MoveOn Didn't Help
I'm going to do something that is at odds with most center-left bloggers: I agree with many reporters and pundits that MoveOn.org's full-page ad in the New York Times was an unnecessary hit piece on General Petraeus. At a time when essential resources like MoveOn and other groups should have focused on pressuring Democrats and wavering Republicans into asking the tough questions these last two days, MoveOn in fact shifted the attention away from those who should be doing their job in Congress to MoveOn itself. By giving the GOP another excuse to bemoan a personal attack and duck any discussion about where we go from here and the lack of a policy, MoveOn made itself the story.
Many bloggers are saying that Petraeus was fair game because of his cherry-picking of the facts and his past advocacy for the administration's failed policies. But a personal attack like this, at a critical moment when House and Senate Democrats needed to gain a spine and a clarity of mind about holding this administration accountable only served to give the GOP one more chance to misdirect the attention of the media away from their own failings towards the overstep by MoveOn.org. There is no way the ad would have helped Democrats frame the debate or stiffened their spines, because the ad was a personal hit piece rather than a set of questions that Democrats should ask. Nor was the ad a reminder of the cost of this war to this country and a real war against those who wish to do us harm.
It is one thing for a blogger with only 5,000 hits a day to bash Petraeus for being a political hack masquerading as a general; it is another thing for a major political player in this country with millions to spend on full-page ads in the New York Times and a membership list in the seven figures to squander this critical time and opportunity on a hit piece that lets the administration and its supporters misdirect attention away from themselves.
Joe Klein was correct on "Charlie Rose" last night when he said that no one is focusing on the lack of a policy for how to deal with the Shiites, al-Sadr, or what Petraeus and Crocker plan to do when the al-Maliki government fails. He and David Sanger of the NYT also said that Democrats seemed fearful of even asking Petraeus the tough questions or asking point blank if Iran was next. The Democrats are dropping the ball here, and yet MoveOn is doing a hit piece on Petraeus in the futile hope that Democrats will follow their lead?
Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton get their shot at asking Petraeus and Crocker the hard questions today. They should be ready to cut off Petraeus when he filibusters his answers and force him to answer what MoveOn should have dealt with in the ad. They need to set the predicate for their "no" votes on the supplemental, as well as put their GOP peers on notice that they, not the Democrats, will have to rubber-stamp this blank check once again.