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The Left Coast Menace

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Last week, President Bush warned America about the left coast organizations Moveon.Org and Code Pink: "some in Washington should spend more time responding to the warnings of terrorists like Osama bin Laden and the requests of our commanders on the ground, and less time responding to the demands of MoveOn.org bloggers [sic] and Code Pink protesters." Among Republicans it's become trendy to bash MoveOn and Code Pink. As one of their supporters, I disagree: MoveOn and Code Pink are not part of the problem; they're part of the solution. GOP attacks on MoveOn and Code Pink gained momentum in September after MoveOn ran a full page New York Times ad "General Petraeus or General Betray Us." The ad not only provoked outrage on the part of pro-war Republicans and Democrats, but also prompted a Congressional vote to censure MoveOn the House resolution condemned "in the strongest possible terms the personal attacks made by the advocacy group MoveOn.org impugning the integrity and professionalism of General David H. Petraeus." Whether one believes the ad was a tactical mistake or not for the record, I supported the ad and believe Petraeus didn't serve the public interest by becoming another White House toady it seems wildly inappropriate for Congress to censure an exercise of free speech and factually true statement. The hullabaloo surrounding the MoveOn ad illustrates the Washington mindset, where many politicians feel it's political suicide to take a stance against Bush's war on terror, even though two-thirds of Americans now feel it is misguided. In this schizophrenic environment, where Congress seems incapable of checking escalating Bush abuse of power, America needs organizations like MoveOn and Code Pink. Those of us who believe the country is headed in the wrong direction have to have an outlet for our outrage. MoveOn.org started in 1998 in response to the Republican drive to impeach then President Clinton. It's unique organizing characteristic has been the creation of a virtual town meeting via the web. Since its inception, MoveOn has been unusually democratic: it asks for and responds to the feedback of its approximately 3.5 million members. MoveOn which is both an advocacy-oriented non-profit and a political action committee engages its membership to sign petitions, write letters to the editor, lobby politicians, get out the vote, meet other MoveOn members in their community, and become more involved in the political process. In comparison, Code Pink is a smaller and younger organization, having started in October 2002 in response to the threat of war with Iraq and taken their first action a 10,000 person march in Washington in March of 2003. Code Pink was founded as "a women-initiated grassroots peace and social justice movement working to end the war in Iraq, stop new wars, and redirect our resources into healthcare, education and other life-affirming activities." It's a non-profit advocacy group with approximately 150,000 members. George Bush, Rudy Giuliani, and other Republicans attack MoveOn and Code Pink for two reasons. The Bush Administration, and the Republican orthodoxy, has become more strident in support of the war. Bush's modus operandi has always been "when in doubt, go on the attack" and over the course of this past year he has moved into full attack mode on the war in Iraq: claiming we are winning there, abandoning any notion of achieving an internal political solution, and declaring the need for an "enduring" American presence. It's not surprising that Bush has gone on the offense, but what is disappointing is the lethargic response of the Democratic Party. Liberal organizations such as MoveOn and Code Pink have stepped into the political energy gap to provide the needed opposition to an increasingly outrageous Presidency. Bush doesn't like this. Meanwhile the 2008 Presidential campaign is in full swing. One of the prominent themes of the Republican candidates Rudy Giuliani, in particular is that the leading Democratic candidates are "too liberal" for America. Republicans claim Democrats would weaken American defenses, raise taxes, and impose wild "socialist" schemes such as national healthcare. Republican Presidential candidates link Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John Edwards to MoveOn and Code Pink in an attempt to define the leading Democratic candidates as wildly out of tune with the mood of the typical American. In reality it's the Bush Administration and the Republican Party that are out of tune with America. George Bush, Rudy Giuliani, and other GOP leaders want Americans to remain passive: to trust them to provide direction for the good ship USA. But Republicans don't deserve our trust. And, passivity isn't the appropriate response to a rogue President. In his October 14th Op-Ed, The 'Good Germans' Among Us, New York Times columnist Frank Rich deplored our national passivity. Rich attributed this to the duplicity of the Bush Administration: "It was always the White House's plan to coax us into a blissful ignorance about the war... [They] invited our passive complicity by requiring no shared sacrifice." That explains why the Republican elite hates MoveOn and Code Pink. Bush, Giuliani, and other GOP leaders want Americans to remain passive: to continue to "go shopping" instead of actually involving themselves in our democracy. MoveOn and Code Pink rouse everyday Americans out of their lethargy and re-involve them in the political process. They're revitalizing democracy.


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Bob Burnett is a Berkeley writer. In a previous life he was one of the executive founders of Cisco Systems.

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