Conservative media falsely accuse Obama of "excoriating" Petraeus


Conservative media figures have distorted comments President Obama made during Senate hearings in 2007 to accuse him of "chastising" and "excoriating" Gen. David Petraeus, who he recently tapped as the top commander in Afghanistan. In fact, during the hearing, Obama specifically said his criticism was directed at former President Bush, not Petraeus.

Fox News, Malkin, Quinn pick up falsehood that Obama criticized Petraeus

Hannity: "Here is Barack Obama attacking General Petraeus." On the June 23 edition of his Fox News show, Sean Hannity discussed Obama's decision to appoint Petraeus and said, "Here is Barack Obama attacking General Petraeus." Hannity then played deceptively edited video of Obama's questioning of Petraeus during 2007 Senate testimony. In comments cropped out of the video, Obama made clear his criticism was directed at Bush and was "not a criticism" of Petraeus.

Malkin: "We've seen the video of him directly chastising David Petraeus." On the June 24 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, contributor Michelle Malkin stated that "you do have to marvel at the change in public opinion -- well, at least certainly among the Democratic establishment -- about the heroism, patriotism, and unquestionable commitment to public service that David Petraeus represents." She went on to say that Petraeus is "constrained by the fact that he has a president and a commander in chief who has been marked by his own level of intellectual chaos dating back to 2007, of course," adding: "We've seen the video of him directly chastising David Petraeus for his surge strategies."

Fox & Friends airs deceptively cropped video of Obama during hearing. During a segment discussing Obama's decision to replace McChrystal with Petraeus, the June 24 edition of Fox & Friends aired the same cropped video of Obama during the 2007 hearing that Hannity had aired, saying Obama's comments were "on Petraeus" and suggesting that he was criticizing "Petraeus' handling of the surge or about to handle the surge in Iraq." Before airing the video, co-host Steve Doocy said: "Here is then-Senator Barack Obama on Petraeus back in 2007 at a hearing up in the Senate regarding what was going on over there." Co-host Gretchen Carlson later said: "That was when Obama was still a senator and he was talking about Petraeus' handling of the surge or about to handle the surge in Iraq."

Quinn: Obama "hated Petraeus" and "ripped him a new one" during 2007 hearing. On the June 24 edition of Clear Channel's The War Room, co-host Jim Quinn stated that during the 2007 hearing, Obama "spent his entire seven minutes excoriating Petraeus" without allowing Petraeus "to even respond to him" because he considered himself "the Messiah" and "Petraeus' better." Quinn continued: "This guy hated Petraeus. I mean, he ripped him a new one. All of a sudden, now Petraeus is the guy. OK."

Obama made clear his criticism was directed at Bush

Obama to Petraeus and Crocker: "And this is not a criticism of either of you gentlemen. This is a criticism of this president [Bush]." During the Senate hearing Hannity deceptively edited, Obama explicitly said that the very comments Hannity characterized as "attacking General Petraeus" were "not a criticism of either" Petraeus or Adm. Ryan Crocker, then the U.S. ambassador to Iraq. Obama made clear that his criticism was directed at the Bush administration.

From the September 11, 2007, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hearing [accessed via Nexis]:

OBAMA: And so I think that some of the frustration you hear from some of the questioners is that we have now set the bar so low that modest improvement in what was a completely chaotic situation, to the point where now we just have the levels of intolerable violence that existed in June of 2006, is considered success. And it's not. This continues to be a disastrous foreign policy mistake.

And we are now confronted with the question, how do we clean up the mess and make the best out of a situation in which there are no good options? There are bad options and worse options. And this is not a criticism of either of you gentlemen. This is a criticism of this president and the administration, which has set a mission for the military and for our diplomatic forces that is extraordinarily difficult now to achieve.

And there has been no acknowledgement of that on the part of this administration, so that we have the president in Australia suggesting somehow that we are, as was stated before, kicking A-S-S. How can that -- how can we have a president making that assessment? And it makes it very difficult then for those of us who would like to join with you in a bipartisan way to figure out how to best move forward to extricate this from the day-to-day politics that infects Washington. So I just wanted to get that on the record.

Final stipulation: I think the surge has had some impact, as I've suggested. I would hope it would, given the sacrifices and loss that have been made. I would argue that the impact has been relatively modest, given the investment. And I have to say that based on my (sic) testimony, it is not clear to me that the primary success that you've shown, in Anbar, has anything to do with the surge. You said in this testimony that it's political, the reason for the success in Anbar, not because of an increase in troop strength. We have maybe seen some modest decline in sectarian violence inside Baghdad as a consequence of our troop patrols. That's been purchased at the cost of increased U.S. casualties and is unsustainable.

What we haven't seen is a significant disarming of the Shi'a militias. I've -- again, during your testimony, you've told us that, essentially, the Shi'as decided even before we got there to stand -- to get on one knee and to wait it out.

We haven't seen, most importantly, any significant improvement in terms of the central government's performance. It continues to be ineffectual, and we have not seen national reconciliation of the sort that was promised prior to the surge.

Malkin falsely claims Obama did not vote to condemn MoveOn ad

Malkin: Obama "sat on the fence" rather than condemn "Betray Us" ad. During the same June 24 segment on Fox & Friends, Malkin stated that in "one of the most despicable moments for the American left in modern politics," "you'll recall" that "Obama sat on the fence" for a Senate vote condemning an ad in which the group referred to Petraeus as "General Betray Us." Malkin concluded: "I guess we ought to be grateful for the evolution in American Democratic establishment thought on this."

In fact, Obama did vote for an amendment by Sen. Boxer that condemned the ad. Obama did vote for an amendment offered by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) that condemned the ad, as well as other attacks on past and present members of the armed forces. The Boxer amendment "strongly condemn[ed] attacks on the honor, integrity, and patriotism of any individual who is serving or has served honorably in the United States Armed Forces, by any person or organization," stating of the ad: "On September 10, 2007, an advertisement in the New York Times was an unwarranted personal attack on General Petraeus, who is honorably leading our Armed Forces in Iraq and carrying out the mission assigned to him by the President of the United States." The Boxer amendment also criticized Republican-backed attacks on Sen. John Kerry's military service, as well as attacks on Vietnam veteran Max Cleland.

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