David Petraeus trudged up to Capitol Hill today to win a certain confirmation from the Senate, and one has to wonder whether the general is considering the odd twists of history that have surrounded him. Today, he’s the heroic commander tapped by Barack Obama in desperation to salvage his Afghanistan surge and to reinstill confidence in the war. Three years ago, Obama’s allies in Congress and on the Left painted Petraeus as a very different figure, and The Hill reports on the awkward position Democrats now face:
Liberal advocacy groups and senators at the time accused Petraeus of misrepresenting the success of the surge of nearly 40,000 troops. …
[Harry] Reid told CNN in April of 2007 he did not believe Petraeus’s claim that the surge was working in Iraq.
“I don’t believe him, because it’s not happening,” Reid said. “All you have to do is look at the facts.”
At a press conference a few months later, Reid said: “For someone, whether it’s Gen. Petraeus or anyone else, to say things are great in Baghdad isn’t in touch with what’s going on in Baghdad, even though he’s there and I’m not.”
In other words, the Senate Majority Leader strongly implied that Petraeus was either a liar or a fool three years ago. Nor was he the only Democrat in the Senate to have made that accusation. When Republicans offered a resolution defending Petraeus “and strongly condemn personal attacks on the honor and integrity of General Petraeus,” 25 Democrats voted against the resolution, including Hillary Clinton, Dick Durbin, Harry Reid, and Carl Levin, chair of the Armed Forces Committee.
What about Barack Obama, the Commander in Chief who wants Petraeus to rescue them from the debacle of Stanley McChrystal’s exit? He didn’t vote at all, although he was certainly present. Obama voted in favor of a measure that would have forced a retreat from Iraq on that same day in the very next roll call vote. He also voted in favor of an amendment prior to the Petraeus vote that offered similar support for men and women in uniform but failed to mention Petraeus. When it came time to defending the honor of the man Obama now needs to help him win a victory, then-Senator Obama was nowhere to be found.
Now as Democrats hail Petraeus on his return to the Hill, they’re also balking at funding his efforts:
House Democratic leaders are having difficulty convincing rank-and-file colleagues to vote for a military supplemental spending bill funding the war.
Rep. James McGovern (D-Mass.) wrote a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) last week asking her to postpone a vote on war funding after Obama fired McChrystal. …
Obama said Sunday that there’s “a lot of obsession” about the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. He said he is focused on ensuring the success of the military mission.
The president has said he will begin withdrawing troops in July of 2011, but warned that he will not “suddenly turn off the lights and let the door close behind us.”
This position has war critics, including Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), unsatisfied. Feingold, who is up for reelection this year, wants more specific information on the size of next year’s force reduction.
I doubt this will disturb Petraeus much, although he will undoubtedly emphasize that reliable resourcing is critical to his mission’s success. He’s used to dealing with two-faced Democrats these days, and just as accustomed to proving them wrong.
Update: Corrected a problem where I used “they” instead of “he”; thanks to Dave R for the heads-up.