Blame the messenger
Share with others:
Fresh from having put al-Qaida to flight in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus routed the Democrats in Washington last week.
Gen. Petraeus came to Washington in obedience to a law passed by Democrats that he report on the situation in Iraq. But Democrats wanted to pick a fight with him, because they didn't like what he had to say.
"There is a long American tradition of savaging failed generals," wrote Michael Gerson in The Washington Post. "It is more novel to attack a successful one."
And not very wise. When asked in a New York Times/CBS poll who they trust the most on Iraq, 21 percent of respondents chose Congress. Sixty-eight percent chose the U.S. military.
The situation in Iraq is much better now than it was before the troop surge began in January, Gen. Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker told the House on Monday and the Senate on Tuesday. Civilian deaths have declined by 45 percent since December; sectarian deaths by 55 percent. There were half as many car bombings and suicide attacks in August as there were in March.
But if you can't refute the message, you can slime the messenger. Democrats accused Gen. Petraeus of being a shill for the Bush administration.
The assault on Gen. Petraeus' character and integrity began before he opened his mouth.
In a full-page ad in The New York Times Monday, the left-wing group MoveOn.Org called Gen. Petraeus "General Betray Us." In an article in the Boston Globe, Dr. Peter Feaver, who served on the National Security Council staff in both the Clinton and Bush administrations, compared the ad to the smear tactics of the late Sen. Joseph McCarthy, R-Wis.
Democrats can't be held responsible for MoveOn's over-the-top rhetoric. Or can they? The weekend before Gen. Petraeus testified, the Web site Politico quoted a Democratic senator as saying: "No one wants to call (Petraeus) a liar on national TV. The expectation is that outside groups will do this for us."
When asked about the MoveOn ad, Gen. Petraeus had this classy response: "Needless to say I disagree with the message of those exercising the First Amendment right that so many generations of soldiers have fought and died protecting."
While Gen. Petraeus was being classy, Democrats were not.
"One could not help but be struck by the contrast," wrote Peter Wehner in National Review. "Petraeus and Crocker in command, unflappable, professional, radiating competence and confidence, respectful but never allowing themselves to be intimidated. Many Democrats, on the other hand appeared angry, agitated, long-winded and out of their depth."
Opening statements at congressional hearings remind us that the egos of our lawmakers often exceed their IQs. Democrat after Democrat went on and on about why he or she would not believe what Gen. Petraeus had not yet said. Prudent people would have preserved the facade of an open mind by reserving skepticism for the question period. "As you have found, our hearings are more about listening to ourselves than listening to our witnesses," Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., told Gen. Petraeus.
"Their performance was so shockingly awful that I am inclined to believe charges that some Democrats actually hope we lose," wrote Michael Goodwin in the New York Daily News. "Up to now, I've always viewed such charges as rancid partisanship that demonized legitimate differences. Now I'm not so sure."
Democrats are angry because the good news from Iraq and the strong performance last week by Gen. Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker virtually guarantee that Democratic efforts to force a pullout from Iraq before President Bush's term ends will fail. That means there likely will be a substantial number of U.S. troops in Iraq when the next president is inaugurated in January 2009.
Most Democrats have climbed so far out on the anti-war limb they can claim no share of credit for a U.S. victory. And if a Democratic president pulls the troops out and bad things happen, Democrats would get most of the blame. This is why Sen. Hillary Clinton has been talking recently about maintaining a troop "presence" in Iraq if she is elected.
Democrats will try again to legislate defeat. But Mr. Wehner thinks it's too late:
"We seem to be past the danger point, when members of Congress can recklessly undo what ... the remarkable men and women of our armed forces have achieved," he said. "Now members of the House and Senate are simply left to posture, rage against the wind and passionately insist, against a growing body of evidence, that a war that might be won is hopelessly lost."
First Published September 16, 2007 12:00 am