Monday, June 23, 2008

Kristol on the MoveOn ad

Bill Kristol's NYT column today criticizes a ad featuring a mother who says that John McCain cannot have her infant son Alex for service in Iraq. I have not seen the ad. As described by Kristol, who quotes what I assume is the ad's key passage, it does sound a bit over the top (for lack of a better phrase), insamuch as McCain has not called for a 100-year war in Iraq (he spoke of the possibility of a 100-year troop presence, not a 100-year war). On the other hand, the passage from the ad Kristol quotes does not really support his charges that the ad "embraces a vision of a selfish and infantilized America, suggesting that military service and sacrifice are unnecessary and deplorable relics of the past," and that the ad shows thinly veiled disdain for those who are serving.

Not having seen the ad, I can't evaluate the nuances and subtexts. If the ad does convey, even arguably, the message Kristol says it does, then MoveOn should think about pulling it. But I would want to see the ad first and judge for myself rather than taking Kristol's word for it. His credibility in my book is low, to put it mildly.

Moreover, political ads are not vehicles of truth or purveyors of calm, considered judgments. They are designed to sway the emotions and they traffic in evocative images: the red phone ringing at three in the morning, the face of Willie Horton, the sunflower giving way to the mushroom cloud (from the '64 election) or, as is apparently the case here, a mother holding an infant son. Are many people going to equate this with "infantilization," selfishness, and narcissism, as Kristol does? I don't know. But political campaigns, for better or worse, have a way of straying from the high road; and McCain and his supporters have certainly done, and will continue to do, their share of stretching the truth and bending the views of their opponents.

p.s. MoveOn has a letter to the editor in reply.

2 comments: said...

Kristol finds or pretends to find it impossible to conceive that the mother's concern is for all mothers'children and, for that matter all fathers'children too.
Shameless propaganda, far from a genuine reflective editorial comment. That sly smile says it all. OH, for the columns of Russell Baker! He actually fought in a war and learned something from the experience.

LFC said...

Yes, and MoveOn's letter in response (published today) makes the same point about the ad.