The anger and frustration over Iraq that prompted voters to bounce many Republicans from Congress last November was supposed to give Democrats the momentum they needed to end the war. Instead, 10 months after Election Day, many are conflicted and confused about what to do next.
Last week's congressional testimony by Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker went better than even their supporters could have expected. Blunders by the left clearly worked in their favor. In a somewhat surprising move, the highly decorated four-star general took the brunt of the fire, leaving the more susceptible Crocker, testifying about the slow political progress in Iraq, unscathed.
The left-wing MoveOn.org, usually known for rallying the Democratic base, instead divided it when it attacked Petraeus in a full-page New York Times ad. The debate in Washington instantly shifted from Petraeus' progress report to the personal smear launched against him.
Congressional Republicans headed into last week's hearings split on Iraq. But thanks to MoveOn's ad, they found something to rally around. By the time the week came to a close, even presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani got into the mix, placing his own ad in the New York Times that ridiculed MoveOn's attack on the four-star general.
The left's second mistake came during the Petraeus and Crocker hearings. Activists from Code Pink repeatedly interrupted their testimony, prompting the Democratic chairman of the House Armed Service Committee, Rep. Ike Skelton of Missouri, to utter a profanity that was picked up by his microphone.
Aside from disrupting the hearing, Code Pink activists came adorned with signs featuring slogans such as "Generals Lie, Soldier Die." A protester dressed like the devil and wearing a mask of President Bush held another sign that said, "I've got Petraeus by the soul."
The Politico's Jonathan Martin remarked that "Karl Rove, Lee Atwater and Donald Segretti couldn't put their heads together and come up with such a dream scenario."
But these repeated attacks on Petraeus didn't come just from the left-wing fringe. Congressional Democrats were nearly as bad.