George's Bottom Line: The Petraeus Hearing

CHARLES GIBSON: George, did anything change today?

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Not much, Charlie. I think this was one big exercise in kicking the can down the road. You combine General Petraeus' call for an indefinite pause, with those starkly differing positions of the presidential candidates and the broader stalemate of the Senate. And what you get is, this is going to be at the heart of the presidential campaign. And not much politically is going to change until it's concluded.

CHARLES GIBSON: But we have our commander in Iraq saying that we have to be very cautions about withdrawal. And then, we have two potential commanders in chief, in the Democratic Party, Obama and Clinton, saying they want timetables for withdrawal and they want them soon. There's a real potential conflict here.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: No question about it, Charlie. We know what John McCain would do if he were elected and General Petraeus came up here next year and said we can't get out. John McCain would say we would stay. Both Senators Obama and Clinton say they want to stick to their timetables. The tough question for them is what would they do if either one of them were elected a year from now if they were president, and General Petraeus or his successor came back to Capitol Hill and said we can't withdrawal, the consequences would be too dire. That's the toughest question they have to answer.

CHARLES GIBSON: And do they leave themselves an out that perhaps they would follow that advice if they were president?

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: I think they would have to. I think they're trying to. But the longer this primary campaign goes on were they're under such much presssure to stick to the timetables, the harder it is to do.