have sat around a kitchen table and designed a policy that was stupider," McPeak said. He argued that there was no evidence of a connection between Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and al-Qaida, "absolutely zero evidence of weapons of mass destruction, and the planning of the formation of the coalition (to support the war in Iraq) was very clumsily done."


Dick Klass, a retired Air Force colonel from Virginia who is working with Dean's campaign to attract former military officers, said endorsements from McPeak and other veterans could play an important role in the race.

"This is basically an exercise to let people know that Dean isn't a wild, lefty, antimilitary" person, said Klass, adding that he wouldn't be surprised to face such attacks from Republicans if Dean becomes the Democratic nominee.

Keep up the good work, I say. So what was it that led McPeak to endorse Dean?

McPeak said he spent several hours talking with Dean on his campaign airplane and in vans traveling to events. Although Dean did not have a "deep understanding" of national security issues, McPeak said, "his intuition is right, (and) his gut instincts are right."

Remember before the 2000 election how supporters of George W. Bush dismissed concerns about his lack of foreign affairs experience by saying he'd be surrounded by really smart people? Remember how Thomas Friedman wrote that he'd want to know what Bush would do if his two smartest advisers disagreed? Isn't this the kind of answer you'd have liked to have gotten to that question?

In addition to McPeak, Dean has been endorsed by retired Marine Gen. Joseph Hoar, who once headed Central Command, which is in charge of all military operations in the Mideast. Klass said that retired Adm. Stansfield Turner, who headed the CIA under President Carter, also supports Dean and that several other retired military officers are informal advisers and might endorse him.

Every little bit will help. Link via Hoffmania.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on November 20, 2003 to The making of the President | TrackBack

Mind you, there are some folks in the USAF (currently and formerly) for whom McPeak's endorsement serves as a contraindication for themselves...

Can't say whether I know any of them personally, but I do know that they exist. McPeak was not exactly a popular guy.

Posted by: Karin on November 20, 2003 9:54 PM

Well, fwiw, the same has been said to some extent about Wesley Clark. It's not so much a matter of a guy like McPeak convincing other officers (still a hugely Republican group) to switch sides, it's a matter of showing the public that Democrats have support in the military as well. A few visible faces like McPeak could go a long way.

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on November 21, 2003 7:01 AM

True -- let's hope you're right.

Posted by: Karin on November 21, 2003 8:04 AM

I've known Tony since 1983. I thought he had lost a few marbles when he changed things as Chief of Staff. I do believe he has now lost all his marbles. Colonel, USAF Rettired.

Posted by: Colonel Moon on January 18, 2004 3:36 PM

I've known Tony since 1983. I thought he had lost some marbles when he changed things as Chief of Staff. I do believe he has now lost all his marbles. Colonel USAF Retired.

Posted by: Colonel Moon on January 18, 2004 3:38 PM

Being indorsed by Gen. McPeak will further solidify military support for President Bush - I know of virtually no one who believed that McPeak had a clue about much of anything.....

Posted by: Richard Rash on January 31, 2004 2:04 PM

McPeak endorsing Dean clinches it for a lot of AF folks. Dean can't be a decent choice. Aside from all the things that McPeak did as Chief of Staff, his contention that airpower alone could win in Bosnia shows that he either doesn't grasp airpower or he only cared (cares) about political posturing.

Posted by: Active duty Colonel on January 31, 2004 2:05 PM

McPeak has always been a counterestablishment kind of guy. As USAF Chief of Staff, he tinkered with things just to tinker with them. Just another reason not to vote for Dean.

Posted by: Retired USAF Officer on January 31, 2004 4:22 PM

McPeak endorses Dean. Comment: Ho Hum!!

Posted by: Ed Adcock Lt Col USAF Retired on February 1, 2004 8:15 PM I see it,

McPeak was FOR President Bush BEFORE he was FOR Howard Dean BEFORE he was FOR John Kerry.

One good flip flopper derserves another!

Posted by: Don Scott on June 3, 2004 10:36 PM

Mcpeak hardly speaks for the vast portion of military members. His endorsement of anybody means nothing other than he is probably on Ben & Jerry's payroll.

Posted by: Active duty Enlisted on June 16, 2004 4:15 PM

I had to share this:

Boston Globe:
"''The troops are paying the price for arrogant mismanagement and poor planning at the civilian policy level," retired Air Force Chief of Staff General Merrilll ''Tony" McPeak, a Kerry adviser, said in a conference call with reporters yesterday. ''The force we have in Iraq today is part of what I call an in-between force -- too small to solve the problem and too big to be supported by our force structure."

Shouldn't that read:
"retired Air Force Chief of Staff General Merrilll ''Tony" McPeak, a dedicated practioner of and noted authority on arrogant mismanagement and poor planning"

Another reason NOT to vote for Kerry.


Posted by: Dan A on July 1, 2004 12:59 PM

Didn't McPeak get fired as AF Chief of Staff? Knowing who he supports reinforces my belief that no military person in their right mind would ever endorse Kerry.

Posted by: John Wiley on July 31, 2004 2:46 PM

No, McPeak wasn't fired. But he sure wasn't popular as AF CofS. Which by itself doesn't mean a lot--he had a rather distinguished career in flight assignments. But it is unlike most of the other flag officers who have endorsed Kerry. I served with Clark and he was a great commander, despite what a few jealous peers might have you believe. Shalikashvili was also well respected by the troops. No first-hand knowledge about most of the others, but believe it or not, one does not rise to 4-star rank without some level of competence and leadership.

There are lots of military, active and retired, who are VERY unhappy with what Bush and Rusmfeld have done and so support Kerry. Anyone who thinks the military isn't split on this isn't paying attention.

Posted by: Retred Army LTC on August 15, 2004 9:38 AM

Gen. McPeak was and is a loose cannon. I have no respect for him. I am a retired Air Force Officer
who served on active duty during the Vietnam war.
John Kerry is a disgrace.

Edward A. Zink,Jr
Lt.Col,USAF Ret.

Posted by: Edward Zink on August 23, 2004 6:05 PM

mcpeak is a pompous jerk!! In the PACAF hqs, he is the ONLY commander in a flight suit!!! Bazley and all the good commanders are in blues!!!
He was known as a screaming wacko while on active duty per friends of mine. This endorsement of dean then kerry (AKA john ketchup) further shows how far he is out of the envelope!!!
What a jerk!!!!!

He is about as useful as the runway behind, the sky above, the fuel on the ground, and landing with gear up!!!!!!!!!

another disgusted Viet vet I thot Vietnam was long forgotten until the bushy haired gigilo protestor vomited it again. damnrats will endorse anybody!!! First a draft dodging, potsmoking womanizer, liar then a war protestor!!!
what has mcpeak been smoking??????
21 medal of honor winners CANNOT BE WRONG!!!!

Posted by: Nick Schrier Col USAF ret on September 5, 2004 12:42 AM

McPeak is a good fit for Kerry. He couldn't make up his mind with the AF uniform and Kerry cant make up his mind on anything... Nuff said.

Posted by: AD AF on September 20, 2004 5:01 PM

McPeak is a good fit for Kerry. He couldn't make up his mind with the AF uniform and Kerry cant make up his mind on anything... Nuff said.

Posted by: AD AF on September 20, 2004 5:02 PM

McPeak is a good fit for Kerry. He couldn't make up his mind with the AF uniform and Kerry cant make up his mind on anything... Nuff said.

Posted by: ADAF on September 20, 2004 5:02 PM

When I was honorably discharged from the AF I had three stripes, A1C e-4. My honorable discharge says Airman First Class. I never thought I'd get busted by some left wing general twenty years after my discharge. Thanks, McPeak.

Posted by: Paul Shuster on January 2, 2006 1:19 PM

McPeak's staff referred to him as eccentric. The rest of us knew him as that crazy SOB. Nelson Kane has written a couple of articles recently about how screwed up the upper echelons of the AF currently are. That all started with McPeak and is his legacy to the AF.

Posted by: Ben RetAF on August 1, 2006 9:44 PM