Was MoveOn Right to Smear Petraeus?

Commentary: Many on the Right and Left answer that question with a resounding NO. MoveOn may have made (and in our opinion did make) some great points in addressing the Petraeus report and the debacle many believe Iraq has become (many thanks to the US), but stooping to juvenile namecalling does not help this or any progressive cause or build any credibility for MoveOn, and by extension grassroots progressives. Petraeus may be wrong, dead wrong. He may be saying what the Bushite squad wants to hear. But to imply that he is a traitor goes much too far. So, here is some unsolicited advice for “progressive” organizations: Act like grownups if you are going to claim to represent the rest of us.

General Betray Us? – washingtonpost.com Fact Checker


4 thoughts on “Was MoveOn Right to Smear Petraeus?

  1. As much as I would prefer to see mature, rational, respectful, and substantive political discourse become more prominent, I’m OK with MoveOn taking a risk on this one. They’ve got to deal with the pushback, as well as figure out whether their donors and participants are with them on tactics like this.

    From the start of the Bush administration’s political march to Iraq, those of us who have questioned it have been labeled delusional, deceived, defeatist, or unpatriotic. Perhaps it was Rove who was convinced that Bush could swiftboat progressive folks en masse, leading the country to believe that dissent equals anarchy and dissenters are traitors.

    Despite ugly rhetoric, Bush has failed to bring a majority of the country to his side.

    It was also telling that, tasked with substantive accounting for the war and planning future advice, consent, and funding, Republicans focused instead on baiting their colleagues regarding a newspaper ad. Regardless of the merits, or lack of them, of the ad, that’s the point that I’d like to see the American people take to heart.

  2. Hey, sweet Steve!

    I do agree with you on many levels. I actually wrote Eli Pariser of MoveOn a letter saying that their complaint is valid, given that so many important matters are on the table — including the occupation and relentless loss of life — and congresscritters are whining about an ad from a self-proclaimed progressive (though actually centrist) group.


    I will not align with MoveOn on much of anything and believe fervently that real progressives (if they as individuals are so moved) ought to call MoveOn out for their bad behavior. After enduring years of centrists and DINOs and MoveOn/HRC types heaping abuse on real, thinking progressives, I refuse to line up with them when they coopt *our* message (one that hasn’t changed) and behave like bratty children. I am not a child and will not endorse or even lend silent support to childish centrists who treat progressives at least as badly as the worst right wingers. Petraeus may be many things — among them, totally wrong and misguided — but a traitor? I won’t defend MoveOn making such a ludicrous statement in the name of marketing.

    MoveOn is the group that says, “Turn off your brain and just obey us. We’re the experts. We’re smarter, more talented, more poltically astute than you, and we go to exclusive parties and travel in rarefied circles. Let us think for you and just follow our lead. Oh — and however poor you are, give to MoveOn ’til it hurts. We really need your help to pay for the next piece of incendiary, fact-challenged swill we want to use to fill a full page in the New York Times. Just shut up, don’t think, pay us and do as we, your betters, say.”

    Um, no. Hell to the no. (I’ve always wanted to say that. )

    Then again, those folks expect me to wait quietly for equality under law too. So obviously they aren’t worthy of my respect or defense in any event.

    But yeah, Congress absolutely deserves a slap for wasting their time on piffle like this. That’s why I wrote to lawmakers on this issue, so trust me, I have done my part. But I am not inclined to launch any defense of MoveOn regarding its marketing materials, which I find at least as abhorrent as mendacious right-wing ads.

    Frankly, I believe real progressives — not centrists, but those closer to Green thought than to mainstream Democrat thought (I dance to the tune of no political party) — would do better (at least ethically, but also in terms of public perception) to distance themselves from MoveOn and similar elitist, centrist organizations. The organization is interested in us only for our money, not our ideas. Could someone who thinks like me work for one of those groups? Tried to (hey, a girl’s gotta work — and I’m in the midst of very dark days because my full-time job (GDPR) is broke and we’re facing imminent eviction with nowhere to go) and they rejected me (too uncontrollable, refuses to toe the party line or to go along to get along, thinks for herself, all those bad things; this is all stuff I heard through the grapevine) — they don’t want my kind. But in the larger, infinitely more important picture, centrists-in-progressive-clothing do nothing to enhance the public view or private lives of real progressives. They’re getting bad press? They have only themselves to blame. If their ad had consisted of fact without tweaking and embellishment and half-truth and unreasonable character assassination, no problem. I’ll certainly defend MoveOn if their facts are unimpeachable and their tone mature. But their facts were shaky at best and intimating that Petraeus, a soldier following his dim bulb commander-in-thief’s orders as he swore an oath to do, betrayed anyone is a leap.

    And oooooh, Steve: I can’t tell you how many right wingers have written and called me and the radio station demanding we explain what MoveOn did. Why should we? We and they are in different camps. We aren’t members. We don’t endorse their centrism and apparent lack of principle and integrity (they refuse to stand up for glbt equality until it’s expedient for them to do so). Screw ’em, I say. Not very Gandhilike, I know and I apologize, but you wouldn’t believe the shit I’m hearing since the release of that horrid, irresponsible ad.

    Frankly, I see it as my duty, and GDPR’s duty, to speak up when people using the progressive label do non-progressive things. They’re using Republican tactics. If this sort of behavior is wrong when GOPsters do it, and it is, it is still wrong when progs or pseudoprogs do it. Perhaps it is even more wrong, from my POV. (I hold people who call themselves libs to higher standards, perhaps.) But as any kindergartener will tell you, treat others the way you want to be treated, not the way they treat you. It is immoral for me to bear false witness against someone, even if they have borne false witness against me and mine. And anyone who perpetrates a second wrong using the juvenile logic that “they did it to us first!” commits the greater wrong.

    I do prattle on, apologies, but this is a very bad time for us, and this whole MoveOn thing is just making it worse. And I’ve been hit with three separate MoveOn fundraising missives today. Went and unsubscribed from their list, had to endure splash screens saying, “wait – do you REALLY want to cancel?” and I said yes, cancel me. Not 10 minutes later, my inbox is polluted by ANOTHER moveon email asking, essentially, are you REALLY, REALLY sure you want to cancel?” I was SO furious — and this was AFTER all this ad BS.

    &@%$@#! money-grubbing, centrist elitists.

    Anyhoo, how are YOU? Long time no talk to. I hope all is well up north and with OPHO.

  3. I would have strongly advised against the “Betray Us” part of what was otherwise a good ad. It’s turned into a wedge between us and Congress, when that’s the last thing we needed. Even if that gap was always there, it doesn’t help to have it brought into high relief and embitter people.

    Still, while traitor isn’t the right word for Petraeus, “skilled prevaricator under oath” seems reasonable; see this, about the Baghdad maps Petraeus presented to Congress — vs. the ones a difft general did just days earlier.

    Reading your comments: yeah. MoveOn may be trying to make lemonade out of this, but they basically screwed up and made themselves the focus of debate rather than the issues. They have my solidarity on free speech grounds, but my skepticism re the “professionalism” they claim to possess.

  4. “Skilled prevaricator under oath” works for as an apt description for Petraeus works for me, noting that the general likely was following Bush’s orders – an understandable choice, in a way, if regrettable, but an important at least partial mitigation – just trying to be fair to all sides here). But it has to be mentioned and considered that the ad *was* squirrelly about a number of facts (while being correct on others). And MoveOn, which should have the freedom to say what it will, however obnoxious, is so dead on when it says Congress has bigger fish to fry than what appears to me to be smacking back at the demonstrated immaturity of an activist group. Of course, I believe much more can be said about the pros *and cons* of self-appointed leaders like those in MoveOn about the services and disservices they provide to the extremely diverse left, and particularly to progressives they largely *do not* represent.

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