The people at MoveOn.org have a new Iraq ad that is, if they do say so themselves, their most effective ever. Then again, for the group that brought us the “General Petraeus or General Betray Us?” ad last September, that might not be saying much.
Nevertheless, the organization boasts on its Web site, “This isn't your average political ad – it lays out the truth about McCain's Iraq policy in a personal and compelling way.” MoveOn also claims, “We just got the results back, and polling shows that voters found it to be more persuasive than any other ad we've tested before.”
I'm not persuaded. 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.
TV ad shows Mom, baby boy
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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!
Now it might be pedantic to point out that John McCain isn't counting on Alex to serve in Iraq, because little Alex will only be 9 years old when President McCain leaves office after two terms.
And it might be picky to remark that when McCain was asked whether U.S. troops might have to remain in Iraq for as long as 50 years, he replied, “Maybe 100” – explaining, “As long as Americans are not being injured or harmed or wounded or killed, it's fine with me, and I hope it would be fine with you if we maintain a presence in a very volatile part of the world.”
In other words, McCain is open to an extended military presence in Iraq, similar to ones we've had in Germany, Japan or Kuwait. He does not wish for, nor does he anticipate, a 100-year war in Iraq.
But it is surely relevant to point out that the United States has an all-volunteer Army. Alex won't be drafted, and his mommy can't enlist him. He can decide when he's an adult whether he wants to serve. And, of course, McCain supports the volunteer army.
All of this is pretty much par for the course in political advertising. And I'm of the latitudinarian school when it comes to campaign discourse; politics is supposed to be rough and ready. So, why, I wondered after first seeing the MoveOn ad, did I find it so … creepy?
I was having trouble putting my finger 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.”
No world without enemies
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.
We do, however, live in a free country with a volunteer army. In the United States, individuals can choose to serve in the military or not. The choice not to serve should carry no taint, nor should it be viewed with the least prejudice. If Alex chooses to pursue other opportunities, he won't be criticized by John McCain or anyone else.
But that's not at all the message of the MoveOn ad.
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.