Obama Moves on MoveOn


Almost lost in the Wes Clark haze of Monday’s patriotism speech in Independence, Mo., was this line from Sen. Barack Obama:

“All too often our politics still seems trapped in these old, threadbare arguments -- a fact most evident during our recent debates about the war in Iraq, when those who opposed administration policy were tagged by some as unpatriotic, and a general providing his best counsel on how to move forward in Iraq was accused of betrayal.”

That last clause is a direct shot at the liberal group MoveOn.org, which greeted Gen. David Petraeus’ congressional testimony last fall with a full-page ad in The New York Times that asked the question: “General Petraeus or General Betray Us?"

Several journalists have noted that Obama rather conveniently skipped the Senate vote cooked up by Republicans to condemn MoveOn.org’s ad back in September, even though he cast other votes that day.

But perhaps more interesting is that this is the second time in a week that Obama is lining up in opposition to MoveOn.org, perhaps the most politically influential online liberal group -- whose members endorsed Obama’s candidacy back in February.

Last week, MoveOn.org launched a petition drive urging Obama to reconsider his position on a compromise measure extending the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

Obama has said he’ll vote for the measure, despite his previous vow to filibuster any bill granting immunity to telecommunications companies that cooperated with the Bush administration

Now, with this speech, Obama seems to be going out of his way to tweak his erstwhile allies.

And, intriguingly, MoveOn.org is taking Clark’s side in the dust-up over his comments. This from the group’s latest online petition: “The American people deserve the truth --not sensational reporting. The media has consistently twisted General Clark's words.”

This isn’t in overt opposition to Obama’s stance on Clark’s comments. But as we noted Monday, the Obama campaign isn’t defending Clark, and isn’t interested in Clark’s nuances. Surely Obama wants this whole episode to go away, not kept alive online.

To be clear, Obama was never a pure Netroots candidate -- many in the liberal blogosphere were more keen on John Edwards or Chris Dodd in the primaries.

But these breaks with MoveOn.org are interesting -- and seem to me at least partly separate from Obama’s migration from liberal positions on issues like guns, welfare, NAFTA, and even FISA.

To Obama supporters, this is their candidate showing he’s not in the thrall of any interest group, regardless of ideology. He’s making clear (as he did in denouncing Clark) that what’s good for the McCain goose is good for the Obama gander, when it comes to below-the-belt politicking.

But is he making online enemies?

What do you think?

-- Rick Klein

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