Senator Joe Biden may not have impressed enough voters while he was out on the stump to sustain his campaign, but he truly finds his stride in the committee chamber. As Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations committee, his level of critical rigor took a much deeper root in the gathered Senators than we saw in this morning's Armed Services Committee hearing - there was far less cheerleading as even conservatives like Dick Lugar, George Voinovich, and Chuck Hagel went on the offensive in their interrogations of Petraeus and Crocker.
But Biden may have gotten in the lick of the day when he pinned Crocker down, asking the Ambassador to make a critical distinction between the threats posed by al Qaeda in Iraq and the large al Qaeda organization currently sheltering in the tribal regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan.
BIDEN: Mr. Ambassador, is al Qaeda a greater threat to U.S. interest in Iraq or in the Afghan/Pakistan border region?
CROCKER: Mr. Chairman, al Qaeda is a strategic threat to the United States wherever it is, in my --
BIDEN: Where is most of it? If you can take it out, if you had a choice, the Lord Almighty came down sat in the middle of the table and said Mr. Ambassador you can eliminate every al Qaeda source in Afghanistan and Pakistan or every al Qaeda personnel in Iraq, which would you pick?
CROCKER: Given the progress made against al Qaeda in Iraq, the significant decrease in its capabilities of the fact it is solidly on the defensive and not in a position as far --
BIDEN: Which would you pick, Mr. Ambassador?
CROCKER: I would therefore pick al Qaeda in the Pakistan/Afghanistan border area.
BIDEN: That would be a smart choice.
It is a smart choice. As we have already noted, al Qaeda in Iraq is an inconsequential group of about 850 individuals, a "microscopic terrorist organization."
Read HuffPost's full covereage of the Petraeus hearing.
[This entry has been corrected from its earlier posting.]