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Congress takes on MoveOn

'General Petraeus or General Betray Us?" Get it? See, it's funny because it rhymes. Good one, huh?

Well, not really. MoveOn.org's juvenile attack on Gen. David H. Petraeus in a full-page ad in the New York Times on Sept. 10 might have merited a trip to the principal's office, or at least a stern rebuke from some of the liberal activist group's more grown-up multimillionaire donors. But an official condemnation from both houses of Congress?


FOR THE RECORD:
Political ad: An editorial on Monday referred to MoveOn.org as a "527" organization. The 527 arm it created during the 2004 presidential campaign no longer exists, and MoveOn.org now functions as a political action committee. —


Oddly, Congress didn't seem eager to intervene after a far more egregious and consequential low blow directed at a military man by a political activist group: the infamous "Swift boat" ads attacking Democratic Sen. John Kerry during the 2004 presidential campaign. Many politicians criticized the ads, which made unsubstantiated allegations that besmirched Kerry's Vietnam War record, but there were no congressional denunciations. On Wednesday, the House condemned MoveOn's Petraeus ad by a 341-79 vote, a week after the Senate did the same by a vote of 72 to 25.

Liberals will be quick to seize on this as evidence of a double standard, but it isn't that simple. So-called 527 groups -- named after the section of the tax code that governs them -- such as MoveOn or the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth were invented by Democrats to avoid campaign donation restrictions. Very few leaders on either side of the aisle have been consistent about the mud-fest that has resulted. Sen. Hillary Clinton, for example, savaged President Bush in 2004 over his failure to condemn the Swift boat ads, yet the Democratic presidential front-runner voted "no" on the Senate's condemnation of MoveOn. Bush, meanwhile, seemed to have forgotten his reluctance to denounce the Swift boat group when he criticized Democrats for not condemning the Petraeus ad.

The message here is that sleazy political ads are OK as long as they're on your side, but otherwise they're unacceptable. We've got a different message for Congress: Instead of wasting time on this kind of meaningless political theater, how about solving the nation's healthcare crisis or doing something to fight global warming?

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
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