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In Focus: Petraeus Speaks But Who’s Listening?

The U.S. general's appearance before Congress today was the perfect opportunity for grandstanding.

by
Sheryl Longin

Bio

April 8, 2008 - 1:15 pm

General Petraeus’ appearance today before Congress calls to mind the old tree falling in the woods question. If the commander of our armed forces in Iraq testifies before a group of gaseous narcissistic partisan politicians does he really make a sound?

While the broad strokes of his testimony come as no surprise, is it too much to hope that the senators doing the questioning might actually listen and perhaps even learn something? Apparently, that’s not the point of Senate hearings which seem to exist almost exclusively as an opportunity for grandstanding. When the stakes are as high as they are now, rather than rise to the occasion, our elected representatives cling ever tighter to their safety positions, making the hearing nothing more than a televised partisan debate in which these pols hold out for as much air time as possible.

A quick scan of the blogosphere shows that no one has learned anything they didn’t already “know.” At the Corner, National Review’s Rich Lowry succinctly points out the main purpose of the hearings for both sides of the aisle — to get the answers they want to hear:

“Whatever else you think of [Senator Lindsay Graham], he’s an excellent questioner at these hearings. I think he just elicited about a dozen answers that highlight the importance of the surge and of success in Iraq.”

Senator Evan Bayh attempted something similar from the opposite end of the political spectrum, scoring extra points with the anti-war crowd for making the general sound irritated in his response.

Memeorandum’s main page is most damning of all, demonstrating with the following most talked about non-story story that these hearings exist in a political echo chamber, full of sound and fury but signifying nothing.

Sheryl Longin is the author of Dorian Greyhound: A Novel and co-screenwriter of the movie Dick
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