Politics & Policy

Petraeus Problem

Dems dismissed.

It may have been the Greek playwright Sophocles who first committed to words more than 2,400 years ago a sentiment we all know to be true today: “No man delights in the bearer of bad news.”

But not even the wisdom of the ancients could have anticipated a day in which men and women of otherwise respectable character would direct their anger at a bearer of good news. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what happened on Capitol Hill this week, as Gen. David Petraeus confronted a series of vicious attacks from the left flank for having the nerve to truthfully report the progress our men and women are making in Iraq.

It’s not every day that sees a four-star general, a Princeton Ph.D., a recipient of the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, and the chief author of the Army’s definitive counterinsurgency manual testify before Congress. But in Gen. Petraeus, my colleagues were presented with every bit of that assembled expertise in the form of a single man — giving those who wanted it a chance to supplement their knowledge and gain valuable insights into how best to accomplish our goals of a secure and stable Iraq.

But when faced with the opportunity to set politics aside and educate themselves on a vital matter of foreign policy and national security, too many of my Democratic colleagues decided the more prudent course was to dismiss, denounce, or flat-out defame the commander they had demanded fly in to brief them. Florida Rep. Robert Wexler declared that Petraeus had resorted to “cherry-picking” to arrive at the statistics he used to demonstrate our progress in the region, suggesting the general had been “selectively massaging” the information to concoct his key assertions.

Senate Democratic Whip Richard Durbin picked up on that theme later in the week, accusing Gen. Petraeus of “carefully manipulating the statistics.” Another of his colleagues wondered aloud whether the report had been written by White House aides — even as Petraeus insisted that no one in the administration had previously seen, nor approved of the assessment. And even before he had heard a syllable of the general’s testimony, Democratic Conference Chairman Rahm Emanuel said the Petraeus report could win the “Pulitzer for Fiction” or the “Nobel Prize for Creative Statistics” — presumably after the Nobel Foundation got around to creating that category in the first place.

What was said this week in an effort to impugn the personal and professional integrity of our top military commander in Iraq may have been shameful, but it was perhaps even more of a disgrace that so few Democrats stood up to MoveOn.org when it unveiled its despicable, full-page ad in The New York Times likening Gen. Petraeus to a national traitor.

From the party’s top candidates running for our nation’s top political office, to the caucus’s most junior members of the House, most Democrats refused to repudiate the personal slur that MoveOn.org leveled against Gen. Petraeus — an ad for which the leftist advocacy group reportedly paid at least $100,000 less than the newspaper’s posted rate. In fairness, a few responsible members of the majority joined nearly every member of the Republican conference in denouncing the crude suggestion that Gen. Petraeus would “Betray Us” with his testimony. But their words of support stood in stark contrast to the radio silence emanating from the offices of Democratic leaders in the House and Senate.

Keep in mind that Gen. Petraeus is a man who has served his country with honor and distinction for more than 30 years, and is widely regarded today as one of the most able and intelligent soldiers of his generation. This is a man who has been shot, injured, and on one occasion nearly crushed after his parachute collapsed during a skydiving exercise — surviving a 60-foot fall with a shattered pelvis to remember it by.

If ever anyone deserved the full attention and deep respect of the U.S. Congress, I’d submit that Gen. Petraeus would be that person. And considering how important an issue our success or failure in Iraq is to this Congress, our troops, and the American people, you’d think the general would’ve received a captive audience the moment he arrived in Washington this week. Too bad Democrats had already decided in their own minds that what he came here to say didn’t matter much.

Roy Blunt (R., Mo.) is House Republican whip.

Members of the National Review editorial and operational teams are included under the umbrella “NR Staff.”

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