PETRAEUS WEIGHS IN, SUPPORTS OBAMA POLICY…. When Defense Secretary Robert Gates endorsed President Obama’s policies on torture and closing the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Republicans were unmoved. Gates doesn’t count, they said. He may have been Bush’s Pentagon chief, but he’s not a neocon, and he now serves at Obama’s pleasure.
When Colin Powell (Bush cabinet) endorsed the same policies, Republicans were still unconvinced. Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and a Bush appointee, doesn’t count, either.
Fine. How about David Petraeus?
In an appearance on Radio Free Europe Sunday, the man hailed by conservatives as the preeminent military figure of his generation left little room for doubt about where he stands on some of Obama’s most contentious policies.
Indeed, Petraeus seemed to reject the Republican arguments altogether, embracing only those interrogation techniques “that are completely in line with the Geneva Convention.” The administration’s plan for Guantanamo, Petraeus added “sends an important message to the world, as does the commitment of the United States to observe the Geneva Convention when it comes to the treatment of detainees.”
Sam Stein added, “The remarks appear to be the first from Petraeus since the closure of Guantanamo and Bush Administration use of enhanced interrogation techniques became hot-button partisan issues. They couldn’t come at a better time for Obama.”
Now, I’ve been critical at times of Petraeus (and Powell, for the matter), and I’m not suggesting their arguments have merit only when I agree with their conclusions.
The point is that Petraeus’ position makes the Republican attacks that much less credible. In most GOP circles, there’s practically a religious reverence for Petraeus, and yet he now seems to have no use for the right’s single most important arguments of the day.
As a matter of policy, Obama is obviously right and his detractors are clearly wrong. But as a matter of political optics, we’re now dealing with a situation in which the president’s position — the one the right thinks is dangerous, naive, and terrorist-friendly — has been endorsed by Bush’s Defense Secretary (Gates), Bush’s chairman of the Joint Chiefs (Mullen), Bush’s Secretary of State (Powell), and the general Bush tapped to head U.S. Central Command (Petraeus).
On the other side, we have Newt Gingrich, Dick Cheney, Rush Limbaugh, and some craven members of Congress.