Monday, September 10, 2007

Reid No Longer Beats Wife

It frustrates me that so many people--some of my students, included--regard CNN and the New York Times as something like the "liberal" equivalents of Fox News and the Wall Street Journal, as though all that falls within the political spectrum must have an exact opposite situated prominently in our media landscape. This isn't breaking news, but CNN and the New York Times are, for all intents and purposes, fundamentally conservative news outlets--perhaps less so than Fox and WSJ, but only by a smidgen. OK, two smidgens. But why is it that those who pay only casual attention to politics almost invariably swallow conservative talking points hook, line and sinker?

In any case, there's something deeply disingenuous in this article posted online by CNN today, covering MoveOn's "Petraeus/Betray Us" ad in the Times:

A liberal advocacy group's print ad attacking Gen. David Petraeus drew a firestorm of criticism from both sides of the aisle on Monday.

The ad, running in Monday's edition of the New York Times, shows a picture of Petraeus. Bold letters spell out "General Petraeus or General Betray us?" Political Action, which paid for the ad, accuses Petraeus of "cooking the books for the White House" on progress being made in Iraq and calls him "a military man constantly at war with the facts."

White House spokesman Tony Snow called the ad, running the same day the general testified before Congress about Iraq, a "boorish, childish, unworthy attack."

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid expressed frustration Monday with the ad.

When asked early Monday if this was the right message for his party to send, the Nevada Democrat curtly answered, "No."

I emphasize that last line because it implies, quite bluntly, that the MoveOn ad is a message sent by the Democratic party. The distinction is more than academic: MoveOn's membership is no doubt made up primarily of those whose party affiliation is Democratic; yet the group is no more an official organ of the Democratic party than Focus on the Family is for the Republican Party. To imply otherwise is irresponsible and misleading--and it perpetuates an association that the G.O.P. relentlessly advances.

Personally, I'd be thrilled to see MoveOn set the agenda for Reid and the Democrats. And I can't blame him for distancing himself from MoveOn when he disagrees with MoveOn's message: they don't speak for him. But framing the question that way ("Is this the right message for your party to send?") amounts to the same, tired rhetorical trick as "Are you now or have you ever been a member of the communist party?" or "Do you still beat your wife?"