MoveOn.org Ad Takes Aim at Petraeus

A newspaper ad from the anti-war group MoveOn.org that attacks Gen. David Petraeus has prompted a Republican outcry in Washington, D.C., as supporters of the surge strategy in Iraq change the subject from the progress in Iraq to the rhetoric used by war opponents.

"General Petraeus or General Betray Us?" reads the full-page ad (CLICK HERE), which cost the liberal group MoveOn.org approximately $65,000 and ran in section A of today's New York Times.

The ad accuses the general of "Cooking the Books for the White House" and asserts "General Petraeus is a military man constantly at war with the facts," citing optimistic statements the general has made about Iraq in the past.

White House spokesman Tony Snow called it "a boorish, childish, unworthy attack" and called on members of Congress to condemn the ad. By the end of the day, 30 Republican senators and Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., had written to the Democratic Senate Leader, asking him to "join us in making it clear that you do not share the views of Moveon.org, and that you will not join Moveon.org in attacking the character of this fine officer" and House Republicans had introduced a resolution condemning the ad.

A Democratic leadership aide on Capitol Hill told ABC News that the ad was "not helpful" because it allowed Republicans to refocus attention from "what's happening on the ground in Iraq and the fact that everyone, even Gen. Petraeus, agrees that political progress is lacking."

In addition to liberal activist groups such as MoveOn.org, Democrats in both the House and Senate have impugned Petraeus' testimony today, and those tuning in to the House hearing today to hear from Petraeus had to wait longer than scheduled because the general's microphone was not functioning, prompting a brief recess.

The microphones of his GOP defenders were fully amplified, however. The ranking Republican on the House Armed Services committee, Rep. Duncan Hunter of California, took much of the limited time he had to make remarks at Petraeus' briefing this afternoon to decry the MoveOn.org ad and other attacks on the general's credibility, noting that Petraeus had been unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate earlier this year.

"Let us start off this hearing with this stipulation," Hunter said, Petraeus will offer "a candid independent assessment delivered with integrity."

The chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., said the ad "is outrageous and it is deplorable" and called upon her "colleagues on both sides of the aisle" to condemn the ad and, somewhat inexplicably, to apologize to the general for the impugning of his integrity.

The GOP presidential candidates added their voices to the chorus as well, with Arizona Sen. John McCain calling the ad a "McCarthyite attack on an American patriot. … No matter where you stand on the war, we should all agree on the character and decency of this exceptional American."

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, wrote on the National Review blog "The Corner," that "(l)ike the men he commands, (Petraeus) is risking his life to protect our freedoms here at home. We should not prejudge him or his testimony, or give him anything less than the full respect he deserves.

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