THE BLOG

Thumbs Up and Thumbs Down on the Move On "Betray Us" Ad and the Senate Censure Vote

Two thumbs up for Moveon.Org as an organization. It has done as much as anyone to catalyze opposition to the Iraq war, to build the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, and through its prowess in raising tens of millions of dollars for Democratic Congressional campaigns, to help the Democrats retake Congress.

Two thumbs down to the Senate Republicans who filibustered votes on bills supported by the majority of the Congress and the county--bills which would have supported our troops and kept our armed forces whole by giving them a year at home for every year at the front, and which would have restored the constitutional right of habeas corpus--and then had the temerity to put forth a congressional resolution attacking the free speech rights of Move On for running an anti-war political ad. These are the same Republicans who ran ads comparing Sen. Max Cleland, who left three limbs on the battlefield in Vietnam, to Osama Bin Laden, and slandered John Kerry for his military service that won him five medals for bravery.

Two thumbs down to Majority Leader Harry Reid for allowing this outrageous piece of Republican legislation to even reach a vote on the Senate floor.

An even two bigger thumbs down to the 22 cowardly Democratic Senators who voted with the Republicans to censure Move On, one of the most important organizations in helping restore a Democratic majority to Congress, for exercising its free speech rights. (Let me add a particular thumbs down to my own Democratic Senator Diane Feinstein, who ought to know better.) As Paul Begala pointed out earlier in Huffpo, Bush and the Republicans just wanted to divide progressives and score political points--These 22 Democrats were enablers for the Republicans. They should have demanded that Bush and the Republicans repudiate the Swift Boat ads and their smears of Sen. Cleland, not helped Republicans smear the Democrats' own base and voted for a bill resolution stating that Gen. Petreaeus "deserves the full support of the Senate". And they should have used this Republican resolution as another opportunity to fight the Republican's continued backing of the war and to challenge Petraeus's conclusions.

I have to give Hillary Clinton two thumbs up for openly registering her vote against the Republican resolution and for artfully refusing to fall for Rudy Giuliani's baits to denounce Move On. I hope Hillary is not the Democratic presidential nominee--she's too corporate, cautious and triangulating for my tastes, and polls repeatedly show that she's the least electable of the leading Democrats. But credit should be given when credit is due. And I have to express disappointment in Barack Obama for trying to have it both ways, failing to show up to vote on the bill, and then issuing a statement that it was not germane. Increasingly, Obama is looking like an ordinary calculating politician and, in my mind, only John Edwards seems to be emerging as a strong, electable, progressive alternative to Hillary.

But...only one thumb up to Move On for running an ad that accurately challenged Gen. Petraeus's assertion that the "surge" is a success and provided plenty of factual documentation why it's not...and one thumb down to Move On for political immaturity in using a silly rhyme, "Petraeus" and "Betray Us", to unnecessarily impugn the integrity of a man who has given most of his life to military service. The military is the most respected American institution which is why Bush chose to hide behind his General and then used the "Betray Us" ad to change the subject away from the surge's failure. There was plenty of basis to challenge Petraeus on the facts without stooping to personal innuendo

I'm a proud member of Move On, so this criticism is just within the family. I'm a believer in bare knuckle politics, where necessary. But in politics, it's not a good idea to hand your opponents a weapon with which to bludgeon you and the Republicans are adept at bludgeoning anyone who dares disagree with them. Both Republicans and DLC-type "centrist" Democrats have been working for years to discredit Move On, and to drive a wedge between Democratic office holders and the progressive Democratic base. "Betray Us" was a tactical mistake that helped them in that effort. It may make it somewhat more difficult for the Move On fundraising machine to help Democratic candidates who, if they accept Move On support, will face Republican attack ads that they dishonor the military. I say this to Move On with love, admiration, and support, but when you're playing in the big leagues, it's not a good idea to hand ammunition to your political opponents.

That said, one tactical misstep doesn't undermine years of invaluable work. To Move On and its staff, volunteers, and members, keep your chin up and keep fighting. Today I added my name to Move On's petition that "I will not be quiet. I will fight back. I will keep speaking out until Congress forces an exit plan for this awful war" and I sent them a contribution to run a new ad attacking the Republican Senators who continue to filibuster a vote on setting a timeline to bring the troops home. I urge every reader of the Huffington Post to go to Moveon.org and do the same.

So, whatever criticism I may have of Move On for what I believe was a tactical mistake in judgment, my final two thumbs up go to Move On for all the invaluable work it's done, and all the invaluable work that remains to be done.