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September 11, 2007

The MoveOn Ad

The reason the Republicans have jumped on this ad isn't merely the "Betrayus" bullshit -- watching Republicans turn white because someone's patriotism was questioned is, after all, is like watching Lindsey Lohan sob with sadness when someone breaks their DARE pledge. The Republicans have leapt atop this because it fits their strategy (and yes, it's their strategy, not ours): It allows them to make the personal characteristics, integrity, patriotism, and chiseled cheekbones of David Petraeus the issue. So long as we're arguing about him, we lose. So long as we're arguing about the situation on the ground, we can win. That's the fight during these hearings: Will they be about whether Petraeus is great, or about Iraq?

Which is why I think the line of attack on this is obvious: It's the media's fault. This was a small buy conducted by a leftwing pressure group during one of the most substantively crucial political moments in recent years. That it's getting any attention at all isn't evidence of MoveOn's stupidity, but the press's utter absence of judgment and responsibility. It's time to let the grown-ups talk. And I think most Americans are pretty receptive to the argument that this MoveOn crud is a diverting triviality, and it's the press's responsibility to not be wasting our time with it.

September 11, 2007 | Permalink

Comments

Sir:

They speak the truth.

At this point, I would think that we would all choose crude truth over suave lies.

Posted by: Carl from L.A, | Sep 11, 2007 11:31:31 AM

Calling him "Betrayus" was laaaaaaammmmeeee. Very weak. They might as well have called him "gay" (in the generic schoolyard sense). Our team is usually better than that; that's how they play. Our team usually argues on an issues merits (maybe that's not the way to go--ask Presidents Gore and Kerry) instead of childish name calling.

Petreus is a Cheney White House tool, and a willful one at that who deserves all the negative criticism we can muster, but we shot ourselves in the foot with the namecalling. Hopefully we'll do better next time.

Posted by: ed | Sep 11, 2007 11:35:40 AM

Worth pondering is the ability of the right to slip the connection with its ravers & frothers, even those in high-profile positions, while the entire 'left' gets splattered by the missteps of its marginal blunderers.

Posted by: hquain | Sep 11, 2007 11:35:43 AM

Good point, hquain. Maybe the Democrats can add an amendment to that bill so that it criticizes a few dozen GOP _elected officials_, not some silly group of people who bought an ad, who have been saying this kind of "traitor" stuff about Democrats for the past 30 or 40 years.

Oh, and I called this exactly yesterday. *bows*

It's a stupid, counterproductive, distracting ad.

The focus oughtta be on the numbers, but the noise about this stupid ad will practically drown it out.

Yes, that's because the GOP is immoral, noisy, and fact-averse, and because the media sucks. But that's the lay of the land.

Posted by: Elvis Elvisberg | Sep 11, 2007 11:43:10 AM

Which is why I think the line of attack on this is obvious: It's the media's fault.
...
but the press's utter absence of judgment and responsibility. It's time to let the grown-ups talk.

What you are looking for is the return of the great media gatekeeper such as Walter Duranty

I love how when progressives do something dumb, they call for media Gatekeepers and Eric Alterman's blogging counsel to censer the news to prevent "confusing the masses".

Posted by: Paul L. | Sep 11, 2007 11:43:19 AM

So long as we're arguing about the situation on the ground, we can win.

That assumes that there is a significant part of the media that (1) cares about something other than personalities and (2) is capable of taking a rigorously analytic and evenhanded approach to the strategic realities. Neither of these is in evidence.

Posted by: calling all toasters | Sep 11, 2007 11:44:54 AM

that's how they play.

And that's how they win.

Posted by: Tyro | Sep 11, 2007 11:47:48 AM

Even before the ad, I noticed various journalists over-pronouncing the "P" almost as a "B". It probably was just a matter of trying to be clear over the airwaves.

But, I just knew ... depending on what the situation demanded, the GOP would either end up harping on "the liberal media purposefully mispronouncing Patraeus' name as Betray-us" or they would be doing it themselves in order to blame the Iraq debacle on some guy with too many vowels in his family name.

Perhaps the strategy here is to diffuse the inevitable from the GOP? I'm not sure if it's so wise, though.

Anyway, the GOP has somewhat of a history of changing name pronounciations (sometimes subtly so): I remember the Wilson vs. Feinstein gubinatorial contest in Cali. The anti-Feinstein ads would purposefully over pronounce her last name in order to, I guess, emphasize that it's not a good 'Murkin name like Wilson.

Posted by: DAS | Sep 11, 2007 11:56:54 AM

According to this study, the Republicans' repetition of the ideas presented in the MoveOn ad would actually help cement the ideas in the audience's mind.

So let them keep denying that Petraeus is "Betrayus."

Posted by: Cay Borduin | Sep 11, 2007 12:00:43 PM

According to this study, the Republicans' repetition of the ideas presented in the MoveOn ad would actually help cement the ideas in the audience's mind.

So let them keep denying that Petraeus is "Betrayus."

Posted by: Cay Borduin | Sep 11, 2007 12:02:20 PM

When assessing any politically charged accusation there are two questions that need to be answered. First, is it accurate? Second, is it effective?

As a purely personal judgement, I think any military or elected official who pursues or enables a policy at variance with constitutional norms and subversive to the political sovereignity of the citizenry as enshrined in the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence is clearly guilty of betraying the values they have sworn to defend.

As for the effectiveness of the Petraeus = Betray us meme, I think that is largely dependent on whether this particular bit of punnery was already gaining popular traction prior to Moveon's ad. In sum, if the ad turns out to be articulating a connection that had already been made by sufficient numbers of the public, it will probably be effective. OTOH, if it is attempting to impose a meme not accepted by any but an insular minority it will likely backfire.

That said, I agree that there has been too much emphasis placed on personalities rather than institutions in the debate over Iraq. It is the institutions that have failed more than any individual or collection of individuals.

Posted by: WB Reeves | Sep 11, 2007 12:22:17 PM

A useful rule of thumb is that there will always be a "gaffe" by those on the left at some critical time. Examples abound; the Petraous ad, the Mary Cheney gay dustup, the Bilbray-Busby race for Congress where Busby allegedly suggested that noncitizens attempt to vote. Why do these occur? Because the right will find something and shriek until it is an issue.

You never see anyone one the right shrinking from Ann Coulter. There are two keys here. 1)If you're going to be offended by something you'd better be organized. 2)People like winners. They have no patience for those who show weakness at critical times. If Democrats would embrace the Moveon ad it wouldn't be an issue. It becomes an issue because they won't.

Posted by: rk | Sep 11, 2007 12:23:14 PM

This was a small buy conducted by a leftwing pressure group

Actually, Ezra, MoveOn is a moderate Democratic group, formed in opposition to Clinton's impeachment, seeking greater health care access, & now focused on ending the Iraqi misadventure. You've bought into the RW's characterization of left wing.

Posted by: Carter | Sep 11, 2007 12:36:14 PM

"Moveon crud"? I take exception to that characterization. They speak for several million Americans who do see what Patraeus has done as a something akin to a Betrayal of Us.

Posted by: Parick Briggs | Sep 11, 2007 12:37:20 PM

Progressives usually buy into the RW's shrieking over some Democratic elected official or group's ads, announcement, quote being inappropriate or ill advised. The overwhelming Repub counterattacks should be labeled as such. Rarely are these comments by Democrats much of a miscue. I include in this category the MoveOn ad on Petrateus, comments on Mary Cheney during the campaign, Kerry's windsurfing, the Wellstone tributes at his memorial etc.

We need to respond to the Republican attackers by calling them Repub cheapshots rather than legitimizing their criticisms. I've noticed the past couple days they've gone after MoveOn. They're simply trying to establish in the public's mind that this is a radical leftist group in the same way they went after the Kossacks (led by O'Reilly) to neutralize them. They also seek to have Democratic elected officials distance themselves from these groups.

Posted by: Carter | Sep 11, 2007 12:49:03 PM

It's just untrue to claim that the character of petraeus hasnt featured in the lefts strategy(paul krugman's recent article is just one example).

I think most on the left realised that if faced with the choice over who's analysis to trust between, say, Ezra klein - a 13 year old with neither military experience nor any academic grounding which could possibly render him competent to pass judgement on recent developments in iraq - and a decorated army general, the average member of the public is going to go with petraeus.

The moveOn ad has been the left's straetegy in microcosm

Posted by: pimp hand strikes! | Sep 11, 2007 12:51:35 PM

The Republicans are where they are at today because they will question people's patriotism. They will call a decorated war hero a fraud and make fun of his injuries. They will call Senators and scholars terrorists. They wage total war and the media eats it up and they set the terms of the debate.

This MoveOn ad is a recognition of that, and a fact that, well, staying above the fray has not won the Democrats many points over the years. Fact is, Republicans are going to call Democrats traitors and terrorists no matter what. Better to sling a little mud back.

I want to see more of it.

Posted by: Joshua | Sep 11, 2007 12:51:55 PM

I think most on the left realised that if faced with the choice over who's analysis to trust between, say, Ezra klein - a 13 year old with neither military experience nor any academic grounding which could possibly render him competent to pass judgement on recent developments in iraq - and a decorated army general, the average member of the public is going to go with petraeus.

Then how come polls indicate that over 50% of Americans do not believe Petraeus will render an honest and impartial verdict? Americans know what's really going on, my friend. The question is, when will you?

Posted by: Joshua | Sep 11, 2007 12:54:36 PM

First, is it accurate? Second, is it effective?

I think you've got the order mixed up there, WB.

Posted by: cerebrocrat | Sep 11, 2007 1:13:04 PM

Thank you, Carter and Patrick, for calling Ezra on his mischaracterization. More Americans side with MoveOn, and have since it was founded, than with the Republican pukes like pimp hand (an appropriate name) on any of the issues they take on. The corporate media doesn't cover it like they do the Coulters and Savages of their world, so most of us wind up feeling isolated and angry. We don't know that our neighbors are supporting the same things we are.

Posted by: ignoreland | Sep 11, 2007 1:16:30 PM

Yes, it's great to see the people who proudly don Purple Heart band-aids all up in arms over an ad.

That said, no one at my office is talking about the ad today. One shouldn't assume that just because the media latches onto something, people are necessarily going to care. Remember the Clinton impeachment, anyone?

Posted by: Steve | Sep 11, 2007 1:19:11 PM

From The Sunday TimesAugust 19, 2007

Americans doubt ‘General Betraeus’ over troop surge

Sarah Baxter
AFTER being hailed as King David, the potential saviour of Iraq, the US commander General David Petraeus is facing a backlash in advance of his report to Congress in September on the progress of America’s troop surge.

Critics, including one recently retired general, are privately calling him “General Betraeus” on the grounds that he is too ambitious to deliver a balanced report on the

Posted by: eugene murphy | Sep 11, 2007 1:19:43 PM

Now it's become the ad and not the war, a vintage Republican tactic.
The surge is not working, has not worked and for Petraeus to tell us that it has, he is betraying the American people just as the highly decorated Powell did to us before the war. Those medals and ribbons mean absolutley nothing if you present the skewed facts as a White House PR spokesperson.

Posted by: Maggie | Sep 11, 2007 1:34:17 PM

I think you've got the order mixed up there, WB.

Therein lies the distinction between tough minded pragmatism and cynicism.

Posted by: WB Reeves | Sep 11, 2007 1:52:48 PM

As a purely personal judgement, I think any military or elected official who pursues or enables a policy at variance with constitutional norms and subversive to the political sovereignity of the citizenry as enshrined in the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence is clearly guilty of betraying the values they have sworn to defend.

Hear, hear, WB.

That some would characterize this as "shrieking" is disgraceful, not to mention indicative of how far so many have strayed from the core values of democracy.

Meanwhile, this:

if faced with the choice over who's analysis to trust between, say, Ezra klein - a 13 year old with neither military experience nor any academic grounding...

is indicative of how low so many have sunk, in terms of debate prowess and grammar skills both.

The "Petraeus/Betray Us" meme would not have been my choice of slogans, but no-one asked me. That we are even having this debate, though, tells me the Left is still marching around in its intellectually satisfying but politically useless circular firing-squad formation, even as the Right, once again, frames the issues according to their agenda--that the Left are anti-war, anti-American, anti-supporting-our-troops and so forth-- and wins. Once again.

This must stop. It must stop right now.

Posted by: litbrit | Sep 11, 2007 1:53:54 PM

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