WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A MoveOn.org political advertisement that criticized the top U.S. commander in Iraq was "disgusting," President Bush said Thursday, accusing Democrats of being afraid to criticize the anti-war group.
Gen. David Petraeus testifies on Capitol Hill last week about the so-called surge in Iraq.
Bush told reporters at a White House news conference that MoveOn.org's ad in The New York Times about Gen. David Petraeus was a "sorry deal." The September 10 full-page ad was titled "General Petraeus or General Betray Us?"
"I felt like the ad was an attack, not only on Gen. Petraeus, but on the U.S. military," Bush said. "And I was disappointed that not more leaders in the Democratic Party spoke out strongly against that kind of ad."
Bush said that "most Democrats are afraid of irritating a left-wing group like MoveOn.org" and they "are more afraid of irritating them than they are of irritating the United States military." Watch Bush condemn the MoveOn.org ad »
He said, "It's one thing to attack me. It's another thing to attack somebody like Gen. Petraeus."
Many Democratic lawmakers immediately criticized the ad after it was published.
Eli Pariser, executive director of MoveOn.org, reacted quickly to Bush's comments.
"What's disgusting is that the president has more interest in political attacks than developing an exit strategy to get our troops out of Iraq and end this awful war," Pariser said. "The president has no credibility on Iraq: He lied repeatedly to the American people to get us into the war. Most Americans oppose the war and want us to get out."
MoveOn.org and other war critics have accused Petraeus and the Bush administration of "cherry-picking" data to make it seem that military success is being achieved in Iraq.
During testimony last week before Congress, Petraeus and Ryan Crocker, U.S. ambassador to Iraq, said they believed the U.S. troop increase in Iraq has had some success, an assertion that critics of the war have questioned.
A Senate GOP amendment to repudiate the MoveOn.org ad passed Thursday 72-25 as Republicans tried to force Democrats to distance themselves, on the record, from the controversy.
GOP Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said the amendment "gives our colleagues a chance to distance themselves from these despicable tactics, distance themselves from the notion that some group literally has them on a leash, like a puppet on a string."
Among Democratic presidential candidates, Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York and Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut voted against the resolution. Sens. Joe Biden of Delaware and Barack Obama of Illinois didn't vote.
The Democrats on Thursday failed to pass their resolution. It included a condemnation of the "unwarranted personal attack" on Petraeus, but also condemned "personal attacks" that happened in 2002 against then-Democratic Sen. Max Cleland of Georgia and attacks in 2004 against Sen. John Kerry. The vote was 51-46, but 60 votes were needed to proceed.
The Democrats' amendment was sponsored by Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer of California.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she faults the Republicans for blocking the Democratic resolution praising Cleland, who was wounded while serving in Vietnam, and Kerry, who is a decorated veteran of the Vietnam War.
"The Senate just voted to denounce, condemn, whatever it is, MoveOn for that ad, but at same time, they rejected assaults on those who have served in our military with great heroism -- the Boxer amendment," Pelosi said. "It seems that the Republicans are selective in how they want to honor those who are serving or have served in the military. It was very disappointing, but it was also very telling." E-mail to a friend
CNN's Dana Bash contributed to this report.
|Most Viewed||Most Emailed|