ABC's Luis Martinez reports:
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin began Tuesday's confirmation hearing for Gen. David Petraeus with words of praise for Sen. Robert Byrd and Mrs. Holly Petraeus.
To the right of Levin there is a vase of what appears to be a dozen white roses occupying the seat Sen. Byrd occupied on the committee.
“He was an eloquent spokesman for the vital role that Congress plays in national security and foreign affairs in our constitutional system,” Levin said of Byrd. “He was a treasure colleague and a friend to members of the Senate Armed Services Committee , to the entire Senate and to the entire senate and his life’s work and his legacy will help guide us and future senators.”
If Byrd were alive to attend the hearing, he would likely not have given Petraeus easy questions. Byrd opposed the war in Iraq and the surge that helped bring more stability there starting in 2007.
Byrd voted against promoting Petraeus to command Central Command in 2008, in part, as Byrd explained on Huffington Post because the jury was still out on the Iraq surge.
Now Petraeus will leave his post as head of Central Command in Florida, technically a demotion, to see out the surge President Obama implemented in Afghanistan.
At Tuesday’s hearing Levin also took time to praise Gen. Petraeus’ wife Holly for her sacrifice in having her husband serve away from home for so long. It seemed very heartfelt and genuine .
“Your wife Holly is with you this morning, so I want to thank her personally for her commitment and her sacrifices along the way. Her understanding of your doing your patriotic duty as you see it is truly inspiring,” said Levin.
Ranking Republican John McCain also praised Holly Petraeus. In a comment that brought some laughs and made both the Petraeus’ smile, “On behalf of our entire committee we think you made a wise decision to accept a blind date more than 34 years ago with a young cadet.”
Petraeus brought a black coffee mug emblazoned with the insignia of the 101st Airborne Division, which he once commanded, to his confirmation hearing Tuesday.