12:20 PM: General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker will be testifying before a joint hearing of the House Armed Services and Foreign Affairs Committees starting in a few minutes. Mother Jones is providing full coverage, with reporters on the scene and live updates right here at MoJoBlog. Newspapers around the country have already reported the bulk of what Petraeus will say. Lead item: Petraeus plans to ask for another Friedman unit before making a decision about withdrawing troops.
12:35: The hearing just started, with some members of the audience being escorted out immediately. Of course. Ike Skelton asked "Are they gone?" before continuing.
12:36: Mr. Skelton reminds us that this is one of the "most important hearings" of the year. That's the kind of hard-hitting analysis we're looking forward to today.
12:39: Mr. Skelton is already within a few seconds of breaking the "5-minute rule" he called for just 5 minutes ago. Because we've been waiting six months for the Skelton report.
12:44: By 5 minutes, he meant 10. At least he's not as tone-deaf as MoveOn.org, which called Petraeus "General Betray Us" in an ad published in the Times today.
12:46: Tom Lantos, the Foreign Affairs chairman, takes his turn. It's worth noting that he has two son-in-laws. They're named Dick Swett and Timber Dick. Really.
12:48: First reference to "ammo dumps." Worth noting.
12:49: Lantos says we can't take anything the administration says about Iraq "at face value." He doesn't "buy" the idea that victory is at hand.
12:51: Lantos joins the chorus of voices attacking Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. He calls him a "front man for Shiite partisans," and accusing him of being aligned with "notorious militias, death squads, and sectarian thugs."
12:54: Lantos: "We are wrecking our military... and limiting our ability to address our global military needs."
12:56: Duncan Hunter is the first Republican to speak. He says Democrats have been attacking Petraeus' credibility. Also he says that he "knows" that Petraeus' testimony hasn't been written by political operatives, even though multiple news reports have said that the testimony has been put together by the White House. That's one!
1:00: Difficulty with the facts number two: Duncan Hunter is the first Republican to claim that progress in Anbar Province is related to the surge. This is not the case.
1:02: First Reagan reference! Who had 1:02 in the pool?
1:03: Hunter compares Petraeus to Eisenhower, too. Is Petraeus going to run for president? Our own Dan Schulman investigates.
1:07: Ileana Ros-Lehtinen trusts Petraeus' "reporting."
1:10: More on the MoveOn ad from Ros-Lehtinen. It could be backfiring.
1:11: First Neville Chamberlain reference.
1:15: Petraeus takes the floor. The acoustics in here are "not good at all," Skelton warns. Then someone asks where the statement is. "It should be passed out by now," Skelton says.
1:16: Brian Williams on MSNBC said that the Commander of U.S. forces in Iraq is powerless in the face of a broken microphone.
1:17: Another person is removed for "making a disturbance." "Is it fixed?"
1:18: Where's Petraeus' statement? Is it with the Weapons of Mass Destruction?
1:19: Skelton can't find Burton. Burton recommends being very firm in geting them out of here. "i still see them out there. "Who's speaking?" "This is a very important hearing!"
1:20: "That really pisses me off, dammit." Skelton doesn't know that we can hear him cursing.
1:23: It'll take 5 minutes to fix the microphone. Good enough for government work.
Go to Part Two.