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FOX Special canonizes David Petraeus

Reported by Chrish - September 24, 2007 -

In case viewers didn't get the message sent during the past two weeks' obsessive coverage of the MoveOn.Org ad in the New York Times 9/10 (Petraeus=good, MoveOn.org ( and by association liberals, George Soros, New York Times, and Democrats)=bad), FOX News put together a one-hour tribute to the General that aired twice this weekend 9/22/07. We haven't seen this much fawning emotional praise since Ronald Reagan died.

After introducing the subject by putting him in company with MacArthur, Patton,Eisenhower, Westmoreland and Schwarzkopf, host Jon Scott said they all had had their critics and supporters, inside and outside the White House - it's a part of our democracy. BUT, but never before had anyone faced such withering public criticism as Petraeus took from the MoveOn.org ad. (This was fully 55 seconds into the show, in case there was ever any question what the special was all about.)

Scott began with testimonials from childhood friends, who described Petraeus' "classic" "Norman Rockwell" beginnings in "an All-American family in an All-American town." Petraeus was remembered as "Peaches," clean-cut, friendly, serious,very decent, strong, fun with an ever-present smile. He got top grades and was a national Merit Scholarship recipient, a good thing because his "stern dad" would ground him for anything under a 95%. Mom was kind and loving and provided the perfect balance to the strict father. Young David the soccer player was very aggressive and gave a lot to the team, a fine young man with a great sense of humor known as Mr. Hustle.

After relating his acceptance into West Point, like his soccer coach before him, we learned that Petraeus was a high achiever and after graduation near the top of his class he married the daughter of the Superintendent and worked his way up the ranks, moving 17 times in 30 years. Petraeus took the "huge risk" of returning to school (Princeton), where the always inquisitive good listener was a "distinctive and noteworthy"* student.

Is this beginning to sound like one of those Christmas letters? In case you're thinking there was nothing, nothing negative to report about this man, it was told that rumor had it he was involved in a VW bug tipping in high school - which he never confirmed nor denied. So hold off those sainthood nominations.

Jon Scott introduced some favorable talking points in the form of leading questions - when Scales alluded to Petraeus taking a risk and going back to graduate school (a sentence that was abruptly cut off midway - leaving me to wonder what was cut) Scott raised his eyebrows and said "so he was somewhat of an independent thinker and a risk-taker even then?" Scales' purported answer, partially overdubbed, was a non sequitur, but the talking point was out there - Petraeus is independent. Later on Scott posed another leading question/comment, that Petraeus' hallmark is his adaptability...?

There was detailing of his military career through Bosnia and Iraq, the challenges and accomplishments, including restoring order to Mosul (which "looked like Fort Apache the Bronx") and restoring law and order after Coalition Provisional Authority head David Bremer had disbanded the Iraqi Security forces, leaving the country in chaos and anarchy. He was making it up as he went along, a testimony to his mental agility and his "knowledge of the 'art' of war."

In a perhaps inadvertant acknowledgment, Scott said that "by summer 2004 Al Qaeda had taken root in Iraq." Petraeus was tasked with the "mission impossible" of training Iraqi forces to take care of themselves. O'Hanlon allowed that there was limited success, only saying that it was better than the prior year. Scott enumerated Petraeus' resume in Iraq: he led a division in combat, provided governance and security in a crucial province, and spearheaded a training program.

Petraeus found himself back in Fort Leavenworth KS where he had the revelation that "this was an insurgency " and took a year to craft a new counter-insurgency doctrine. The fundamental tenet on which it rests is "that instead of destroying the enemy, it is also about protecting civilians." The new doctrine came out in late 2006 and shortly afterwards Petraeus found himself back in Iraq as Commander of Multi-national forces, tasked with implementing the doctrine and running Bush's "surge." "But hard is not hopeless," he said at his confirmation hearings.

Eight months after Petraeus inherited the "surge" (and not the "ideal" insurgency he had outlined in his doctrine) he was back in Washington to allegedly give an unbiased report on the success to date and his opinion, allegedly, of the prognosis for continued success (for we knew weeks before the report to Congress that it would be positive. Contrary to his public statement that he was the author of the report given to Congress, a WH press release stated that the White House would write the report based on input from Petraeus, Crocker and others.)

Music eerily reminiscent of the OJ trial - you know it, urgent, escalating, emphasis on the first beat...come to think of it, also reminiscent of Native American war drumbeats - played as the climax of the program approached 52 minutes in - The Ad.

The Ad questioned Petraeus' integrity; it caused a firestorm (and not the 24/7 attention devoted to slamming it on FOX for 2 weeks); it was "an undeserved slap at all professional military officers": it was "meanspirited" and "nefarious."

That last was expanded on: "Nefarious in that they tried to obscure information that we all have a right to." Michael O'Hanlon, what are you smokin'? If anyone should be accused of obscuring information it's your interviewers on FOX, who repeatedly, literally dozens of times, have shown ONLY the inflammatory headline and who have consistently hidden from view and refused to explore the content of the ad, which lists sources and links to numerous articles and analysis that uphold their contention that the surge is a failure, and no more lives should be lost trying to make it work. Included in that ad are these important links:


"Every independent report on the ground situation in Iraq shows that the surge strategy has failed."
GAO report, 9/4/07
NIE report, 8/23/07
Jones report, CSIS, 9/6/07
Independent AP investigation, 9/1/07
Independent L.A. Times investigation, 9/1/07

FOX News, being the "fair and balanced" network will certainly be airing MoveOn's take on the situation soon and feature liberal and anti-war voices who don't automatically put members of the military on a pedestal, and who don't unquestioningly swallow every potion they deliver to us. That program will air the day after hell freezes over; in the meantime, read Eli Pariser's comments here.


*For your consideration, ThinkProgress has already noted that one of the guests in this special, Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Insttitute, is a long-time friend who went to school with Petraeus. Other guests/supporters included war-happy Oliver North, former Senator Dr. Bill Frist (who operated on Petraeus after he was shot in a training accident), and Maj. Genl. Bob Scales, who has been propping up this war on FOX for at least three years.

All in all, it was a tribute to General Petraeus, an honor bestowed by FOX for taking one for the team; a Medal of Freedom will probably follow shortly.