Democrats Shy From Ad Attacking Petraeus

Fred Thompson said he wants Osama bin Laden killed eventually.
Fred Thompson said he wants Osama bin Laden killed eventually. (By Mary Ann Chastain -- Associated Press)
Tuesday, September 11, 2007


Democrats Shy From Ad Attacking Petraeus

Democratic presidential candidates yesterday sharply challenged the assessment of progress offered to Congress by the top U.S. military and civilian officials in Iraq but sought to distance themselves from a newspaper ad placed by a liberal grass-roots organization that challenged the integrity of the commander of U.S. forces there, Army Gen. David H. Petraeus.

Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker appeared to change no minds among either Democratic or Republican candidates. With President Bush preparing to address the nation later this week, the contours of the debate over Iraq policy remained etched along harshly partisan lines.

Democratic candidates declared their dissatisfaction with the broad conclusions of Petraeus and Crocker. They cited the lack of political progress in Iraq as proof that the "surge" was not achieving its overall goals. Republicans embraced the testimony as evidence that Bush's policy could achieve its objectives.

Former senator John Edwards of North Carolina issued his statement of opposition before Petraeus and Crocker began their testimony. Others waited longer, but their responses appeared no less canned, dividing along partisan lines.

"The time to end the surge and to start bringing our troops home is now -- not six months from now," Sen. Barack Obama said in a statement. "The Iraqi government is not achieving the political progress that was the stated purpose of the surge, and in key areas has gone backwards."

Sen. Christopher Dodd questioned the veracity of Petraeus's assessment. "The fact that there are questions about General Petraeus's report is not surprising given that it was brought to you by this White House," the Connecticut Democrat said in a statement from his campaign. "In contrast, independent report after report indicates that the whack-a-mole strategy has made this the bloodiest summer of the war."

Edwards said in a later statement that Congress should reject the "doublespeak" from Petraeus and Crocker and force Bush to accept a timetable for withdrawal of forces. "They must stand firm and tell President Bush with one voice: No timetable, no funding. No excuses," he said.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton offered no reaction to the House testimony, but she will have an opportunity to question Petraeus and Crocker directly when they testify today before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Among Republicans, former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani praised the Petraeus testimony and chastised Democrats for questioning it.

"This is only the beginning, which is why we need to continue to listen to the assessment of General Petraeus and others on the ground so we can decide the best course of action going forward," he said in a statement. "The Democrats and are doing a disservice to Iraq's long-term future by jumping to political conclusions in advance of the General's report."

The newspaper ad by, which ran in yesterday's editions of the New York Times, put Democrats on the defensive as the testimony by Petraeus and Crocker was taking shape. The ad was headlined "General Petraeus or General Betray Us? Cooking the Books for the White House."

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