Ever since President Bush announced his escalation policy, war supporters have relied on the credibility of Gen. David Petraeus, the top commander in Iraq, to deflect criticism. Earlier this month, President Bush mentioned Petraeus by name no less than 12 times in a speech arguing for his strategy in Iraq, at one point saying, “the best messenger, by the way, for us is David Petraeus.”
But the manner in which the administration has rolled out Petraeus to help sell its war policy at home is threatening that credibility. In a fact sheet released to reporters yesterday about Bush’s new war czar, both Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker are quoted in a manner more suited for use on a book jacket:
Gen. David Petraeus: “Doug Lute knows Iraq, the region, and Washington, and he’ll be a great addition to the team that is striving to achieve success in Iraq. He is also a doer.” (General David Petraeus, 5/15/07)
Amb. Ryan Crocker: “I look forward to working closely with LTG Doug Lute in the coming months. His knowledge and experience will make him a valuable partner to our efforts in Iraq.” (Iraq Ambassador Ryan Crocker, 5/15/07)
Yesterday, ABC’s Martha Raddatz asked White House spokesman Tony Snow if his press office had solicited quotes from a uniformed military officer, and if so, whether that was appropriate. Snow dodged both questions, instead offering a sarcastic remark. “[I]t’s clearly a burning issue so we’ll look into it for you.” Watch it:
The Lute press release is another example of Rep. John Murtha’s contention that the White House has been using Gen. Petraeus as a political prop.
Q Tony, I noticed on one of your press releases today about Lieutenant General Lute that there were several quotes — you may have done this in the past, but there were quotes from General Petraeus saying how great he is, and Ambassador Crocker. Are these things — you have your press office solicit quotes from people, particularly someone in uniform, to make positive comments about people you know?
MR. SNOW: No, I don’t know how the quotes came about. We didn’t do it out of the White House press office. But on the other hand –
Q It appears they — it didn’t have any source other than he said it yesterday.
MR. SNOW: Yes, well, look, I think it’s — on the question, does General Petraeus think he’s a good and worthy choice, the answer is, yes.
Q And do you think it’s appropriate to just send out — or did they call him up, or how did they solicit these quotes?
MR. SNOW: I don’t know, Martha, but it’s clearly a burning issue so we’ll look into it for you.