It's days like today that I consider it a real privilege to live in Washington and work in the media - for today is truly an historical moment for America.
General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker began testifying before Congress today offering a sober and collective assessment of the situation in Iraq. Despite whether you agree or disagree with the overall assessments that they are making - most notably that more time is needed in Iraq - Petraeus and Crocker are the men in charge.
Perhaps the most overriding aspect of these hearings is the undeniable reality that Main Street America is divided over our mission in Iraq - not just Washington. And the debate that will follow in the coming months will undoubtedly shape the policy and future of the mission as well as our nation's legacy of what we did there.
Looking ahead, I would offer a couple of observations:
1. While the demeanor of today's hearing in the House (despite repeated outbursts by Code Pink protesters) was calm and respectful, I think Petraeus and Crocker should expect a different treatment from the Senate. Four of the first five senators who get to question them are: Biden, Dodd, Kerry and Hagel. Both Biden and Kerry were assailing the anticipated testimony this past Sunday on the talking head shows - and Hagel is a man with nothing to lose after announcing his retirement in 2008. The real showdown begins tomorrow.
2. The Democrats' efforts to end the war in Iraq have often been jeopardized by special interest groups who attack them for a lack of progress. But the full page ad in the NYT today by MoveOn.org calling Gen. Petraeus "General Betray Us" crosses the line between tough-love and real damage. Gen Petraeus has an incredibly difficult job and has made it abundantly clear that he is not doing the WH's bidding on the war. To assail his character is something that I believe greatly undermines the Democrats' position on Iraq and they should seek to distance themselves from such a campaign.
I believe we will look back for years to come on the testimony of what Gen Petraeus and Amb Crocker have to say - pay attention and draw your own conclusions.