MoveOn ad against Gen. Petraeus triggers outcry

Republican leaders denounce the ad strategy, saying it amounts to a personal attack on a military general.

As Army Gen. David Petraeus testified before the House Armed Services and Foreign Affairs committees Monday to update Congress on progress in Iraq, the Internet group led a side skirmish on the issue via an advertisement in The New York Times.

The liberal group with 3.2 million members ran a full-page ad under the headline "General Petraeus or General Betray Us?" The ad accuses Petraeus of being "a military man constantly at war with the facts" and of cooking the books on war statistics to make it look like the recent U.S. troop surge in Iraq is working.

Part of the ad strategy could be to pressure Democrats in Congress to declare a position on troop withdrawal. Republican leaders responded with their own push to get Democratic leaders to denounce what they call a personal attack on a military general.

"Democratic leaders must make a choice today: Either embrace the character-assassination tactics has leveled against the four-star general leading our troops in the fight against al Qaeda or denounce it as disgraceful," said House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio. Minority Whip, Roy Blunt, R-Mo., also e-mailed reporters a statement condemning MoveOn.

"It is bad enough that has been trying to bully members of Congress into a course of action that most experts believe would lead to catastrophe in Iraq and the death of tens of thousands in a regional sectarian war," National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Cole said. "But comparing an American general, who has spent his life serving and defending our country, to traitors ... goes too far."

In addition to urging House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to respond, the NRCC singled out Rep. Nick Lampson. The Texas Democrat won the seat of former Rep. Tom DeLay last year and received donations from MoveOn.

Jennifer Crider a former spokeswoman for Pelosi now at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee noted that "MoveOn is an independent organization." "The Republicans will use any tactic to distract from the issue, which is that the American people support Democrats' efforts to end the war," Crider said.

"It's unfortunate that they're concentrating on the headlines instead of the facts in the ad," said Nita Chaudhary, MoveOn's spokeswoman. "We stand by every single fact [in the ad], and we challenge Boehner ... and any other politician to refute those facts."

Some conservative bloggers also responded to MoveOn's ad by trying to pressure moderate Democrats. RedState listed 30 Democratic members of Congress on Monday and urged readers to call them to ask if they support the MoveOn ad.

At, conservative blogger Amanda Carpenter wrote about the MoveOn ad, which drew criticism in the comments, including a few by self-declared liberals.

The MoveOn ad is part of a broader $12 million, anti-war campaign, which includes TV ads targeted to run in four states represented by senators who support the war. The ads ask whether America should "start training our children now" for war if Republicans do not end it.

MoveOn also e-mailed members last week to ask about adding another battlefront to their war on the war by targeting Democrats who support it. The e-mail criticized DINOs -- "Democrats in name only" -- and asked whether MoveOn should get involved in primary challenges to them.