It seems like only yesterday I wanted to put my head through a wall when Hillary Clinton decided to pile on John Kerry on the eve of the 2006 election, just as the right wing was swarming him over his bad joke. It’s just such a basic, elemental principle at play here — you don’t help the right wing out by repeating their talking points, ever. Why was this so hard to grasp?
But here we are, almost a year later, and Hillary seems to have internalized that principle very well. Because when baited by Rudy Giuliani and offered the chance to frag MoveOn over their Petraeus ad, she thought the better of it:
Rudy Giuliani is dropping in the polls and is unable to defend his own support for George Bush’s failed war. Instead of distorting Senator Clinton’s record in the campaign’s first attack ad, the Mayor should tell voters why he thinks sticking with the Bush Iraq strategy makes sense. The country wants change and while Hillary Clinton is focused ending the war, Mayor Giuliani is playing politics.
Bravo. Hillary seizes the opportunity to pivot and attack — forcing Rudy into embracing George Bush and his horribly unpopular war. She sticks the landing.
Elizabeth Edwards? Not so much. You would think that she 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 John Edwards over a haircut because they know that they’ll get hammered by the right wing noise machine for the former and pay no price for the latter.
But I guess not, because she decided instead to join with such leading moral barometers as Diaper Dave Vitter and John “McCarthy” McCain to attack MoveOn. So did John Kerry, whom one would expect to know better by this point in time. Granted, we really don’t expect much better from Joe Biden — somehow he continues to find the obvious quite elusive. So I guess we have to say it once again until everyone gets it — 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 cudgel to beat the left with.
Just. Don’t. Do. It.
The quite simple fact of the matter is that last week’s carefully orchestrated dog-and-pony show just bought us several more Friedman Units of war, and all that cabbage on Petraeus’s chest had its desired effect — politicians were so afraid of criticising a military man they couldn’t say what needed to be said, namely that Petraeus is betraying the trust of the American public by using his credibility as a General to present George Bush’s politicized and inaccurate facts to Congress. The war is not going swimmingly, it’s a full on, four-flushing disaster and the entire country knows it. Rather than turning around and kicking MoveOn in an overweening desire to have the right wing pat them on the head, maybe everyone should remember that their failure to criticize Colin Powell for the very same reasons five years ago bought us this mess in the first place, and be thankful that someone is injecting some skepticism into the conversation this time around.
Much hand wringing has ensued in the wake of the ad, and Enron Ed and Karl Rove’s short term strategy to pillory MoveOn may have George Bush’s desired effect of driving all the Republicans to his defense. As Digby observed, it certainly hornswoggled the media into missing the real story. But what did they really buy along with those Friedman Units? In forcing all the Republicans to rally ’round George Bush, they’ve left them no room to run in 2008. Says Bill Schneider:
It probably contributed to the affect that I described earlier, which is that Republicans were expected to rally behind the president. This probably gave them a little more fire.
And as you indicated and as Candy said, that could be very damaging to Republicans in the long run because they feel like they’re forced to stick with this president and this policy and the political damage could be catastrophic.
I don’t expect useless DLC consultants who are advising Harry Reid to hump the leg of the GOP like a neutered terrier to understand it, but driving Republicans into the waiting arms of George Bush and making them take ownership of this war could be the best thing to happen to Democrats in 2008. That MoveOn plans to go straight at uber fraud Rudy Giuliani today for the same betrayal of trust he displayed when he decided to abandon his responsibilities on the Iraq Study Group is to their credit.
Nobody wants to deal with this messy war, but our representatives are not going to be allowed to punt this time around. Many are going to get banged up and bruised in the process but that’s just how it’s going to go down.
Good for MoveOn for being willing to say what needs to be said and take the hit. Democrats should take their cues from Hillary Clinton when asked about their efforts and seize the opportunity to wrap this war around the exposed necks of the GOP.