MoveOn, Limbaugh and how the game is played

Will the Democrats ever learn?

Published October 3, 2007 1:22PM (EDT)

Will the Democrats ever learn?

It shouldn't be a rhetorical question, but it sure seems like it is.

Two years ago, amid a drumbeat of Republican attacks, Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin apologized for saying that an FBI agent's report on some of the worst abuse of detainees at Guantánamo Bay sounded like the description of something that Nazis might do.

How did Republicans respond to Durbin's apology? By continuing the attacks, of course. A day after Durbin's televised self-flagellation, Karl Rove said that Durbin's comments had provided Al Jazeera with ammunition for "putting our troops in greater danger," and that "no more needs to be said about the motives of liberals."

Fast-forward to 2007. Amid a drumbeat of Republican attacks, 22 Democratic senators and 146 Democratic representatives vote to condemn MoveOn's Petraeus/"Betray Us" ad. And how do Republicans respond to the vote? By continuing the attacks, of course.

As we've noted, California Republican Rep. Darrell Issa and Georgia Republican Rep. Lynn Westmoreland both showed up at Tuesday's House hearing on Blackwater USA armed with copies of the MoveOn ad to wave in the faces of their Democratic colleagues. And in a fundraising appeal sent later Tuesday afternoon, Republican National Committee chairman Mike Duncan warned supporters that "liberal groups like" are raising millions to "to defeat Republicans in 2008." Duncan's message -- "Stop the Hillary Juggernaut!" -- singled out Clinton for voting against the anti-MoveOn resolution and accused her of "essentially condoning slander against our troops."

But even Democrats who joined Republicans in condemning the MoveOn ad are finding themselves subject to the continuing attack. Consider the plight of Illinois Democratic Rep. Melissa Bean. When the MoveOn ad first appeared, the National Republican Congressional Committee put out a press release in which it asked whether Bean would "denounce the group's despicable behavior," then sneered, "Don't count on it." Bean proceeded to vote with Republicans in condemning the MoveOn ad. The thanks she gets? One of Bean's prospective Republican opponents in 2008 puts out a press release accusing her of "blatant hypocrisy" for voting to condemn the MoveOn ad even as she "accepts huge sums of money from liberal groups like, which advocates surrendering to al-Qaida and other Islamic terrorist organizations in Iraq, and launches vicious personal attacks against well-respected four star generals." As the Swamp notes, Bean hasn't received any MoveOn money since 2004.

The attack on Bean isn't an isolated incident. As the Washington Times reported earlier this week, the NRCC is going after "several House Democrats for receiving MoveOn donations and for voting against a resolution last week to condemn the ad." Explains NRCC spokesman Ken Spain: "Not only has the MoveOn debacle confirmed the American public's suspicion that Democrats ... remain beholden to the far-left fringe of their party's base, but it also speaks to the more current problem that Democrats face, which is their inability to act decisively on any measure."

Doesn't anyone know how this game is played? Sure: Not a single Republican has signed Harry Reid's letter condemning Rush Limbaugh.

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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