Craven fools. The 22 Democrats and supposed Republican moderates who paid homage to the right-wing slander machine by voting to disavow Moveon.org yesterday once more demonstrated why they're considered sunshine patriots who can't be trusted when things get tough.
This isn't anything new. Republicans, stuck with defending an unpopular president intent on continuing the worst foreign policy debacle in U.S. history, look for ways to distract. Moveon.org published an ad with an unfortunate title - "General Petraeus or General Betray Us?" - but correctly indicting Gen. David Petraeus, the ambitious political general wired to the White House spinners, of cooking the books on Iraq. The Republicans revved up their attack machine, enlisting everyone from Rush Limbaugh to the shameless president, who disgracefully charged that the "Democrat Party" is more afraid of "irritating a left-wing group like Moveon.org" ... than "the United States military."
We've seen this before. This is a patented right-wing ploy. They grab on to a random event, inflate it into a national scandal, intimidate the media, and chuckle as Democrats fall for it. The Republican attack squad in 2004 turned a butchered joke by Sen. John Kerry into a measure of Democratic hatred of the military, and the entire Democratic establishment turned on Kerry. They've libeled Moveon for years because one of thousands of participants in a 30-second ad campaign contest submitted an entry comparing Bush to Hitler. Now, they get 22 Democrats in the Senate and the supposedly independent Republican moderates to line up and waste time passing a resolution condemning Moveon for its newspaper ad. They do this only to prove one thing - that Democrats are too spineless to stand up even for their allies. That they will cut and run at the first sign of fire.
Why would Democrats do this? One hapless aide suggested that they were fearful of the electoral consequences of not disavowing Moveon. Pathetic. Republicans are using filibusters to block majority support for ending Bush's disastrous venture in Iraq, to deny soldiers the guarantee of basic home rotations vital to their mental health and military training, to block restoration of basic habeas corpus rights, to block empowering Medicare to negotiate lower prices on prescription drugs for seniors. They are defending an occupation that has cost 30,000 U.S. casualties and nearly $1 trillion while isolating us from our allies, emboldening our enemies and providing a recruiting boon to a reconstituted al Qaeda. They are wedded to a casino economy that doesn't work for most Americans. They are responsible for so disemboweling our regulatory agencies that our children and pets are being poisoned by deadly imports. Their legislative caucus has made closeted corruption and hypocrisy their trademark. And Democrats are worried about a newspaper ad? Would you want these quails in your foxhole?
Of the presidential candidates, senators Hillary Clinton and Christopher Dodd sensibly stood up and voted against. Joe Biden and Barack Obama didn't vote, Obama describing his absence as a "protest against this empty politics." Liberals in the Senate weren't much better. Led by Barbara Boxer, they wrote their own version balancing disavowal of "an unwarranted personal attack" on Petraeus with criticism for Republicans for Swift Boating Kerry. That garnered the votes of senators Clinton and Obama, raising doubts about Hillary's claim that she knows how to stand up and fight the right, and concerns that Obama's call for a new bipartisanship may involve more retreat than reform.
It doesn't matter what you think of the Moveon.org ad or title. Individually Democratic politicians can say whatever they like. But we're trying to end a foreign policy catastrophe in Iraq. People are getting killed. Billions are being squandered. Our security is being eroded; our military weakened. Minority Republicans are blocking majority support for bringing the troops home. They are denying troops a guarantee of decent home rotations. That Senate Democrats would allow them to consume the time and the attention of the Senate and hijack that debate to vote for criticizing an ad by an independent group is simply craven and foolish.
Robert L. Borosage is the president of the Institute for America's Future and co-director of its sister organization, the Campaign for America's Future.
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