MoveOn's Media Misstep

(AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
You remember those Bugs Bunny cartoons where he'd stick a cork or something in Elmer Fudd's rifle and it would backfire into Fudd's face? We've seen the political version of that in Washington, DC this week.

In the three days since they originally took out a full-page ad in the New York Times deriding General David "Betray Us?" Petraeus, MoveOn.org is still the big media story of the week, nearly eclipsing the General's testimony. (Simply while writing this post, it's been covered on two of the three cable nets.)

It's a textbook case of media blowback, with the ad having given supporters of the "surge" a certain amount of rhetorical cover, or at least an opportunity to shift the focus of the discussion from the streets of Baghdad to the well-known activist group and bugaboo of the right.

Joe Klein at Time magazine wrote an article called "MoveOn.Infantile."

Chris Cilizza, Washington Post political wonk extraordinaire published a piece entitled "MoveOn.org: Momentum or Menace?"

Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) took time out of her questioning on Monday to lambaste the ad.

The Kansas City Star even felt compelled to publish an editorial demanding an apology from MoveOn, "General Petraeus Deserves an Apology."

And as if that wasn't enough, the ultimate proof that MoveOn had overshot their target? Stephen Colbert mocked them on "The Colbert Report" last night.

Regardless of your politics or position on America's military involvement in Iraq, it's clear that the MoveOn.org ad – whether on its own or through Republican counterarguments – was a tactical failure for the Democrats and left, with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) denouncing the ad in a nationally-televised interview.

In a week where Americans could have been focusing in on troop levels, progress and benchmarks, MoveOn.org gave the General's supporters a ready-made talking point. Rather than discuss how 53 percent of Americans expected Petraeus to give an overly rosy depiction of the surge, Petraeus and his supporters were able to get out of their defensive crouch and move the debate in their favor.
  • Matthew Felling

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