The resolution condemning MoveOn.org for its Petraeus ad was a no-win proposition for the Democrats - so why did they allow it to come to a vote without calling Admiral Fallon to the stand? Democratic Senators were left with the choice of either attacking MoveOn or opening themselves up to cheap shots come election time.
It didn't have to be that way.
Instead, Senate Democrats could've taken this position: We can't judge the fairness or accuracy of the MoveOn ad until we hear from Gen. Petraeus' boss. The ad says Petraeus is a political general who shades the facts, and he deserves a fair hearing. So let's put his boss under oath and ask him these questions:
1. Did Gen. Petraeus level with the American people, in your opinion?
2. Do you find him to be truthful and honest, or politically motivated?
3. Did you tell the General that you think he's an "ass-kissing little chickenshit"? If so, why?
4. Do you believe that the so-called "Surge" is working?
5. Are improvements in Anbar Province related to the Surge?
6. In your opinion, do Gen. Petraeus' opinions on Iraq reflect those of the Joint Chiefs and most experienced military leaders?
7. Do you consider criticism of Gen. Petraeus "the same as criticizing our troops"?
This GOP maneuver provided the ideal opening for Dems to do what they should have done before. Petraeus is a mid-level general. Why did the Senate minority and the Administration get to pick him, rather than a higher-ranking officer, to present his skewed version of the facts?
Admiral Fallon's opinions on these questions are well known, and his answers would almost certainly have rendered the MoveOn resolution politically dead. The GOP would have objected to his testimony, of course, but the Dems could have answered: How can you ask us to vote without first hearing the facts?
Both Sen. Clinton and Sen. Obama tried, in their separate ways, to make the best of the situation. Sen. Clinton defending MoveOn from scapegoating, while Sen. Obama essentially said what many people were thinking: Don't you people have more important things to do?
Both responses have some merit, but they and other Democrats were forced to play a bad hand. Why are they letting the minority decide who testifies and what comes to a vote?
This situation could have, and should have, been handled strategically. It would have served the Democrats politically - but more importantly, it would have given the American people a chance to hear the unvarnished truth.