A newspaper ad attacking Gen. David Patraeus leaves Republicans fuming and Democrats squirming.
The ad, produced and paid for by the liberal activist group MoveOn.Org calls Patraeus “General Betray Us” and leaves a sour taste in the mouths of both proponents and opponents of President George W. Bush’s failed war in Iraq.
Democrats worry that the ad will turn Americans against them because it attacks the man leading soldiers who are fighting in the field. Republicans see it as a chance to question the patriotism of opponents of the war.
Republicans have called on Democrats to denounce the ad. While Democratic leaders refuse to take a public position on the ad, senior Dems in the House and Senate admit they are uncomfortable with the tone of the television spot.
A senior Democratic leadership aide called the ad an “unnecessary distraction” and said Democrats are prepared to focus on “Petraeus executing a mismanaged mission.”
House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, said, “Democratic leaders must make a choice today: Either embrace the character assassination tactics Moveon.org has leveled against the four-star general leading our troops in the fight against al Qaeda, or denounce it as disgraceful.”
“Gen. Petraeus and the other commanders in the U.S. Armed Services have dedicated their lives to defending the very freedom that enables MoveOn.org the right to free speech. I support that right, but I find the way they have chosen to exercise it today to be disrespectful and downright reprehensible,” Boehner said in a statement.
Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Connecticut, also called on the Democratic leadership to “denounce MoveOn.org’s attack on Gen. Petraeus.” Lieberman has been supportive of President Bush’s efforts in Iraq.
Congressional Democrats showed an eagerness to distance themselves from the ad.
Asked early Monday if this was the right message for his party to send, a member of the Democratic leadership, speaking on background, curtly answered, “No.”
Sen. John Kerry, D-Massachusetts, called the ad “over the top.”
“I don’t like any kind of characterizations in our politics that call into question any active duty, distinguished general who I think under any circumstances serves with the best interests of our country,” said Kerry, the 2004 Democratic presidential candidate and a decorated veteran.
“I think there are a lot of legitimate questions that need to be asked, a lot of probing that ought to take place; there’s a lot of legitimate accountability that needs to be achieved. It ought to be done without casting any aspersions on anyone’s character or motives,” he added.