Over at Anchor Rising, a Rhode Island political blog to which I contribute, I have a few things to say about the "no" vote of our two senators against yesterday’s Senate resolution to condemn the odious Moveon.org NY Time ad attacking Gen. Petraeus. NLT has a link to the site. Here is what I had to say.
Shame on You, Sen. Reed
Posted by Mac Owens
Yesterday the Senate passed a resolution condemning the disgraceful "General Betray-Us" ad in the NY Times sponsored by the despicable Moveon.org. The resolution reads:
To express the sense of the Senate that General David H. Petraeus, Commanding General, Multi-National Force-Iraq, deserves the full support of the Senate and strongly condemn personal attacks on the honor and integrity of General Petraeus and all members of the United States Armed Forces.
The resolution passed 72-25. The "no" votes were all Democrats, including both Reed and Whitehouse. I expected as much from Whitehouse, a lightweight on military and defense affairs if there ever was one. But why in the world would a West Point graduate like Reed who touts his military service take the side of an odious nest of vipers like Moveon.org over his fellow soldiers? Jim Webb may oppose the war but he had the decency to vote in favor of the condemnation of Moveon.org. But Jim Webb is an honorable man. Would that Reed had an ounce of Jim’s spine. Reed on the other hand puts me in mind of Churchill’s "Boneless Wonder."
The US taxpayers wasted a great deal of money on Reed’s West Point education. They ought to demand a refund. Say, I have an idea. Why doesn’t Moveon.org reimburse the American taxpayers for that education? After all, if Moveon.org is going to buy a US Senator it should be expected to pay full price.
Am I angry? You bet I am. Reed has dishonored himself and his state. Shame on you, Senator Reed. What a disgrace!
Perhaps using Senate time to "condemn" private speech is just a little bit too creepy (or too much absurdist political theater) for some of the adults in the chamber. It's a three minute hate.
I personally do not care what my Senators "condemn." How about legislating?
In the past week, nearly 30 U.S. servicemen and women have been killed in Iraq. During that time, the same people who applauded the Swift-Boating of John Kerry think that the Senate has nothing better to do than worry about this?
If you want to get angry, why not get angry about the precedent and mistrust established by this administration when they sent Colin Powell to lie to the UN about WMDs. Why not get angry about the thousands of Americans and the tens of thousands of Iraquis killed through this war, and its subsequent mismanagement.
Why not get angry about the kids who are about to get killed because people in this country have been convinced that patriotism and blind obedience are the same thing?
I must say, the reaction of conservatives to the Petraeus ad reminds me of the reaction of Muslim fanatics to those cartoons about Mohammed.
Dang straight! I've been scared to even leave my house, what with the roving bands of conservatives burning effigies in the streets and firing weapons wildly into the air.
And I swear, if those dastardly conservatives threaten to kill/behead one more moveon.org/liberal senator who refuses to support Petraeus, I'll lose all faith in civil discourse in this country.
Seriously, do you see even ONE real similarity between these two events. Ridiculous...
Plus: Mac, I hope you realize that you just did the same thing that Moveon did. But I suppose it's OK if you're "angry." Senator Reed is a credit to the Senate and an honorable, decent man who is right most all of the time. Follow your own principles, my friend.
How can a sensible Democrat not be troubled by Moveon.org's apparent influence?
Because even if you don't agree with the tone, their argument was sound. The result of the report was predetermined - Petraeus's job was to make the best argument for why he should be able to continue to do what he is doing. The mistake was in going after the general rather than in going after Bush, who has meekly hidden behind his subordinate.
Iraq was a mistake and it won't get better by giving the president another six months to figure it out.
The bigger picture favors the anti-war argument. Most people agree. That's partly why the right has gotten out the smelling salts regarding Moveon - they need a target to distract from the bigger problem, which is that all those folks who said September would be the time of reckoning have punted once again.
"How can a sensible Democrat not be troubled by Moveon.org's apparent influence?"
Why? They are not taking government money, or my taxes, the way some faith-based organizations might.
In addition, they are just as tough on Congress as they are on poor General Petraeus. Where was all the hand-wringing when Moveon.org was taking Nancy Pelosi to task for enabling Bush's continuation of the war?
I'll take Moveon.org over the Rove Machine, or Fox "News", or some slimy Focus On the Family charlatan any day!
Reed's vote in particular seems particularly shameful, given the way he touts his service in the 82nd Airborne as proof positive that he's trustworthy on national defense.
I'm quite puzzled by moveon's defenders here, though. The defenses seem to be: (1) Congress shouldn't have wasted its time or be in the business of condemning "private speech" and (2) the ad had a "sound argument"
It's hard to take (1) seriously, given all the very frivolous things Congress does all the time and I doubt that any of moveon's defenders would be much "creeped out" had the Senate responded to some outrageous claim made by, oh I don't know, Focus on the Family. As to (2), had moveon placed a full-page ad urging senators (even strongly!) to reject the administration's plan and run away from Iraq, I doubt for a second there would have been hardly a murmur about it - or at the least, there certainly wouldn't have been such a firestorm about it. But moveon didn't do that - they used the term "betray." They suggested that Petraeus was coming to lie to Congress, to violate his duty, etc. *That's* a very different move and one that deserves condemnation.
Perhaps Reed recognizes that there is a big difference between being "trustworthy on national defense" and blindly accepting the word of anyone in a uniform, especially when those words are little more than boilerplate straight from a White House known for misleading us into a needless war.
Second, I would remind you again of the example set by this same administration, using Colin Powell to betray this same country for the same ends.
We should never forget those immortal words of our current leader: "Fool me twice.... shame on...uh...fools, but shame me once...uh...well, Mandela is dead."
Professor Owens, it seems to me that the point -- here -- is not whether a senator is "a lightweight on military affairs." That would apply to most American citizens, like it or not. Most American citizens would not refuse to condemn the MoveOn vipers. And that position, I would think, depends at least as frequently on decency and a proper sense of what holds a country together as it does on a knowledge of the military. Surely Senator Levin, Armed Services chairman, is not a military lightweight, at least relatively speaking in the Semate. And he voted wrong as well. I'll take a senator who is a "military lightweight" but understands the proper way to react to MoveOn, over one with military knowledge who is either a cowardly captive of the Democrats' left wing or has some other low motive for allowing the insult to Petraeus to stand. Not only might such a "lightweight" be a good vote on related issues. He would also tend to trust military testimony and attempt to understand it in good faith.
Let the record reflect another little-noted, but very important, Democratic disgrace: Majority Leader Harry Reid, on the Senate floor in this debate, referred to the Swift Boat veterans as "demons" for their attack on Kerry in 2004. This is an idiot. And an utter hypocrite. The differences in the two situations are enormous. They should be obvious.
Fellow Democrats or non-Republicans, Fung and Brett:
The wrong tone (in the ad)? I'm afraid it was much more than that. An argument? What was it?
Yes, knowing what we know now, the invasion of Iraq was a mistake. But now, it is not Bush's war, it is our war. The situation on the ground now is what we must deal with. How we leave -- that matters.
I do not think Moveon.org knows what we are dealing with in the world, preoccupied as they are with contempt for the president and with partisan advantage.
The Democratic netroots are a problem for the Democratic candidates: somebody must win the primaries, without thereby making his or her nomination worthless in the general election.
Some of us can only hope that we can support the Democratic nominee.
Here is my concern: First, that reasonable people like yourself will allow their openness to fall into the Republicans' trap, which is to divert everyone's attention to this relatively silly issue, when we should be addressing the war itself, and how best to conduct it, and how best to replace military means with diplomatic ones. I am sure that they would like us to ignore the highest rate of home foreclosures since the Great Depression, too, along with the saber-rattling with Iran,the price of oil, and the price of medicines and insurance.
Second, while you are right that we have to deal with this mess that Bush got us into, we do not ever have to let him and his group off the hook.
The "Bush lied" mantra is not merely whining. It is a reminder to this country that the man is a liar, and the lies did not stop once the "Mission was accomplished." He will continue to lie, and he will continue to find people who will lie for him out of obedience, or loyalty, or because they believe him. But just because we have to clean up Bush's crap doesn't mean that we have to claim it as our own.
The argument of the ad was that Petraeus didn't give a full picture of the data, that some neighborhoods may be less violent because the ethnic cleansing has already happened, and that the conclusion of his report was predetermined. All of these claims seem to have some bite to them.
The press bought the Bush administration's line that Petraeus was essentially Christ come back. Polling data seems to bear out that most people were still skeptical even after the dog and pony show. So, fears about MoveOn's supposed malicious influence are overblown.
Why is it so hard to believe that a general in charge of an operation might not give a perfectly transparent assessment of the current state of things, particularly if he really believes that he needs a lot more time to complete the mission that he has been assigned, and the public is reluctant to give that time? The basic question is: do we really want to be in Iraq for the next ten or twenty years, doled out in six month increments marked by set pieces of political theater like what we saw this week? I don't, and that's actually a majority sentiment right now.
Brett and Fung - I don't think I have anything to add. "Betray" is, to say the least, a strong word. It is not a cute way of making an argument; it overwhelmed the argument. I think the vast majority of the electorate want the general and the troops to succeed. No Democrat can be elected president who does not share that hope. (At the same time, the president's numbers suggest he does not have the confidence of the vast majority.) Ordinary people can distinguish between the general and the president; between mission and policy. Moveon.org made a very stupid and contemptible blunder. It was not a matter of "tone."
Hey, Steve: I did a quick search yesterday and couldn't find a single instance in the 18th or 19th centuries where the Senate used its precious time to express mere aesthetic or moral outrage at private conduct. Just food for thought. Perhaps someone else can find out when this odd practice started. At the very least, it's wrong to impugn someone's character because they don't play along in this kind of charade.
Brett - Of course the response in the Senate was political theatre. A gift from Moveon.org.
But for me that's not the main point. The main point is whether Moveon.org has real leverage with Democratic candidates. Republicans are trying to highlight it, demonizing the "netroots" and it just got easier for them to argue that Democrats are untrustworthy and thoughtless on foreign policy. The president's policies shouldn't get a pass, I agree with that.
God, this has turned into a lame and obtuse discussion.
David Frisk - Perhaps you think your Comments 11 and 12 should remain part of the discussion. They do. I just had nothing to say in response to them.
I think we should have just ended the discussion with Comment 12. After that high note, there was nowhere to go but down. Thank you for trying to save us, David!
20: Steve, fair enough. My comment was more directed at Brett, and especially at Fung. 21: Fung, my comment was factual -- I saw Reid say this myself -- and facts, if salient, are always a good contribution.
Fair enough. Now, let me try:
Let the record reflect the following fact and manfestation of Republicans holding the high ground:
On Comment 12, David Frisk referred to Senator Harry Reid as an "idiot," citing as evidence a decontextualized, hyperbolic (but nevertheless on target) characterization of a bunch of liars in the service of the Republican party.
While the differences between David Frisk and Harry Reid are enormous, they are not the ones that Frisk actually believes distinguish them.