The Senate joined President Bush Thursday in denouncing an advertisement by the liberal anti-war group MoveOn.org that accused the top military commander in Iraq of betrayal.
The 72-25 Senate vote condemned the full-page ad that appeared in The New York Times last week as Gen. David Petraeus, the top military commander in Iraq, testified on Capitol Hill. The ad was headlined: "General Petraeus or General Betray Us? Cooking the books for the White House."
The ad became a life raft for the Republican Party as the war debate kicked into high gear. With several Republicans opposed to Mr. Bush's war strategy, GOP members were able to put aside their differences and rally around their disapproval of the ad.
Sen. Gordon Smith, one of the few Republican senators who supports legislation ordering troop withdrawals, told reporters Thursday he thought Petraeus' testimony and the MoveOn.org ad were the two biggest factors in keeping Republicans from breaking ranks with the president: Petraeus' testimony because it was persuasive and the MoveOn add because it went too far by attacking a popular uniformed officer.
"It was stupid on their part and disgraceful," said Smith, R-Ore.
The resolution condemning the ad was sponsored by conservative Republican John Cornyn of Texas. Voting against it were Democratic presidential hopefuls Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Christopher Dodd of Connecticut.
Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, another contender for the Democratic nomination, did not vote, although he voted minutes earlier for an alternative resolution by Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. That resolution condemned the MoveOn ad as an "unwarranted personal attack," but also condemned political attack ads that questioned the patriotism of Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., and former Sen. Max Cleland, D-Ga., both Vietnam veterans.
At aearlier Thursday, Mr. Bush denounced the ad as "disgusting" and said he was disappointed that more Democrats did not condemn it.
"I felt like the ad was an attack not only on Gen. Petraeus but on the U.S. military, and I was disappointed that not more leaders in the Democrat party spoke out strongly against that ad," he said.
Mr. Bush said that led him to conclude that "most Democrats are afraid of irritating a left-wing group like MoveOn.org, or more afraid of irritating them, then they are of irritating the United States military."
Eli Pariser, executive director of the liberal group, responded: "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."