Playing the Michael Moore card

The press secretary calls conservative Democrat John Murtha an extremist. It would be funny if it wasn't also true.

Published November 18, 2005 5:12PM (EST)

You know the White House is getting desperate when it tries to play the Michael Moore card on a Vietnam veteran and ex-Marine long regarded as a staunch conservative Democrat. In response to Pennsylvania Rep. John Murtha's speech on Thursday calling for an expedited withdrawal of troops from Iraq, the press secretary's office released a terse statement accusing Murtha of "endorsing the policy positions of Michael Moore and the extreme liberal wing of the Democratic party."

Them's fighting words! But the funny thing is, listening to Murtha speak on the "NewsHour With Jim Lehrer" last night, he did sound remarkably like someone who could have received prominent placement in "Farenheit 9/11."

"This is a flawed policy wrapped in illusion," said Murtha, referring to the war in Iraq. "From the very start, they said the oil production would pay for any rehabilitation. It would only cost us a few billion dollars, that there would be a big coalition supporting us, and we'd get all kinds of money from everybody else. They expected to be able to do this with a lot less troops. They thought they'd have only 40,000 or 50,000 troops the first year ... But the president said a lot of things, and they turned out not to be true. The president said there are weapons of mass destruction. The president said oil would pay for it. The president cut taxes at a time when we're in a war."

So, much as War Room hates to admit it, Scott McClellan might be right on this one -- there is something reminiscent of Moore in the air today. And while we're feeling so forgiving, let's hand out the olive branch to the president and vice president too. They're also right: The Democratic politicians who are suddenly coming out en masse against the war are playing politics -- engaging in the same kind of timid, watch-the-weathervane strategy that helped get us all in this mess in the first place. When polls suggested the American public supported the war, they voted for it. Now it's a different story. The president's poll numbers get weaker every week, and surprise, surprise, Democratic politicians get braver and braver.

Perhaps Moore says it best, in his response today to the invocation of his name in this latest eruption of Iraq war politics.

"Unfortunately, the President doesn't understand that it is mainstream middle America who has turned against him and his immoral war and that it is I and the Democrats who represent the mainstream. It is Mr. Bush who is the extremist."

By Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

MORE FROM Andrew Leonard

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Iraq Iraq War Michael Moore Middle East War Room