After defending Petraeus, Gergen admitted, "I have a personal relationship with him ... I'm biased"

››› ››› RYAN CHIACHIERE

On the September 10 edition of CNN Newsroom, former White House adviser David Gergen said that Gen. David Petraeus "has won high marks within the military on all services as one of the most respected, independent-minded men and who ... [has] become a father figure on counterinsurgency," before admitting, "I must tell you, I have a personal relationship with him, so I'm sure I'm biased in this regard." CNN anchor Don Lemon introduced Gergen as "sort of our go-to guy today that we're going to talk to" during discussions of Petraeus' and Ambassador Ryan Crocker's testimonies on Iraq before Congress.

Before admitting he had a personal relationship with Petraeus, Gergen defended the general against an ad the liberal group MoveOn.org ran in The New York Times on September 10, titled, "General Petraeus or General Betray Us?" Discussing the ad, Gergen asserted: "There has been what appears to be a concerted effort on the part of some, on the left, Democratic Party, to undermine the credibility of General Petraeus before he even speaks, which I think has been a -- I think they've misplayed their hand on this." Gergen added that the ad "struck many Republicans and, frankly, it will strike a lot of fair-minded Americans as a sort of below-the-belt kind of attack before we've even had a chance to hear from one of the most decorated and respected generals in the United States Army."

Later on the program, anchor Kyra Phillips introduced Gergen as "pretty much our go-to guy for political analysis [who] has been talking to us about the political implications of today's testimony." During that interview, Gergen continued to heap praise on Petraeus, saying: "General Petraeus was highly professional, very factual, avoided hyperbole, did not go too far ... did not claim too much success, always ... was cautious." Gergen added: "I think after hearing him with that blizzard of facts and statistics and charts, it's going to be very hard for Democrats now to say, let's pull the plug." Gergen did not reiterate his disclosure of a personal relationship with Petraeus during the second interview.

From the 1 p.m. ET hour of the September 10 edition of CNN Newsroom:

LEMON: And they've also been talking about the cost of the war. They're saying, some of the members of Congress, saying before the testimony, saying that, you know, the -- we are ignoring things here in our own country, infrastructure, and what have you.

And then the big question, having a reliable Iraqi force, they said, in those 134 battalions over there.

David Gergen is standing by, Kyra, to -- he's going to listen in with us and give us some perspective on this. Of course, he's a former adviser to four presidents, so he is sort of our go-to guy today that we're going to talk to him.

[...]

GERGEN: Well, that's right. There has been what appears to be a concerted effort on the part of some, on the left, Democratic Party, to undermine the credibility of General Petraeus before he even speaks, which I think has been a -- I think they've misplayed their hand on this, because that advertisement in The New York Times today by MoveOn.org, you know, saying, Is he "General Petraeus or General Betray Us?" You know, I think struck many Republicans and, frankly, it will strike a lot of fair-minded Americans as a sort of below-the-belt kind of attack before we've even had a chance to hear from one of the most decorated and respected generals in the United States Army.

So, I thought that the MoveOn.org people made a mistake by doing that. Their hand was a little too plain, if you would like.

But I also think that it seems undignified. After all, General Petraeus is putting his life on the line over there, too, in running this operation -- and he's come back here. I think he -- I think most people feel, let's give him a hearing.

You know, it was interesting. The New York Times public opinion survey today came out and said that Americans do not give a lot of credibility to politicians about the war. The people they give the most credibility to are the U.S. generals.

PHILLIPS: Well, what's interesting is that Petraeus not only was one of the most popular commanders when it came to the 101st Army Airborne, but also he's an intellectual of sorts, David, a Ph.D. from Princeton.

GERGEN: Yes.

PHILLIPS: And this is a general who came in and devised a team of intellectuals to surround him and support him and to add to that military background, an intense intellectual -- I guess you should say -- round table as he dealt with operations there.

GERGEN: That's right. This is a man who is now in his third tour, who had a celebrated first tour in Iraq in the North, and then came back for a second tour to try to work with the Iraqi army, try to train them up -- that was regarded as less successful -- and now he's back for his third tour.

And he is -- there is a considerable degree to which -- but General Bush -- President Bush went looking for him. He wanted General Petraeus over there. He wanted someone who thought as he did. So, you have to say that there is an alliance of, at least, outlook between the president and General Petraeus at the beginning.

At the same time, General Petraeus has won high marks within the military on all services as one of the most respected, independent-minded men and who -- he really is the -- become a father figure on counterinsurgency. How do you do -- how do you run smart counterinsurgency? He's written a book on that for U.S. Army training.

I must tell you, I have a personal relationship with him, so I'm sure I'm biased in this regard. But I think what he's -- I think all of us are looking forward to, what does he really have to say? Then we can assess it. But it's sort of a -- it seems unfair to load it up against him personally before he's even had a chance to open his mouth in this long-awaited testimony.

[...]

PHILLIPS: As we've been following the testimony today, David Gergen, former adviser to four presidents, pretty much our go-to guy for political analysis, has been talking to us about the political implications of today's testimony.

And David, just to step away maybe for a minute, I know a lot of people -- a lot of us wanting to hear about when will U.S. troops come home, but as the ambassador pointed out, I think it was he said the logic to the legislation and how do you share power and resources and what kind of Iraq do all of those living in Iraq really want.

When it comes down to it, you can beat the insurgency, you can bring troops home, but there has to be some type of understanding on how all these individuals and religious sects want to run this country.

GERGEN: Absolutely. And I think what we heard today were two very different statements that will cut very different ways politically. General Petraeus was highly professional, very factual, avoided hyperbole, did not go too far -- claim -- did not claim too much success, always he was cautious.

I think after hearing him with that blizzard of facts and statistics and charts, it's going to be very hard for Democrats now to say, let's pull the plug. He really fortified -- General Petraeus fortified the case for let's do this slowly and in a measured way. Let's bring the surge troops out but let's not make decisions on the rest.

Posted In
National Security & Foreign Policy, War in Iraq
Network/Outlet
CNN
Person
David Gergen
Show/Publication
CNN Newsroom
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