Thursday’s Washington Post featured a splashy front-page Style section article headlined "MoveOn Grows Up." Reporter Jose Antonio Vargas lapped up MoveOn’s claims that it’s much more powerful and effective than the National Rifle Association, employed euphemisms to mask that MoveOn opposed any "violence" in response to the 9/11 attacks, and waited 18 long paragraphs to arrive at that "stumble" known as the roundly condemned "General Betray Us" ad.
Over a large picture of MoveOn executive director Eli Pariser at a Brooklyn "Call to Change" party is his apparently inspirational quote: "You can say things that inspire people and get lots of people to contribute just a little bit...Then instead of being accountable to a small set of rich donors, you’re accountable to a large set of everyday donors."
The piece began by explaining how Pariser swooped in on two women who started a Women Against Sarah Palin blog and offered cash and technical support. Vargas doesn’t quote from the blog, to give you a taste of its hateful flavor. From Wednesday came this harsh language:
Sarah Plain [sic] is the most abysmal example of what it means to be a Christian and is an insult to all true Christians everywhere. Since when does following Jesus's teachings include fear-mongering, character assassination, spreading smears, rumors, gossip, distortions and denigrations or being downright snide? Isn't she violating the 9th of God's 10 Commandments by bearing false witness in her rants against Sen. Obama and insinuations that he's a terrorist? As well as the 6th Commandment, by aiding and abetting the killing of others via her support of the death penalty and advocacy of war in which babies, pregnant women and other innocents are killed in bombing raids and become what the Palins of the world euphemistically call 'collateral damage'? Real pro-lifers care about more than just the pre-born in the US. I haven't seen or heard anything from or about this woman that reflects or indicates that she cares about anything that resembles following Christ or Christian principals [sic]. [The emphasis is theirs.]
Vargas forwarded the theory that MoveOn is way more cost-effective than the NRA:
MoveOn, the enfant terrible of online politicking, is growing up, turning 10 years old last month. And it has become far more than a purveyor of vituperative e-mail blasts. During the 2006 midterm elections, for instance, the online organization -- with a full-time staff of 23, most of whom work from home -- spent $28 million advocating for Democratic candidates through its political action committee, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. In contrast, the National Rifle Association, with a staff of about 500 housed in its expansive headquarters in Fairfax, spent $11 million through its PAC.
He also noted "through the group's virulent opposition to President Bush and the Iraq war -- Begala has regarded MoveOn as a 'spinal transplant' that has reinvigorated the Democratic Party."
Nowhere in the piece does Vargas wonder if the radical anti-war flavor of MoveOn will drag the Democratic party out of the mainstream. (There was no mention of their fervent opposition to the surge in Iraq, for example.) Vargas described how Pariser came to MoveOn, but obscured how his call for a "restrained response" to September 11 was really a call for zero military action:
Pariser's political activism also began with an e-mail. After the Sept. 11 attacks, he sent a note to a group of friends, urging them to contact their elected officials and ask for a restrained response to the tragedy. The e-mail turned into a petition, eventually signed by more than half a million people online. Two months later, MoveOn called with a job offer. [Emphasis mine.]
As Byron York noted at National Review Online in 2005, Pariser’s petition said in part: "We implore the powers that be to use, wherever possible, international judicial institutions and international human rights law to bring to justice those responsible for the attacks, rather than the instruments of war, violence or destruction."
MoveOn had their own no-war petition, written by founders Wes Boyd and Joan Blades. Entitled "Justice, not Terror," it read, in full: "Our leaders are under tremendous pressure to act in the aftermath of the terrible events of Sept. 11th. We the undersigned support justice, not escalating violence, which would only play into the terrorists' hands."
Finally, in paragraphs 17 and 18, the "stumble" of calling our successful commander of the surge in Iraq "Betray Us" mildly surface:
Throughout this campaign cycle, MoveOn has raised nearly $33 million and expects to hit $38 million before Election Day -- money spent buying ads for and against candidates and funding get-out-the-vote efforts. All that money has led to more influence. And to more criticism when the group stumbles.
For instance, MoveOn was repudiated by Republicans and Democrats alike in September 2007 when the group ran an anti-war print ad in the New York Times that questioned the integrity of Gen. David Petraeus, the commander in Iraq. "General Petraeus or General Betray Us?" read the ad. Republicans introduced resolutions condemning the ad that easily passed in both the House and Senate. Pariser defended it at the time. But now, more than a year later, he says he "would have worded the ad differently."
He'll admit he was wrong, now that the controversy died down and he's speaking in paragraph 18. But we learn in the next paragraph that MoveOn is still "evolving" and growing up:
"MoveOn is still evolving, still maturing, still learning what its boundaries are," says Tad Devine, a longtime Democratic consultant. "But make no mistake about it: This election might be decided by a few votes in a few states. . . . Having those hundreds of thousands of people communicating with each other through e-mails, energizing the base, can make the difference."