September 11th, 2007
09:09 AM ET
12 years ago

Lawmakers caught losing their cool at Iraq hearing

Watch the heated exchanges among lawmakers that took place during Monday's hearing.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Heated exchanges, outbursts, and even a bit of profanity among lawmakers magnified the pressure Monday amid crucial testimony from the Iraq Commanding General David Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker on the future of the war. (Related: Petraeus: Troop withdrawals by year's end)

The first such exchange came before Congress managed to get out of the gates. House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton, D-Missouri, had a contentious moment with Congressman Dan Burton, R-Indiana, over the presence of protesters who had disrupted proceedings.

In open session, Burton made the following demand of Skelton: “I see a number of people in the audience that I anticipate will be making a disturbance. And if this occurs during the testimony by our honored guests, I hope that you will be very firm and get them out of here.” (Related video: Protesters disrupt hearing)

A frustrated Skelton responded, “You don't have to lecture me. They'll be gone. Don't worry about it.”

Burton told him, “Well, I still see them out there.”

Skelton replied, “Do not worry about him. Don't worry about him. We have done this before.”

Minutes later, during a recess to fix the witnesses’ broken microphones, Burton approached Skelton, and in an exchange picked up on an open mic, Burton told Skelton, “I’m not lecturing you.”

Skelton responded, with Congressman Duncan Hunter, R-California sitting right next to him: “The hell you weren’t. Duncan knows I don't need a [expletive deleted] lecture.”

The protesters, seven of whom were arrested or led from the room during the hearing, clearly rankled the chairman. Under the impression that the mic was off, Skelton then told Hunter, “That really pisses me off, Duncan,” followed by a stronger expletive. “And I don’t need a god-damn lecture from Dan Burton."

Another exchange came at the end of the day when Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Florida, in advance of questioning Petraeus, thanked the chairman, in all seriousness, for “the very calm way in which you’ve conducted this hearing.”

But moments later, the Florida Republican found herself in the middle of the day’s latest verbal dust-up. It all started when Ros-Lehtinen told the committee, “And, again, I offer my colleagues the opportunity to use this hearing to distance themselves from the despicable ad that was published today calling into question the patriotism of General Petraeus.”

The comment was part of an effort by Republicans to get Democrats to denounce a print ad by the liberal advocacy group ad. The ad, running in Monday's edition of the New York Times, shows a picture of Petraeus. Bold letters spell out "General Petraeus or General Betray us?"

That’s when Congressman Neil Abercrombie, D-Hawaii, interrupted Ros-Lehtinen, saying, “Point of order, Mr. Chairman. Nobody has to distance themselves from something they weren't associated with.”

Ros-Lehtinen made a face, shrugged her shoulders, and said under her breath, “take it easy”.

- CNN Political Desk Managing Editor Steve Brusk

Filed under: Uncategorized
soundoff (220 Responses)
  1. HomeoftheBrave

    Can this train wreck of a Congress get any better? The Harry and Nancy show..., comedy at its worst.

    By the way, where are Nancy's shrills?? No one attacks American heroes better or with more zeal than Nancy Pelosi and her 8th district..

    September 11, 2007 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  2. Monica, Cleburne, TX

    We're all human people.

    September 11, 2007 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  3. Eric Fort Leonardwood, MO

    The military is not allowed to protest anything so to allow protesters in a military briefing is unpatriotic any one that thinks differently can pack there bags. The military has been our hired protectors from the time of establishment of this country till now. The military is made of volunteers and every one of them currently volunteered to go to this war. Enough time has passed that anyone not volunteering to go should be out by now. If they are whining about going I say give them a dishonorable and send them and the people to France.

    September 11, 2007 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  4. Bubba, Swainsboro Ga

    realist: Petraeus in the field is a war hero. Petraeus in a hearing is a politician. Fair game.

    September 11, 2007 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  5. Findlay,OH

    So, cussing can now be related to getting re-elected? This really isn't even news, and I agree with those who said it shows us they are human. Try going up there and working, and see if you don't cuss.

    September 11, 2007 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  6. Kim Midland, MI

    Honored guests? When I come to work and do the job I was hired to do, I am not a guest.

    This country creeps ever closer to establishing an aristocracy of unearned wealth. Now the General is an honored guest?

    We don't have a monarchy, royals, or any of the other trappings that caused millions of people to emigrate to the US. We are all equal – from the person cleaning the toilets in the Minneapolis airport, to General Patraeus, to the Congress and executive branch. You are NOT KINGS, PRINCES, DUKES or LORDS. We owe you no honor or respect just because of the job you hold.

    I really respect the people who took the time and effort to protest in the gallery. These are the people who change the world, not the Presidents or Generals. speaks for a lot of people who feel completely betrayed by the lies and political intrigues that convinced this nation to go to war. Lies that are still being told today.

    911 happened because the airline companies refused to spend money to upgrade airplanes to prevent intruders from entering the cockpit. It didn't have to be Islamic terrorists, it could have been any group with an agenda to kill people. Planes don't kill people. People kill people.

    September 11, 2007 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  7. Wynter, Loudon, NH

    Hey JB, Mehbame, I agree with you there.

    But until Petraeus gets the brass to start disagreeing with Bush then he ain't no MacArthur. Right now he is just playing as the president's toy general in congress.

    My view, is that we should be drawing down our presence in that country. Not pulling out, but rather refocusing our mission to one of training and tactical support. But Bush is still pushing the mission for complete institutional change of their country into something it will take decades to reach. Congress is seeking to change that obsolete mission. And the only way to do that is to hear the unvarnished truth from the solider in charge. So far it's sounding like Bush's Press Secretary.

    Telling it like I see it,

    September 11, 2007 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  8. Mark, IGH MN

    Blogs are interesting things with disinformation based on opinion and horrible journalism by the vast majority of "reporters" getting paid for their nonsense. As Americans, we seem to have lost our thirst for the truth, the protection of our individual rights and civil liberties in lieu of tainted food and lead from China. We have forgotten that our beloved Constitution was written for the people, not the corporations. We promote America as a place rather than an ideal and have chosen to lead the world thru bombs and bullets rather than the divine force of example.

    People who swear is not news of substance and it would be much more helpful to have journalism focus on issues concerning education, our decaying infruastructure, economy, enviroment, renewable energy, famine and disease ... you know, grown up issues. Yet here we are in a frivilous war that our legislators and media have still not gotten right and continue to throw our precious young men, women and $3M/wk in national treasure at with no one able to articulate what our ultimate goal is. Perhaps that is just for Exxon and Haliburton to know. Today I mourn those who have given their lives in service to their country including my daughter and my friend's son and I loathe bin Laden. I think it is important for us to remember on this day, that as one blogger pointed out, Iraq did not attack the US, did not have WMD, no ties to al queda, and were not an imminent threat (they couldn't even control their own airspace!!!). It is long past time for our legislators and media to put their best foot forward and serve this great nation with the truth on critical issues, not agenda and concentrate less on swearing and men's public restrooms.

    BTW, just for informational purposes, Ike and his committee are from the House and are not senators, but representatives as noted by a couple of bloggers. Be well America and do not settle for anything less than the truth.

    September 11, 2007 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  9. John

    Must be great to constantly lie to everyone and never be punished. Every time I can remember some government official saying things are going better in Iraq, I hear about U.S. casualties being higher than they've ever been.

    Which is exactly why Bush wants the military to be on this suicide mission FOREVER – what else would you expect from a satanist (who will lie about anything, even being a born-again Christian, to gain more power)?

    He's seems to only be interested in perpetrating evil and death against Americans, by proxy, to insulate himself from prosecution.

    September 11, 2007 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  10. Jessica, Washington DC

    See, nearly 2/3 of the nation is totally against the war already and wants us to pull out yesterday. Lending even more weight to that statement is that 75% or more feel that we should be pulling out regardless of the progress the General either reports or does not report.

    Posted By John S. Chicago, Illinois : September 10, 2007 7:11 pm

    Yeah, and my child would like chocolate cake for breakfast. Guess what? He listens to me when I say he must eat oatmeal, and a banana b/c I know more about what's good for his body.
    I wish people were just reasonable. The American people have NO IDEA what pulling out means, or what the outcome of doing so rapidly would be. Gen Patreus, and everyone in consultation with him do, but we want to stick our fingers in our ears and get out "yesterday"?? Why is everyone overlooking the substantial pullout he is suggesting??
    Why are people who are feeling little to no effect of this war whining about coming home?
    Why does anyone really beleive that the Democrats really believe in the substantial and immediate pullout that thier voter base is calling for?? They know better! They are coddling their constiuents. When policy makers inevitably follow the suggestions reccomended by Generals on the ground the Dems will put on a nice little dog and pony show about how they tried!!!
    The American People, half of which probably can't even name the Sec Def DO NOT know what's best when it comes to policy, strategy, and execution. We get to vote, and then deal with our choices.

    September 11, 2007 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  11. spinstopper

    Too bad it was the Republican party that got us into Iraq.. - The Admiral St. Augustine Fl.

    Excuse me Admiral sir, but giving Bush the power to wage war was a bipartisian decision. Remember those??

    September 11, 2007 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  12. John Diaz Los Angeles California

    It's sad to see all these so called educated and intelligent people who all of us citizens of this country look to for solutions and what direction will be the best to take for both the country and it's people and we look to these people to do such a thing for us.

    Not a single Congressman or Senator was smart and intelligent enough to bring both the Senate and the Congress together to review the consequences if war was the only solution.

    Senators as well as Congressmen decided it was best to go along with others who felt the best way was to go to war against a country that had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks but instead of concentrating in going after those who actually attacked us Senators and Congressmen along with the President and Vice-President figured in going after a man and a country that again had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks and make him and his country along with it's people pay for our lack of intelligence and plenty of stupidity. But if we are victorious who cares if we are intelligent or not. What matters is the end result and according to mane the end results was going to be praise just like the banner on the battle ship that read " MISSION ACCOMPLISHED" and a President to endorse such a victorius accomplishment.

    Now, by no means am I saying that Saddam Hussein was a nice man, but at one time our own leaders felt he was nice enough that we help him by providing him with weapons such as chemical, gas and lethal explosive bombs to fight our number one enemy Iran and he fought an eight year battle and we support him all the way to the point that we went around congress our own watch dog in order to provide him and the enemy with weapons via the contras in Central America until a plane was shut down by the Nicaraguan Sandinistas who capture a US pilot along with the goods an a pilot who spilled the beans out and mention who he worked for at that time. And the person in charge of such operation was a United States Marines Colonel by the name of Oliver North.

    How stupid it is for all these Senators, congressmen and now presidential candidates to blame those who are in the battle field like General David Patraeus and along with my son whom I'm very proud of as I am sure all other families are of their love ones who are out there day in and day out fighting an invisible enemy who uses any and all methods to kill our soldiers. My respect and full apreciation to General David Petraeus for doing such a great job and for having the guts to take such a monumental task an a task that many would have buckle under long ago.

    Congress as body, the Senate as a body along with all 22 presidential candidates should stop looking as to who to blame for our failures in Irak and begin first by looking into their own failures and how to best end this mess created by Congress, the President, the Vice-President for providing and fabricating erroneous data and data that was so altered that it made all of us believe other then reality.

    Bottom line, the President cannot declare war or send forces outside our country to fight unless is approved by Congress. So the Congress and the President should share the same blame and should now come together as to what's the best way to exit such an operation.

    Thank You.
    John Diaz
    Los Angeles California

    September 11, 2007 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  13. Mark, Sacramento, CA

    People, people, come on! Please stop the vitriolic hatred spewing toward one another here on this blog. Express an/your opinion, fine. But your childish, hate-filled attacks here on one another only serve to demonstrate that our lowly politicians–whom we ALL seem to hate and despise here–are simply a reflection of those for whome they serve (all of us), their constituents. Judging by this blog and it's postings from people all over the country, we're all "pretty messed up" as a country–we all hate each other and fight amongst ourselves. Proud to be an American?!? NOT!!! We're a bunch of sickos!! Selfish, greedy, immature, driven by $$$ and consumption, etc. No wonder our country is going down the tubes!!

    September 11, 2007 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  14. Fred ,Gainesville Florida

    Hey Dems,
    let's dig a hole and stick our heads in it.

    And let the whole world do want they want.
    Selfish Dems.

    September 11, 2007 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  15. JB Boston, MA

    Let's try again. . . .

    I am genuinely asking someone who truly believes that we should completely withdraw today to respond to my question, please. When there is a complete vacuum of power after we withdraw, and people start to die, how many people will need to die before we decide to go back in? 100,000, 250,000, or 1 million??? Or do the lives of Iraqi's not count in your opinion? I am not being obnoxious, I am asking a serious question that needs to be addressed. Personally, I agree with Huckabee, we broke it, we need to fix it. Many people yell and scream to withdraw but never address the consequences to withdrawal. 4000 American soldiers have died, and that is terrible. If another 1000 have to die in order to save 1 million Iraqi's, is it worth it? And CNN, have the guts to post this. I have asked this question in the past, and they have not posted it.

    September 11, 2007 06:22 pm at 6:22 pm |
  16. Josh, Clarksville, AR

    I believe that Mr. Burton needs to remember that he is sitting in the PEOPLE'S HOUSE. It sickens me to hear comments like that, or to see an American citizen removed from the halls of freedom and liberty for speaking up and taking a stand. I guess they'd have been more welcome if they'd have been big budget lobbyist.

    September 11, 2007 10:04 pm at 10:04 pm |
  17. The Admiral St. Augustine Fl.

    Too bad it was the Republican party that got us into Iraq.. — The Admiral St. Augustine Fl.

    Excuse me Admiral sir, but giving Bush the power to wage war was a bipartisian decision. Remember those??

    Yeah, but it was a REPUBLICAN that twisted everything before hand. Most people at the time didn't know how incompetent Bush or his Admin. was. To bad we didn't see him coming a little sooner. So, go ahead and blame the Democrats if that make you feel better, but 70% of the country knows the truth and so do you. But being a Republican you could never say it. Pity.

    September 12, 2007 01:48 am at 1:48 am |
  18. David, Roseburg OR

    Here is the solution folks, we bring in the army corps of engineers, repair all the damage we did to their infrastructure in the first three days and then move out. This means we repair their electrical grid, their sewage plants, their water works and so on, then we pack up and go home.

    Now had our government truly planned the attack we would have kept the basis of their infrastructure intact so that the citizens of Iraq would have their basic needs we all want met on the day after our attack. When you leave a country for many years without electricity, sewage and running water there is little hope they will think kindly of us. How would you like going without electricity for years and only recently have it go online for a few hours a day and never knowing when it will fail again that very same day?

    September 12, 2007 02:24 am at 2:24 am |
  19. a blowhard

    love the way most of you idiots are stating this as "Bush's War". Well I guess by that notion, Vietnam is actually Kennedy's War!

    September 12, 2007 06:12 am at 6:12 am |
  20. Josh Fay, AR


    did you forget that Kennedy was trying to end the war in Vietnam... oh wait i guess you did.. Thats why Nixon and GB
    senior killed him... Nixon is very, very lucky the watergate scandal came out our who knows what would of happened but.. Kennedy was in the middle of going against every1 in White House to pull out of the Vietnam war. did any1 read what Noam Chomsky said and i quote "Bush is bin Ladden's best alley".

    September 12, 2007 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
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