majority leader Harry Reid caused a stir Thursday when he
said Gen. Peter Pace failed in his job of providing Congress
a candid assessment on the Iraq war and that he was
concerned Gen. David Petraeus might be guilty of the
typically have shied from stinging comments on military
officers, instead focusing on President Bush and
Administration policies in Iraq. Republicans responded
vigorously to the charge against Pace, chairman of the
Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Petraeus, the top U.S.
commander in Iraq.
Said White House
spokesman Tony Snow: ''In a time of war, for a leader of
a party that says it supports the military, it seems
outrageous to be issuing slanders toward the chairman
of the Joint Chiefs and also the man that is
responsible for the bulk of military operations in Iraq.''
Duncan, chairman of the Republican National Committee:
''Harry Reid doesn't understand that there are some
lines you just don't cross.''
The switch in the
Democrats' focus began last week when they told Defense
Secretary Robert Gates they would challenge Pace if he were
nominated for a second two-year term as chairman of
the Joint Chiefs of Staff. They cited his role as the
president's closest military adviser on a failing war.
''A vote for or
against Pace then becomes a metaphor for where do you
stand on the way the war is handled,'' said the chairman of
the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sen. Carl Levin,
a Michigan Democrat.
Reid went further
Thursday when he said he was happy to hear of Pace's
departure. The majority leader stopped short of calling Pace
incompetent, and declined to confirm a report in
The Politico that he had already done so
earlier in the week, in a private phone call to a
group of liberal bloggers.
essentially said as much when he told reporters that Pace
''had not done a very good job in speaking out for
some obvious things that weren't going right in
Reid said he also
was concerned about Petraeus, who told USA Today this
week that there are ''astonishing signs of normalcy''
throughout the majority of Baghdad. Petraeus was
quoted as saying, ''I'm talking about professional soccer
leagues with real grass field stadiums; several
amusement parks, big ones; markets that are very
Reid said the
remark ''gives you a feeling that he's not in touch with
what is really going on in Iraq or just trying to make the
president feel good.''
The senator said
in a statement later that he hopes that Adm. Michael
Mullen, if confirmed as Pace's successor, ''will speak up
and pull no punches.''
of the two generals led to an immediate and angry
backlash from Republicans.
about this war has gone into the gutter when the Democrat
leader of the United States Senate uses disparaging remarks
to describe our military leadership,'' said Sen. Jim
Bunning of Kentucky.
presidential hopeful Sen. John McCain said Reid ''needs to
clarify his criticisms, which can only be described as
highly inappropriate and regrettable.''
Sen. John Warner,
the number 2 Republican on the Armed Services
Committee, said congressional leaders should be allowed to
speak freely on their assessment of military officers.
But he indicated he was concerned that any suggestion
Pace was incompetent could undercut the morale of the
''How this will
affect the troops remains to be seen,'' Warner said.
''But that is a factor I hope [Reid] weighed before making
congresswoman Ellen O. Tauscher of California said Wednesday
she thought Pace was guilty of a dereliction of duty because
of his support for Bush's Iraq policy.
member of the House Armed Services Committee, said Pace lost
standing among members in March when he said homosexual acts
were immoral and that the military should not condone
the behavior by letting gays serve openly. Pace later
said he regretted expressing what he said were his
Tauscher said his
comments on gays ''showed his ignorance'' and ''had to
be deeply discounted, because they came from a man who had
presided over a war that we got into on a lie, and
what I consider to be a serious dereliction of duty in
having our troops and our readiness so destroyed by
the policies of this administration.''
A spokeswoman for
Pace, Marine colonel Katie Haddock, said Pace ''is
focused on his duties as chairman and is not going to
respond to press reports on who's saying what. He will
let 40 years of service speak for itself.'' A
spokesman for Petraeus in Baghdad did not immediately
respond to an e-mail request, sent late Thursday
evening, for comment. (Anne Flaherty, AP)