Mitt Romney this morning blasted the liberal political group MoveOn.org for questioning the independence of General David H. Petraeus on the eve of his much-anticipated testimony today to Congress on the Iraq war.
In a full-page ad in today's New York Times, the group asked in a headline, "General Petraeus or General Betray Us?" and accused the top US military commander in Iraq of "cooking the books for the White House."
Romney called the ad "outrageous," adding, "Like the men he commands, he is risking his life to protect our freedoms here at home. We should not prejudge him or his testimony, or give him anything less than the full respect he deserves."
In his presidential campaign, Romney has generally supported the Bush administration's policy in Iraq and has said the so-called surge of 30,000 additional US troops is working.
"Democrats must make a choice," Romney said in a statement. "Will they embrace these deplorable tactics or give General Petraeus a fair hearing? It should be the hope of all Americans that we give him a fair hearing. Certainly, he and our men and women in Iraq deserve it. In the coming days and weeks, there will be much debate about the future course in Iraq, but this debate should be free of the kind of shameful tactics MoveOn.org has shown today. It's time we heard from the generals, not Washington politicians and not ultra-liberal advocacy groups. All Americans should keep an open mind."
John McCain also condemned the ad, calling it a "McCarthyite attack on an American patriot."
"This is a man who has devoted his life in service to our nation and has defended America in many battles over many years," McCain said in a statement. "Now he is the target of a despicable attack in one our nation's most visible newspapers. No matter where you stand on the war, we should all agree on the character and decency of this exceptional American. I would hope that the Democratic Congressional leadership and Democratic presidential candidates would also join me in publicly condemning this kind of political attack ad and the organization responsible for it in the strongest terms possible."
This afternoon, MoveOn.org issued a statement standing by the ad and challenging critics to point out any factual misstatements.
"It should come as no surprise that General Petraeus' claims have come under critical scrutiny," Eli Pariser, executive director of the group's political action committee, said in the statement. "The facts all point in one direction -- the surge isn't working -- and General Petraeus and the White House are pointing in another."