Reid: Pace Failed on Iraq War Assessment
Friday, June 15, 2007; 2:29 AM
WASHINGTON -- Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid caused a stir Thursday when he said Gen. Peter Pace failed in his job of providing Congress a candid assessment on the Iraq war and that he was concerned Gen. David Petraeus might be guilty of the same.
Democrats typically have shied from stinging comments on military officers, instead focusing on President Bush and administration policies in Iraq. Republicans responded vigorously to the change against Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq.
Said White House spokesman Tony Snow: "In a time of war, for a leader of a party that says it supports the military, it seems outrageous to be issuing slanders toward the chairman of the Joint Chiefs and also the man that is responsible for the bulk of military operations in Iraq."
Added Mike Duncan, chairman of the Republican National Committee: "Harry Reid doesn't understand that there are some lines you just don't cross."
The switch in the Democrats' focus began last week when they told Defense Secretary Robert Gates they would challenge Pace if he were nominated for a second two-year term as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. They cited his role as the president's closest military adviser on a failing war.
"A vote for or against Pace then becomes a metaphor for where do you stand on the way the war is handled," said the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich.
Reid, D-Nev., went further Thursday when he said he was happy to hear of Pace's departure. The majority leader stopped short of calling Pace incompetent and declined to confirm a report in "The Politico" that he had done so earlier in the week in a private phone call to a group of liberal bloggers.
But he essentially said as much when he told reporters that Pace "had not done a very good job in speaking out for some obvious things that weren't going right in Iraq."
Reid said he also was concerned about Petraeus, who told USA Today this week that there are "astonishing signs of normalcy" throughout the majority of Baghdad. Petraeus was quoted as saying, "I'm talking about professional soccer leagues with real grass field stadiums, several amusement parks, big ones, markets that are very vibrant."
Reid said the remark "gives you a feeling that he's not in touch with what is really going on in Iraq or just trying to make the president feel good."
The senator said in a statement later that he hopes that Adm. Michael Mullen, if confirmed as Pace's successor, "will speak up and pull no punches."
Reid's criticism of the two generals led to an immediate and angry backlash from Republicans.