Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Bush stumbles into MoveOn 'controversy'

MoveOn.org just earned a billion-dollar payout on a $65 thousand investment. The group has succeeded in forcing the entire GOP political structure, from the top down, to discuss Iraq on its own terms. It has caused Republicans to lose their minds over a newspaper ad.

I thought it was bad enough when MoveOn's "Betray Us" ad caused Sean Hannity and Bill O'Reilly to clutch their bosoms and collapse onto the divan with a case of the vapors.

The phony outrage was almost pitch perfect when Republican lawmakers introduced a resolution condemning the ad, which called General David Petraeus' honesty into question.

It was silly, but not surprisingly so, when GOP presidential candidates tripped over each other to exploit the "controversy" for political gain - when, for example, John McCain declared that MoveOn should be expelled from the United States; or when Rudy Giuliani accused the New York Times of acting improperly by carrying the ad; or when Fred Thompson equated the ad with "investing in the defeat" of the United States.

It sad but predictable when the Right Wing Outrage Machine demanded en masse that Democrats, en masse, denounce MoveOn for having the temerity to suggest that Petraeus was anything less than the Word of God Made Flesh.

And when no less than Vice President Dick Cheney went out of his way to demonize MoveOn, I thought the pageant had become as burlesque as it possibly could.

I was wrong.

Kate O'Beirne and I just got back from a meeting with the president in the Roosevelt Room of the White House for a small group of conservative journalists.

There was a lot of ground covered, and the president was in a serious but confident mood — clearly sending the message that this administration is not close to over.

President Bush may have been most emphatic though when it came to the topic of “those left wing ads” attacking General Petraeus. The president brought the infamous New York Times MoveOn ad up without prompting, saying of his reaction to it: “I was incredulous at first and then became mad.”

“It is one thing to attack me — which is fine,” the president said. But the president's view the attack on Petraeus as “an attack on men and women in uniform.”

He said pointedly: “I was looking for the voices from leadership on the Hill and I didn't hear too many.” He said, “This is wrong.”

The president added that the ad “was uncalled for...and so was the silence” from the Democrats on the Hill.
The right-wing effort to distract Americans from the Iraq occupation by manufacturing a "controversy" over a newspaper ad is now as ridiculous as it can be.

President Bush himself has descended into the fray, perhaps in an effort to convince the American people that MoveOn's ad is the reason things are going so horribly in Iraq. After all, the Week of Petraeus failed to change the minds of the majority of Americans, who remain convinced that the occupation is a disaster.

This is a strategic error for the White House. Bush cannot help but come out diminished on the other end of this story.

These have been a terrible few weeks for the president. The Petraeus testimony failed to gain him any breathing room with the American people over the occupation. Congressional Democrats forced him to submit a consensus nominee for Attorney General. A narrative of "failure" has begun to solidify with respect to his legacy. It is understandable that Bush would feel the need to win even a symbolic victory over his political enemies, but this was not the way to do it.

The position of the White House should be that sniping with a political action committee is beneath the president. He has more important things to do. He is too busy defending America to get distracted by this little left-wing group and their little newspaper ad. He might have taken a lesson from the way his dad marginalized the ACLU when he ran against Dukakis in 1988.

Instead, Bush has helped elevate MoveOn to epic stature. They are such a threat to the Bush agenda that Bush himself felt compelled attack them. This negates any damage that MoveOn might have suffered from the last week and a half of sustained right-wing criticism. Rather than some little left-wing smear group, as O'Reilly might describe them, they are worthy of the attention of President Bush himself. They are significant. They are a force to be reckoned with. Mission accomplished.

Good for MoveOn.org.

And bad - very bad - for President Bush.

1 comments:

Suricou Raven said...

I see he resorted to the standard bush reply to criticism: "If you dont agree with me, you must hate our brave troops!" In American politics, one of the most powerful attacks available is to accuse your opponent of a lack of patriotism.

Because American's love patriotism. Espicially the blind, unthinking variety of patriotism. The "Everything american is great, and if you even suggest otherwise you are either a communist, a terrorist or a dirty hippy" brand.