To conservatives, he's George Washington, Ulysses S. Grant and Dwight Eisenhower rolled into one. He's the greatest military strategist since Alexander the Great; he makes George Patton look like a wuss.
To liberals, he's George W. Bush's latest poodle, an administration mouthpiece who could put Tony Snow to shame, a yes man in uniform.
Gen. David Petraeus, come on down.
The patron saint of the surge testified in front of Congress this week, telling lawmakers that, while the strategy is making a difference, it shouldn't be judged for another six months. He also called for the withdrawal of nearly 6,000 troops before Christmas and another 30,000 next summer.
But his answer to a question from Sen. John Warner on whether the war was making us safer ("Sir, I don't know, actually") was what had all the liberal bloggers chattering.
"Petraeus just completely undermined Bush's rationale for the escalation of the Iraq war," Joe Sudbay of AMERICAblog (1). "... If the Bush/Petraeus 'course of action' is not ultimately making us safer, what the hell are we doing over there? And, why are Republicans sticking with Bush's plan that doesn't make us safer?"
Jon Stolz at the Huffington Post (2) agreed. "General Petraeus was given an order -- find a military solution for Iraq where there is none, and without concern for troop overextension or the larger war on terror. ... When one looks at the grander scale, past just the military in Iraq, the picture is dismal, and becoming a critical danger. Unwittingly, General Petraeus just confirmed all of that."
The president's turn in the spotlight Thursday -- a prime-time speech in which he endorsed the Petraeus plan -- failed to persuade Andrew Sullivan (3). "The way he framed his case was still divorced from the reality we see in front of our nose: that Iraq is not, as he still seems to believe, full of ordinary people longing for democracy and somehow stymied solely by 'extremists' or al-Qaida or Iran, but a country full of groups of people who cannot trust one another, who are still living in the wake of unimaginable totalitarian trauma, who have murdered and tortured and butchered each other in pursuit of religious and ethnic pride and honor for centuries. This is what Bush cannot recognize: there is no Iraq. There are no Iraqis."
Not willing to MoveOn
A newspaper ad almost upstaged the general. In the Monday New York Times, MoveOn.org ran an ad asking if Gen. Petraeus would turn out to be "General Betray Us." If the goal was to get attention, mission accomplished.
"Listen: General Petraeus may well be carrying water for the Bush administration ... And let me be clear: He is every bit a target of legitimate criticism," Matt Lewis said at Townhall (4). "But to impugn the patriotism of a man who is doing what the commander in chief has asked him to do -- try to win the war in Iraq -- is as despicable as Dick Cheney questioning the patriotism of those Americans who want us to redeploy from Iraq."
Joe Klein at Swampland (5) said MoveOn.org did itself and its cause no favors with the ad. "This is a distraction from the main event. Usually the Republicans are the ones who've tried to change topics at a crucial Iraq moment ... but MoveOn usurped that gambit this time. This is going to put the Democrats on the defensive. ... MoveOn has handed the Bush Administration a major victory -- at a moment when all attention should be focused on whether we should continue to commit U.S. troops to this disaster. Just nauseating."
Boehner's Kerry moment
Remember that muffed joke by John Kerry last year about how dumb the troops were? Now it's Republican House Minority Leader John Boehner who is left explaining why he thinks the nearly 3,800 American men and women killed in Iraq are a "small price" to pay in the war against Al-Qaida.
Liberal bloggers showed Boehner the same sympathy conservative bloggers showed Kerry when he claimed he merely blew the telling of a joke. "When liberals or Democrats call those same 4000 deaths 'wasted' we experience a tsunami of media and pundit outrage. But for Boehner -- not so much," wrote John McKay (6). "... Who is surprised that Boehner said that? He is a silly, shallow man (with a great tan) with a history of saying silly, shallow things. His message is one that the right have been pushing for years. A 'small price' is no different than comparing Iraq deaths to American traffic statistics or the murder rate in Washington, DC. Hearing this insensitive message one more time from the right should surprise no one."
Brian Faughan at the Worldwide Standard (7) defended Boehner. "Boehner's main point, that if the war is successful, al Qaeda in Iraq is defeated, and the Middle East is stabilized, then the sacrifice in blood and treasure will have been worthwhile -- that seems entirely fair, especially given the fact that the Middle East was far from stable before this war started. ... [A]ll Boehner did was comment without the now required 'disclaimers about how, of course, even the loss of a single American life is a tragedy and how the nation owes an eternal debt of gratitude to all the men and women of our armed services for their sacrifices.' That is a gaffe, but the left makes too much of it -- do they really believe that Boehner doesn't respect the sacrifices of the American soldier?"
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