MoveOn And the Kabuki Congress

The US Senate voted 72 to 25 to condemn the Move-On ad which called General Petraeus “General Betray Us”. It’s hard to know where to start with this, because it’s an episode that says so much about the US and the US Congress, so I’m just going to work through it point by point.

Form Over Substance: US elite discourse has become that of courtiers. What matters is not what you say, but how you say it. The fact of the matter is that Petraeus’s testimony to Congress was based on statistics that are, effectively, lies. Lying to Congress is a crime. It is also a betrayal of Petraeus’s duty as a general in the United States military. By lying to Congress Petraeus effectively betrayed the US. He also betrayed his men on the ground. Note carefully that in this paragraph I’m not saying “he shaded the truth”; I’m not speculating on his motives “oh he really believes the crap he slings therefore it’s not a lie” and I’m not using softening language like “failed to tell the truth”, which is much weaker that the word LIE. He lied.

Straight talking isn’t allowed inside the Washington bubble.

Fake Outrage: Let’s move on. Was there a groundswell demanding this condemnation? Nope. Not in the real world. The majority of Americans think that the surge didn’t work; they want the US to pull out either immediately or within a year; and they didn’t trust Petraeus not to cook his testimony. Imagine that.

You Can’t Criticize Generals: This is another issue. The sense of the motion is that criticizing a general – or criticizing the military, is simply unacceptable. This is very unhealthy in a democratic society, in which no one should be above criticism, let alone the military. This is especially the case as the Republican administration has done its best over the duration of the Bush presidency to politicize the military into an arm of the party:

More After the Jump

[A recently retired flag officer friend of mine, who describes himself as a ”œonce solid, and now wavering Republican”] went on to tell me that one of the things that bugged him the most about the Pentagon in recent years was the fairly overt process of politicization. ”œThe White House was always involved in picking the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and a handful of other positions, of course, but the process further down the line, especially two-stars and lower, was really peer-review. There is still a peer-review, but now it’s politicos who make the decisions, and their suspicion of where people stand in terms of party politics seems to weigh very heavily. This just ain’t right.”

American tradition, reinforced by statutes, has mandated that party politics be kept out of the military. In theory military officers should refrain from overt displays of political involvement; specifically, wearing a uniform to a political function is prohibited””with just a few narrowly delineated exceptions (the armed forces routinely provide color guards for political events, for instance). However, with the arrival of the Bush Administration, a double standard has emerged: military personnel are welcomed to participate, in uniform, at Republican functions; at Democratic functions, this is prohibited. One of the best demonstrations of this was Lt. Gen. William G. Boykin, who wore his uniform while giving speeches at a series of political rallies linked to the Republican party. An inspector general’s report recommended he be disciplined over this. Instead, he was promoted. Soldiers caught wearing a uniform as a function associated with the other party have a distinctly different experience, as Cpl. Adam Kokesh discovered.

A democracy in which the military is beyond reproach and in which the military brass favors one party over the other is in a lot of danger. I will add further that there are few institutions in the US that need vigorous criticism more than the US military, which contrary to American jingoism is not all that good, especially considering it is spending 50% of the world’s budget. Yes, Bush is a boob. But US forces have just not done a very good job in-theater otherwise. Since I’m never going to run for office I can say this. The fact that people who might run for office, or are in office, can’t say it is immensely worrisome.

Know Your Place Peons: Another strain that’s very interesting is that various Senators essentially said the same thing as Move-On, minus the word betrayal. And they came pretty close to saying that. Matt Stoller over at Open Left tackled this with General Wesley Clark:

Matt Stoller: Chuck Hagel called his performance “a dirty trick on the American people… It’s not only a dirty trick, but it’s dishonest, it’s hypocritical, it’s dangerous and irresponsible.” Admiral Fallon was reported saying that he thinks Petreaus is ‘an ass-kissing little chickenshit” for the way he sucks up to politicians.’ There are a lot of rumors that David Petraeus wants to run for President. My question is, um, is their criticism a mistake as well?

Wes Clark: Well, I think for Chuck Hagel, who’s a sitting Senator who wants to criticize a General, that’s fine. That’s his right to do so. As far as Admiral Fallon was concerned, if he’s got a personal quarrel with Petraeus, you know, that’s between the two of them. Petraeus works for him, obviously he feels cut out and to some extent I’ve known situations like that, but, um, as for, it was a mistake.

Let me summarize that for you – it’s ok for a Senator to criticize a general. It’s okay for another general to criticize a general. But it’s not ok for ordinary citizens to criticize a general. Who do you think you are anyway? Uppity bloody peasants. (Hagel, of course, voted for the resolution.)

Hurting a Proxy: There are few more necessary things in politics than proxies. A proxy, in political terms, is someone who can say things you can’t say and get them out there. Mike Stark in the last campaign in Virginia probably got Senator Webb elected by asking George Allen questions about his past that Webb couldn’t ask. Other times proxies say inconvenient truths politicians can’t say (like Petraeus is lying). How you use them is simple, you say “well, I wouldn’t have used a word like betrayal Bobblehead, but it is an interesting question. Why are the numbers Petraeus is using so much better than the numbers every other independent study has come up with?”

Or, in more generic terms. “Well I certainly wouldn’t have brought up the rumors that my opponent beats his wife and I think that such slurs have no place in our democracy, but now that the issue is out there perhaps my opponent should address them.”

You argue on the substance, not on the style. You turn and (as Jane Hamsher has pointed out) pivot into an attack.

Now the problem here is that MoveOn has been a very effective proxy for a long time, running ads that say things the Democrats can’t. Every time they try and act as a proxy in the future what Republicans will say is “MoveOn are a bunch of extremist who were condemned by a bipartisan motion in the Senate.” Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant to damage a proxy like that. Can you imagine Republicans ever doing that to, say, the NRA. When the Swift Boaters were saying far worse things (and proven lies) about Kerry, did they get together with the Democrats and condemn it? Of course not. They know that the Swift Boat Vets were on thier side, were their proxy, and were saying things they wanted out there. Oh sure, they might sotto voce condemn it. But not with any real force.

Tainting the Money. As Glenn W. Smith wrote to me in an e-mail:

Money. The Cornyn resolution is about the money as much as it’s about distracting from the Iraq debacle or dressing in military drag.

They came for labor. They came for trial lawyers. Now they come for the netroots. Taint the money. And the Senate Dems and their ignorant consultants are too blind and too stupid to understand that.

Individual Senators: Obama ducked the vote. He was there for the one before, then ran out. Frankly that’s exactly what I expect from Obama. He doesn’t like making hard choices or fighting. Clinton voted no. Given that she mostly hasn’t pandered to the netroots I don’t think this is a pander – I think she’s remembering what was done to her husband and her and understands that you never give an inch. Biden ducked it too – not sure what the story is on that one though I certainly wouldn’t have thought he’d vote nay, myself. Schumer voted no – good for him, and I would have expected him to vote the other way. But Schumer’s a tough one who doesn’t cow easy, whatever you may think of him otherwise, and he may see the move for what it is. Dodd voted no, good for him. The netroots have been there for him and he’s there for us.

Kabuki Congress: The bottom line is this. About half of Democrats (list at the bottom) just don’t like the netroots or uppity citizens. They really don’t like us. When they just go through the motions we get angry. We ask people to call them (who often don’t say nice things on the phone). They don’t really want to end the war; they don’t really want to restore Habeas Corpus. Oh sure, they’ll go through the motions, but they won’t force the Republicans to actually filibuster. They won’t work with outside groups to really put pressure on vulnerable Republicans, nor will they do anything significant to ratchet up the pressure.

Why? Because they figure they’re going to win in 2008 anyway, and they can do it without the netroots. And if the price is letting another couple hundred thosuand Iraqis die; if the price is another 1,000 or so American deaths – well, that’s an acceptable price to them. It’s certainly not worth having to get unpleasant with the Republican; having to fight hard. So a certain section of the Democratic party has come to hate the netroots for pushing them to fight. They’re going to get everything they really want without fighting, they figure – so why do more than go through the motions? Real filibusters, with the cots and so on, and maybe weeks of it, are really unpleasant. Maybe not as unpleasant as having your legs blown off by an IED, but then, these are important people.

For a while now a lot of activist bloggers have been holding onto the last shreds of the hope ignited in November of last year – that electing a Democratic Congress make a real difference. This act has dispelled most of that. Practically every blogger I know is furious. This puts them, I might add, back in the camp with their readers, most of whom, judging from comments and from the polls, have been disgusted every since the Iraqi authorization bill went through. The honeymoon is over, and the Democrats who did this will reap what they sowed. Both they, and the netroots will be worse for it, but there is no way out – the real betrayal, in the end, was of the base, by these Democrats. And as Digby would say, for us to go crawling back now would be to act to them like they act towards the Republicans – as a battered wife crawling back to her husband despite the abuse.

The job now will be to support those few Dems who deserve it, to work on primaries and recruiting candidates and get ready for 2008. Working with the leadership is off the table – I personally will no longer be asking anyone to call on anything unless I believe the leadership will fight for the bill, rather than just make a token vote and let it go down easily. No fight – no support. I know I am not the only one who feels this way.

Appendix: Votes Against or Not Voting


Akaka (D-HI)
Bingaman (D-NM)
Boxer (D-CA)
Brown (D-OH)
Byrd (D-WV)
Clinton (D-NY)
Dodd (D-CT)
Durbin (D-IL)
Feingold (D-WI)
Harkin (D-IA)
Inouye (D-HI)
Kennedy (D-MA)
Kerry (D-MA)
Lautenberg (D-NJ)
Levin (D-MI)
Menendez (D-NJ)
Murray (D-WA)
Reed (D-RI)
Reid (D-NV)
Rockefeller (D-WV)
Sanders (I-VT)
Schumer (D-NY)
Stabenow (D-MI)
Whitehouse (D-RI)
Wyden (D-OR)

Not Voting – 3
Biden (D-DE)
Cantwell (D-WA)
Obama (D-IL)

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Ian Welsh

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  • Yeah, that struck me too. I’m glad you mentioned it. The utility, for the Republicans, of having a bipartisan condemnation of MoveOn, is just staggering. EVERY time they run an ad, all the Republicans have to do is point to this and the debate switches from whatever the issue du jour is to MoveOn’s character. EVERY time. Is there any other grassroots organization, for either side, that has been similarly treated? This is just so mind-bogglingly obvious that it’s hard not to suspect that it was part of the political calculus on the part of those Dems who do hate the base. If you really think you can win without an ally, and you really hate that ally, then why not try to destroy that ally?

    For no other reason than to avoid crippling a major organ of their grassroots, the Dems should have found some way to scuttle this vote.

    I didn’t have great hopes in November – it was an improvement, sure, and winning one for once was great. But I had no illusions about how tough it was going to be. I knew that a lot of the Dems were to the right of me, but I had hoped that they might at least show some savy when it came to the political game. Our team sucks, frankly.

  • MoveOn is 3.4 million Americans strong who do not like being called traitors.

    They’ve done more than attack a political movement – they’ve lit the hornet’s nest and started the war.

    “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.”

    Charles Darwin

  • …(seen on Americablog)

    The focus of the United States Senate should be on ending this war, not on criticizing newspaper advertisements. This amendment was a stunt designed only to score cheap political points while what we should be doing is focusing on the deadly serious challenge we face in Iraq. It’s precisely this kind of political game-playing that makes most Americans cynical about Washington’s ability to solve America’s problems. By not casting a vote, I registered my protest against this empty politics. I registered my views on the ad itself the day it appeared.

    All of us respect the service of General Petraeus and all of our brave men and women in uniform. The way to honor that service is to give them a mission that is responsible, not to vote on amendments like the Cornyn amendment while we continue to pursue the wrong policy in Iraq.

  • I’d be a lot more impressed if he’d had the guts to vote.

    He’s trying to have it both ways: bodes well for his DLC triangulation cred, but not on his ability to take a stand and be a grown-up/// leader.

  • beieves that Bush’s earlier lashout at MoveOn is a MoveOn win, but it does:(and notice Bush’s use of the “Democrat” party)

    The Nation….. – Bush did on Thursday in what will rank as one of the more remarkable — and politically petty — moments of a remarkable and politically-petty presidency.

    Tossed a typical soft-ball question at a presidential press conference Thursday morning, Bush responded by saying, “I thought that the ad was disgusting. I felt like the ad was an attack, not only on General Petraeus, but on the U.S. military. And I was disappointed that not more leaders in the Democrat Party spoke out strongly against that kind of ad. That leads me to come to this conclusion: that most Democrats are afraid of irritating a left-wing group like — are more afraid of irritating them than they are of irritating the United States military. That was a sorry deal. And it’s one thing to attack me. It’s another thing to attack somebody like General Petraeus.”

    Bush’s obviously prepared statement was a clumsy attempt to attack Democratic presidential candidates and congressional leaders. But it created an opening for an unprecedented back-and-forth between the most powerful man in the world and his most aggressive critics. It was hardly necessary on the day when Senate Republicans were engineering a symbolic 72-25 vote rebuking the MoveOn ad that referred to Petraeus as “Betray Us.” Had Bush simply offered the standard “I’m not going to get into these political fights” line, or even a pithier “I think the Senate will have something appropriate to say about that,” he would have mastered the moment.

    Instead, the president handed the loudest microphone in the land to MoveOn. And Political Action Committee executive director Eli Pariser grabbed it with gusto.

    “What’s disgusting is that the President has more interest in political attacks than developing an exit strategy to get our troops out of Iraq and end this awful war,” said Pariser …

    1.”George Washington did not cross the Delaware for Capitalism,” -Shmuley Boteach.
    2.The Dems haven’t punished the GOP enough, so you’re going to reward the Republicans?

  • One thing MoveOn knows now is who not to support in the next cycle. Feinstein, my senator is an enabler, she could have stopped the wiretap bill just before recess in August, her vote was number 60, if she would have held her vote this new repressive law would not be on the books. I am still waiting on an answer from her on why she chose to blindly support people who just lie and are traitors.

    “There are two types of folk music:
    quiet folk music and loud folk music.
    I play both.”

    Dave Alvin

  • Today was a Rovian master stroke as well.

    How soon before did these fools know that the resoluton was coming up for a vote?

    1.”George Washington did not cross the Delaware for Capitalism,” -Shmuley Boteach.
    2.The Dems haven’t punished the GOP enough, so you’re going to reward the Republicans?

  • (h/t FDL):

    I commend MoveOn for their ad and for speaking truth to power. Up is not down, the earth is not flat, and the surge is not working. General Petreaus betrayed his own reputation by standing with George Bush in opposition to the timely withdrawal of all of our brave men and women from Iraq. I thank MoveOn for their patriotic ad and call on Petreaus to help Bush end a war the President should have never started.


  • No one is allowed to criticize the military in the U.S. The military is beyond reproach because they are willing to sacrifice their lives for each of us so we can live in freedom. How can you possibly criticize someone who will lay down their life for you, especially at a time when thousands of soldiers and marines have died in Iraq?

    Except – we all know that the ones doing the dying are the young men, the volunteers from small towns, the immigrants seeking a green card, the non-officers, the National Guard and Reserve men who wanted a college education and never expected to be in combat. Career officers in the Pentagon don’t die in combat, and certainly no General or Admiral has died in Iraq or any recent war.

    Sure, General Petraeus is out in the field and is exposed to gunfire and mortar shells, like the journalists who venture out into Iraq, the aid workers, and millions of Iraqis who have to navigate from work to home every day under incredibly dangerous conditions. At least Petraeus has Blackwater to guard him and is highly unlikely to be injured.

    The fact is, neither Petraeus nor any other Pentagon career officer is seriously risking their life for their country. Maybe some of them did when they were younger and in Vietnam, but none of them are doing so now. They are responsible for decisions that affect the lives of our troops in Iraq, and they damn well better be subject to criticism and accountable for their mistakes, or this country is really failing the troops.

    Do you want to know who is really risking their life for you to preserve your liberties and protect your safety? Look to the police force. Every year over 150 policemen die in the line of duty. More than 65,000 are assaulted each year, and 23,000 are wounded annually. Your odds of being killed or injured as a policeman are, over time, higher than if you were in the military. This doesn’t count the firemen killed each year, the rescue workers like those at the Utah mine who died trying to save others, or many others who are injured or killed while serving their fellow citizens.

    Yes, it is awe-inspiring that our military is willing to die for us, but is it so awesome that we cannot criticize the generals? This is the same military that lost the war in Vietnam, did nothing to protect us from the 9/11 attacks (which hit the Pentagon, after all), and have now lost the Iraq War. The same military costs this nation half a trillion dollars a year and is slowly bankrupting this country.

    If we are going to worship the military and exempt them from any criticism, let us not be hypocrites about it. Let us worship the police who are at greater risk, who actually provide effective protection, and who don’t have massive corporations behind them lobbying for useless, expensive toys. Or we can worship firemen, or many others in dangerous and sometimes fatal jobs.

    Alternatively, we can approach the military, and especially the Pentagon brass, with respect but with honest criticism. They are certainly used to receiving deference, but they could use the criticism much more.

  • initiative from the get-go. They have been hammering the NYT since the ad appeared claiming that the “far left” NYT gave MoveOn a discount. The Times explained that the rate was their standard for full page ads that don’t require a specific day of the week. Nonetheless, Bill O’Reilly, appropos of his lack of understanding of irony exhibited in my sig, claimed that the NYT “discount” amounted to “soft money” for the Dems. Hey Bill, your whole damn enterprise is soft money for the extreme right. If nothing else, the Senate vote is a scorecard showing which Democrats should face primary challenges when they come up for re-election.

    “I despise idealogues masquerading as objective journalists.” – Bill O’Reilly, March 30, 2007

  • While I am appalled at the Dem senators who voted “yes,” I am not at all surprised. They just don’t get what happening. The dollar is about to tank, taking the global financial system with it; energy and other resources are skyrocketing, and food is getting scarce or bid up in many places. When the US debt bubble that the global economy has bought into is going to burst big-time, so big that central banks can’t control it.

    More seriously in the long run, the polar ice caps are melting at an unexpectedly alarming rate. Many scientists are now saying that we are past the point of no-return in global warming and that humans are at least contributing to it big time, if not causing it. The big things we don’t know yet is just how much sea level is going to rise.

    And our dear senators are distracted by a non-issue like this. None of the them have a clue that their looking at the issues from the conventional frame of reference instead of the emerging real conditions is speeding the entire globe over the cliff, if we are not already plunging down the precipice. While warming promises to dwarf the impending financial collapse, both are going to be very painful indeed if emergency measures are not put in place immediately. The projected devastation will make the effects of Katrina look like child’s play.

  • watching it unravel in slow mo, ain’t it. Knowing it’s coming, unable to do much if anything about it. And if you’re my age, barring bad health or an accident, you’ll probably be around for when it gets really bad.

  • I wonder if the current financial crisis will end the war. Bush has run the Fed’s credit card up. What happens when the combination of domestic recession and massive borrowing collide with the creditors say “no thanks” to more US debt? Why lend money to people who can’t repay?

    Currently looks to me like the Federal Reserve in between a rock & a hard place – can’t cut rates any more becuase overseas creditors will abandon the dollar (the forecast run on the dollar may just have started), and can’t raise interest rates becuase of foreclosures & very large bankrupcies…

    Well I see a strange attractor in our future, and I cant predict what it looks like. If things go badly, then the result will make 1929 look like a mild recesion, as they is an enormous amount of consumer debt overhanging us all…most of which could become non-performing very quickly…

    The financial crash possible will damage us all – and will probably end the Iraq adventure – How will Bush pay for his war if he can’t borrow? Raise taxes (LAMO)?

    That would be a highpoint of the Bush presidency – a really major depression…we’re certainly at the end of the US as the world’s reserve currency…

    Oh well, I’m off to pick out my subway bridge which will be my future home…I want to find a nice spot before the rush:-)

  • I’m not so sure about instantaneous policy generalizations as per that Kos article. Here’s another Kossack thread: “You idiots” with lots of lite pushing and shoving….

    We shall see.

    1.”George Washington did not cross the Delaware for Capitalism,” -Shmuley Boteach.
    2.The Dems haven’t punished the GOP enough, so you’re going to reward the Republicans?

  • Because when there’s nowhere for this Administration and the movement for which it is schrwerpunkt to turn, they have one hell of a lot of firepower at their fingertips. And to their eyes, anything that thwarts their will is enemy action.

    “The best-informed man is not necessarily the wisest. Indeed there is a danger that precisely in the multiplicity of his knowledge he will lose sight of what is essential.”

    – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

  • there were two amendments that condemned moveon, Cornyn Amdt. No. 2934 and Boxer Amdt. No. 2947

    listening to statements made on the senate floor (via c-span2), the boxer amendment condemned moveon as well as the swiftboating of senator kerry, etc.

    every D senator voted for the boxer amendment except senator feingold.

    so, just to be clear on which democratic senators voted to condemn moveon – it was all of them except feingold.

  • Let’s see, the Democrats won the midterms with a really stunning victory (better than the so-called Republican sweep of 1994). Then, they fiddled around appeasing Bush and trying to be “bipartisan” on the war, and their approval ratings dropped through the floor.

    Americans hate this war. They don’t trust Bush. They don’t trust Petraeus. So with a firm resolve to prove themselves utterly irrelevant to most of their constituents, of course, a lot of Democrats vote in support of Bush and Petraeus.

    In response, my guess is that MoveOn’s stock just went way up — they’re saying what most Americans believe and that the DC politicians won’t say.

  • MoveOn’s Executive Director Eli Pariser joined David Shuster –filling in for Tucker Carlson– to discuss MoveOn’s factual Petraeus ad last week and the giant distraction non-binding resolution passed yesterday in the Senate condemning it.

    At C&L

    “You know something is wrong when the New England Patriots face stiffer penalties for spying on innocent Americans than Dick Cheney and George Bush.” – Bill Richardson

  • and it is that the money from labor and trial lawyers was tainted money (does anyone think that the mob never mixed in with unions or that trial lawyers can’t be a bit … uh, sue happy?) is squeaky clean (as faras we know) and moreover, they might be proven right that Peatreus betrayed our trust.

    So really this is a double-edged sword that once swung, might come back to cut all those “yes” voters. Because they have made it very public and if (over the next year) the people feel Moveon was correct in their ad, it might improve their public standing instead of lessen it. It’s sort of like the stock market, the method you use to make money always works right up until the day it doesn’t, then it’s rat poison. Sooner or later Americans might decide Republicans (or attack ads in genernal) are rat poison.

    Moveon might weather this better than we anticipate, I wouldn’t despair just yet.

  • ian – what do you mean by “nice try”? you’re going to give the senators who voted to condemn moveon via the boxer amendment a pass just because the amendment failed?

    when i called senator kerry’s office (i live in MA) to ask why he had voted for the boxer amendment, i was read a statement that made it very clear that senator kerry wanted to condemn the moveon ad – he just wanted the swiftboating to be condemned too.

    personally, i found the boxer amendment to be even worse than the cornyn amendment. not only was moveon condemned – but their ad was explictly (at least by boxer) equated with the swiftboating of kerry.

    the amendment text hasn’t been posted yet, so i’m going by what i heard from the senate floor (on c-span2 yesterday), where boxer and others explicitly compared the moveon ad to the swiftboating of kerry and to what happened to max cleland… and here’s the posted amendment purpose:

    To reaffirm strong support for all the men and women of the United States Armed Forces and to strongly condemn attacks on the honor, integrity, and patriotism of any individual who is serving or has served honorably in the United States Armed Forces, by any person or organization.

    the boxer amendment wasn’t to defend moveon’s right to say what they want to, or to condemn bush’s war or his use of petraeus – it was to have the chance to condemn the kerry’s swiftboating (more than 3 years late) and what was done to max cleland.

    it was about defending D senators – it wasn’t about defending us.

    there’s one senator who stood up for the grass roots and freedom of speech – and it was russ feingold… just like his vote on the patriot act when he voted alone and on principle. senator feingold deserves some credit for this…

  • …as far as I’m concerned. This AM, Moveon said they’d raised 500K since the vote. A bit ago, Shuster reported it’s almost 1M. That’s money the Dems think should be going into their campaign coffers.

    We’ve got Rasmussen saying half of Americans and 2/3rds of Dems are to the left of the candidates on healthcare.

    Well, if they won’t move because vote them in, or because we tell them to, maybe they’ll move if there’s an advocacy group getting their money.

    This is delicious. They made a political calculation that doing the inside-the-beltway 2-step would advance their appeal. Instead, Moveon gets to set the agenda.

    God damn! I love the sound of heads exploding!

  • The Dems knew the Boxer amendment wouldn’t pass. It was done to rub the GOPs face in it. It got the GOP on record that Swiftboating Kerry was dandy, even if Moveon is icky.

    But, of course, not one of them will have the nerve to exploit it (esp. since they went on record vs Moveon, who now hold the cards), so it was a pretty stupid move. Which is what we’ve come to expect.

  • I see this as an unmistakable and extremely accurate shot across the bows of the entire (Feingold and a small handful of others excepted) Congress.

    The Dems thought they had calculated their position properly. They have been given, in language even a dipwad politician can understand, a very thorough schooling.

    Moveon takes out one ad, on standby (cheap rates).
    The GOP does their faux outrage. (Moveon’s msg goes further.)
    Media plays along (Moveon ad now seen by everyone.)
    Dems play along (yet more coverage.)

    So Moveon has reached an audience probably 10,000 X larger than they bought for. And the message resonates. They get huge contributions. One thing any politician understands is contributions.

    This is HUGE. Now, every media outlet calling Moveon a “fringe leftwing” group is instead calling themselves “fringe rightwing”. The American people have just called “Bullshit” on the GOP, most Dems and the media.

    This is the marker delineating the end of The Decade of Stupid.

  • According to the Sun-Times (,CST-NWS-sweet21.article):

    “Obama has a history going back to his days as a state senator of not voting or voting “present” when it comes to measures he considers designed specifically to produce a vote record that can be attacked.”

    I approve of this position – this vote doesn’t have any practical effect either way, so it’s a perfect opportunity to call out the stupidity of the vote itself. Why SHOULD he play their game?

  • but I don’t agree. If he wanted to show how stupid it was he should stood up, made his voice heard and he should have help vote the amendment down. Instead he looks like a spineless jellyfish. I guess he will never stand on principle because he too afraid of the press and that is not the sign of a good leader.

  • I’ve watched too many state pols where I live play these procedural games to they can have it both ways on issues like choice.

    No sympathy from me — just derision.

  • i’m not saying the bill was important. i am saying the votes for it were.

    my senator kerry explicitly condemned moveon for criticizing a general who lied under oath to congress and to the american people (i know this because of kerry’s statement as well as his vote). everything you wrote about: “Straight talking isn’t allowed inside the Washington bubble,” “You Can’t Criticize Generals,” “Know Your Place Peons,” “They really don’t like us”… all of that applies to senator kerry too.

    i’m not giving him, or any other senator who voted to condemn moveon (and therefor me) a pass, just because the amendment failed.

    furthermore, giving a pass to everyone who voted for one of these assinine amendments is igoring the senator who did stand up for the grass roots and truth-telling – senator feingold.

  • HRC this morning on NBC

    MR. RUSSERT: Is it fair to–(clears throat) excuse me—is it fair to say, then, that this ad was an unhelpful distraction to the real debate about the war, and you wish that had not taken it?

    SEN. CLINTON: Well, when I voted for Senator Boxer’s resolution, that was certainly clear. I do not condone, and I do condemn any effort to impugn the patriotism and the service of anyone who’s worn the uniform of our country. I think it should be across the board because, as you certainly know well, many people who have served with distinction, like Senator Kerry or Senator Cleland, have been the subject of extraordinary attacks.

    the boxer amendment wasn’t just a poison pill. it was a condemnation of moveon.

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