MoveOn.org is not known for being subtle. In fact, I think they wear their in-your-face attitude and the publicity it generates as a badge of honor. Last summer’s full-page ad about “General Betray-Us” got enough wing-nuts upset that members of Congress took to the floor of the House and frothed off about treason and such and made it The Most Important Issue of that particular week. It caused a lot of agita for the less confrontational members and alienated moderates. But then again, MoveOn.org believes that the best defense is a good offense. Or just offend and let the chips fall where they may. Whether or not it was effective remains problematic, but no one can say that it didn’t get the attention it was intended to generate.
Now they’re out with a new ad. It’s not as provocative; it doesn’t call into question the patriotism of a general, but in a way it does cut right to the point, and it does provoke at least one observer: William Kristol.
Having slandered a distinguished general officer, MoveOn has now moved on to express contempt for all who might choose to serve their country in uniform.
Their new and improved message is presented in a 30-second TV spot, “Not Alex,” produced in conjunction with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. It’s airing for a week on local broadcast stations in markets in the swing states of Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin, and on two national cable channels, with a reported buy of over half a million dollars.
The ad is simple. A mother speaks as she holds her baby boy:
“Hi, John McCain. This is Alex. And he’s my first. So far his talents include trying any new food and chasing after our dog. That, and making my heart pound every time I look at him. And so, John McCain, when you say you would stay in Iraq for 100 years, were you counting on Alex? Because if you were, you can’t have him.”
Take that, warmonger!
Mr. Kristol goes on to point out that little Alex will be only nine when/if John McCain left office and that we have a volunteer army, so if Mommy isn’t going to let John McCain have him, it would be her telling her adult son not to join the military. Those are valid points, and we’re all allegedly intelligent enough to know that commercials — whether they’re selling a politician or a boner pill — exaggerate and simplify to the point of silliness. If that was the only complaint that Mr. Kristol had, I would read his whining without comment and then move on, so to speak.
But he cannot leave well enough alone, so he has to make a larger point. And in doing so, he does what he does best: expose the smug hypocrisy that is his trademark.
I was having trouble putting my finder on just why until I came across a post by a mother of a soldier recently deployed in Iraq, at the Web site BlueStarChronicles.com.
Here’s what the mother of an actual soldier has to say about the remarks of the mother of the prospective non-soldier in the ad:
“Does that mean that she wants other people’s sons to keep the wolves at bay so that her son can live a life of complete narcissism? What is it she thinks happens in the world? … Someone has to stand between our society and danger. If not my son, then who? If not little Alex then someone else will have to stand and deliver. Someone’s son, somewhere.”
This is the sober truth. Unless we enter a world without enemies and without war, we will need young men and women willing to risk their lives for our nation. And we’re not entering any such world.
The MoveOn ad is unapologetic in its selfishness, and barely disguised in its disdain for those who have chosen to serve — and its contempt for those parents who might be proud of sons and daughters who are serving. The ad boldly embraces a vision of a selfish and infantilized America, suggesting that military service and sacrifice are unnecessary and deplorable relics of the past.
And the sole responsibility of others.
But William Kristol, who has never had a problem heating up the war rhetoric to get someone else to go fight a war for some neo-con vision, never chose to serve either; growing up the only person he ever saw in uniform was the doorman at the Waldorf Astoria. He glorifies the service of others as if he was re-enacting some G.I. Joe Saturday-morning cartoon fantasy, doing the bidding of the nation’s leaders. He serves as the chief cheerleader of sending others, including the sons and daughters of the keepers of BlueStarChronicles.com, to fight his wars, but never thought of doing it himself, and when he was faced with it during the time he was eligible for the draft, he found a way to avoid it. Someone else served instead of him. And he has the nerve to chastise MoveOn for pointing out that there are some people who don’t want their child to go to war.
In a way it’s comforting to know that he is so predictably self-parodying. It’s one of those constants like the speed of light: if William Kristol didn’t come up with one of these at least once a month, we’d have to wonder what else has gone wrong in the universe.