Friday, September 21, 2007

"This is Much Bigger Than One Ad"

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 486

Last night, I got a couple of emails from The first, with the subject line "How are we doing?," began with, "MoveOn is a member-driven organization, and we rely on your feedback to guide everything we do," and included a link to an on line survey largely focused on the ad pictured at the left of this column.

The second email from was titled, "BREAKING: Senate ignores war, goes after MoveOn," and included a link allowing recipients to add their name to a statement responding to the Senate vote. The email also noted, "Maybe you liked our General Petraeus ad. Maybe you thought the language went too far. But make no mistake: this is much bigger than one ad."

I didn't add my name to the statement, largely because I can't really buy the idea that Moveon was just minding its own business when the United States Senate arbitrarily and viciously attacked them. But I do agree with the sentiment that the debate around Moveon this past couple of weeks is, indeed, much bigger than one ad, and so I did respond to the survey.

The survey asked a number of questions about the "General Betray Us" ad, and concluded by asking "What should we do next?" In response, I answered with the following, and reproduce it here in the spirit of the first email's statement that Moveon values member feedback:

Focus on issues, not invective. Rhetorical excess, name calling and defamation is what Rove Republicans do, NOT US! Any validity in the substance of your ad was buried by the adverse, and entirely predictable, reaction to the "Betray Us" line. Did you ever think that this is just the sort of thing the White House was praying for: a political enemy to attack for its own failure in Iraq?

Did you learn nothing from the 2004 Swift Boat campaign?

But MUCH WORSE than all of that is the fact that you looked like amateurs in the conduct of this entire affair. This is why good and fair-minded people think we don't support the troops and why they get nervous when they think about Democrats and national security. You are setting us back years.

What should you do? Stop attacking people, and start addressing the policies that are leading this country to such misfortune. The facts are there, and are sufficiently compelling at face value and in their own right to do the job of changing public opinion without resorting to the sort of childish, inept and self-defeating tactics of the "General Betray Us" fiasco.

The real test Moveon faces now is not a public relations battle, but the question of whether it will be able to rise above the temptation to return venom for venom and instead work to raise the level of civic debate in our country. If it does, then the current flap over the Betray Us ad will fade, and, albeit it in the most unexpected of ways, the ad ultimately will be proven to have been the turning point that Moveon undoubtedly hoped it would be all along. If not, then Moveon will simply become one more beast in the baying pack of animals from both extremes whose only instinct is for blood.

I'm a Moveon member, and I'll be watching for the ongoing answer to the question of "How are we doing?"

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