Reading at the Crossroads

Reading at the Crossroads is an archive for columns and letters which appeared in the Terre Haute Tribune Star. I also blog here when my patience is exhausted by what I feel is irritating, irrational and/or ironic in life. --gary daily

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Location: Terre Haute, Indiana, United States

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Sunday, September 23, 2007

CROSSROADS COMMENT -- MoveOn Ad, Part 2


Now we hear that Petraeus is “Bush's Grant”? Did Karl Rove, the master of the false historical analogy, leave this memo for Bush on a Post-It note as he walked out the door?

The good General with all that fruit salad cloaking his chest had been built up for months as the man who would deliver the high level poop on Iraq as compared with the base shit we’ve been hearing for four long years. When it became clear that he and Crocker were just Bush's mouth pieces, honorable men whose views on Iraq just happened to overlap with those of the man who just happened to put them in positions of power, MoveOn’s ad correctly went after the inflated messenger boy, the one who parachutes for victory, does hundreds of push-ups every day, and has a PhD from Princeton. Eat your heart out General Grant.

For many, MoveOn chose the right target if not the right words in taking on the poster boy General. Critics argued the pun on “Petraeus” and “Betray Us” was an affront to the General, the American People and, for good measure, the Troops We All Support As We Fight the War on Terror in Iraq So We Won't Have to Fight It in Terre Haute, Indiana.

That MoveOn failed to recognize Bush Republicans would be oh so offended by an advertisement line lacking nuance is debatable. Some are ready to give MoveOn credit for a kind of advertising jujitsu. Asking Americans to link the message, the messenger, and the Decider served MoveOn’s purposes in a two-fold way. Besides skewering Petraeus, MoveOn is reported to have raked in $500,000 from 12,000 Americans on the day after Republican’s passed its resolution denouncing the organization. That’s the kind of backlash an anti-war group can live with. (For a jaundiced view of this line, go to Matt Bai’s New York Times column HERE .)

Memory plays little or no role in our political debates today unless it can be tricked up by political consultants into a simple “flip-flop,” gotcha mold. Few seem to remember the elevating debates engendered by the Bush administration over the years that have resulted in so much pain and loss: the lies about Osama-9/11 links, the fear-mongering “mushroom cloud warnings,” the WMDs under every Bathist rug proclamations, and the sludge of the“Swift Boat” campaign in 2004. “Petraeus/Betray Us?” will probably drift into the shadows as well. This is too bad for us all.

Right now we should pointing at and giving the finger to the press who once again in lieu of doing their job looked for the easy, dramatic handle. Thus the repeated misquoting and truncating of the MoveOn ad so that the story becomes personal rather than analytical. No one chooses to run down the facts and questions raised by the ad. (Go HERE for the ad and substantiation.)


And this indictment ranges from Fox to Frank Rich. Little wonder that a celebrity distracted public concerned with Britney's decline, Spector's Wall of Weirdness, and O J' s memorabilia should throw the Petraeus tempest on an easily sold emotional pile. There it is given just as much serious thought as who the next American Idol will be.

MoveOn and the media’s problems and challenges are the problems and challenges of a democratic culture. MoveOn chooses to respect the public’s intelligence. They accept the difficulties of communicating nuance to a public that spends most of its time at the mall. But, unlike most bloggers, pundits and ALL politicians, they are willing to take on the job of educating the public while they attempt to lead it. When things don't work as smoothly as a tightly scripted, attend by invitation only, Bush rally, organizations such a MoveOn are labeled and attacked as, contradictorily, elitist and naive. It’s sad when the media pile onto the fringes of the “Petraeus/Betray Us?” issue and nearly ignore the “Cooking the books for the White House” element that is the heart of the ad.

Is this the end of the MoveOn ad affair? Probably. But Petraeus' generously funded Fighting Insurgency Wars experiment in Iraq will fail. Those 25 Senators who voted against the “Stand At Attention While I Tell You a Pack of Lies” resolution should be remembered as leaders with backbones. Hillary, not my candidate, did herself some good on this vote.

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