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The late columnist William Safire saw Schwarzkopf going for the top job without need of a lower office. In a 1991 column in the New York Times envisioning the world in five years, Safire saw Vice President Dan Quayle seeking the Republican nomination and “Norm Schwarzkopf” running for president as a Democrat. Safire also saw a lot of other things in 1991 that didn’t happen in 1996, such as British politician and now-BBC chairman Chris Patten becoming prime minister on a platform to the right of Margaret Thatcher.
But Schwarzkopf had no interest in politics and, upon retiring from the military, he simply, retired. After a brief stint as a television news analyst, he settled down in Tampa, Florida (where he lived until his death), served on the board of Remington, and became involved in various charities. Office-seekers easily sought his endorsement but to no avail. It wasn’t until 2004 that he made his first public endorsement of a candidate when he came out for President George W. Bush in his winning re-election bid against Democrat John Kerry.
But, by the end of 2004, Schwarzkopf had grown disillusioned with the Bush policies in Iraq and with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. In 2008, the retired general strongly endorsed John McCain for President over Barack Obama.
Before retiring from the military, Schwarzkopf declined the position of Army chief of staff. Many who admired the bluntness of the general they called “Stormin’ Norman” and “the Bear” privately breathed a sigh of relief. The same style that had earned him combat decorations in Vietnam and a victory in Desert Storm might not have served the general so well in the backroom wheelings and dealings on Capitol Hill, which a service commandant must master.
Norman Schwarzkopf knew best that his own style might not have had staying power in the political hustings. As one wag put it amid all the “Run, Norm, Run” talk of 20 years ago: “Can you picture one of these blow-dried, smooth talking consultants telling him what to do?”