Democrats fail to prevent Senate condemnation of MoveOn ad
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The Senate voted by a wide margin Thursday to condemn a controversial anti-war advertisement accusing Gen. David Petraeus of betraying the country. Only 24 Democrats, including presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, voted against the symbolic resolution.
Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) and Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE), both of whom also are seeking their party's presidential nomination, joined Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) in declining to take a position for or against the MoveOn ad. Since last Monday, when the "General Petraus or General Betray Us?" ad ran on a full page of the New York Times, Republicans have launched relentless attacks on MoveOn and any Democrats who refused to outright condemn the ad's message.
"The focus of the United States Senate should be on ending this war, not on criticizing newspaper advertisements," Obama said. "This amendment was a stunt designed only to score cheap political points while what we should be doing is focusing on the deadly serious challenge we face in Iraq. It's precisely this kind of political game-playing that makes most Americans cynical about Washington's ability to solve America's problems. By not casting a vote, I registered my protest against this empty politics. I registered my views on the ad itself the day it appeared."
In a statement released Thursday Obama continued, "All of us respect the service of General Petraeus and all of our brave men and women in uniform. The way to honor that service is to give them a mission that is responsible, not to vote on amendments like the Cornyn amendment while we continue to pursue the wrong policy in Iraq."
President Bush entered the fray himself Thursday, calling the ad "disgusting" and an attack on the military.
Sen. Gordon Smith, a Republican who favors a timetable for removing US troops from Iraq, blamed the MoveOn ad for keeping Republicans aligned with the White House in voting against measures to de-escalate the war.
"It was stupid on their part and disgraceful," the Oregon Republican told the Associated Press.
Thursday's Senate resolution was sponsored by conservative Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX). who took time away from questioning Petraeus to condemn the ad as "reprehensible slander" during a Senate hearing last Tuesday.
Earlier Thursday Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) introduced a resolution that would've condemned all attacks on troops and veterans, including those from MoveOn and conservative groups that disparaged former Sen Max Cleland and John Kerry in 2002 and 2004. That resolution fell nine short of the 60 votes needed to end debate on it. Obama voted in favor of that measure, an hour before the vote on Cornyn's bill he skipped.
In substantive votes Thursday, Democrats failed to attract enough Republican supporters to end a filibuster on Sen. Jim Webb's amendment to a defense spending bill that would have given US troops as much time at home as they are stationed in a warzone. Currently some troops are subject to 15-month tours of duty with only a year off in between.
Webb was among the Democrats who supported the measure condemning MoveOn.