Note to Elizabeth Edwards: Lay Off MoveOn
You’re a smart woman. You of all people should know about the asymmetrical intimidation problem that Paul Krugman talks about — the one where the media is afraid to go after Rudy Guiliani for claiming he’s a rescue worker, but they’ll try to demolish your husband over a haircut because they know that they’ll get swarmed by the right wing noise machine for the former and pay no price for the latter. That’s how it works.
So I was really disappointed today to read at Taylor Marsh’s place that you had joined with Diaper Dave Vitter and John “McCarthy” McCain to attack MoveOn. We (and by that I mean the netroots) defend you when the MSM try to make your campaign a pinata over stupid, insignificant stuff. When they try to say your race should end because of your illness, but don’t say squat about Fred Thompson’s lymphoma. We’re your first line of defense, the only messaging machine that progressives have.
So here’s the rule. You never repeat right wing talking points to attack your own, ever. You never enter that echo chamber as a participant. Ever. You never give them a hammer to beat the left with. Just. Don’t. Do. It.
I wrote about this last year when Hillary Clinton went after John Kerry for that stupid joke:
I can see we’re going to have to set up some sort of “Democratic PR school” soon. They’ve become so accustomed to being George Bush’s whipping posts they no longer recognize it when they have the advantage, and as the John Kerry incident demonstrates they are in sore need of a few remedial lessons on how to press it when they do.
First of all — I don’t care if John Kerry was eating live babies on TV, one week out from an election you do not repeat GOP talking points. Ever. It makes you look like a big wuss who can’t stand up to the Republicans, even when they’re playing from an exceptionally weak hand on an issue you own. For all those anxious to be seen as the tough defenders of national security, huddling in a crouch position while they pummel you about the head and bleating “yes, yes, we deserve this” does not have the best optics.
Secondly — did I mention that the Democrats own the issue of Iraq? Even the WSJ acknowledges it is the #1 factor influencing people’s votes this election. If the Republicans want to bring it up, that’s a perfect opportunity to pivot and attack.
The war is a desperate mess. When offered the opportunity to cudgel your own side, you pivot and attack. How about, “glad you mentioned that…I think an ad is about as relevant to George Bush’s growing collection of toe tags as a haircut is to the problems facing this country.” Or, “thanks for the opportunity to discuss this, Chris. I personally would not choose the word “betrayal” to characterize General Petraeus’s lack of judgment or skewing of the facts to perpetuate the war, but I do think we should be looking at the fact that this was the bloodiest summer ever in Iraq and asking ourselves if the assessment we’re being given about the situation is realistic…”
There are any number of ways you can answer that question well and none of them involve attacking MoveOn. They’re out there on the left so you can look “moderate.” They’re saying what needs to be said, opening the conversation up so John Edwards isn’t considered the left-wing fringe loon that nobody should listen to. Understand that they have contributed a lot to the anti-war movement and that from a practical standpoint, the Edwards campaign needs the solid support of the base to get where he needs to go and everybody’s feeling a bit played this week because nobody other than MoveOn seems to want to take on the carefully orchestrated dog-and-pony show that just bought us a few more Friedman Units of war. And we’re not very happy when the people we defend turn around and start kicking them for it.
We love you. We want to love you.
Knock it off.