MoveOn.org Political Action began airing ads attacking four Republican senators in their home states, accusing them of favoring escalation of the war in Iraq and saying all are “willing to send tens of thousands more troops to face danger in Iraq.” The ads clearly misrepresent the stands of three of the targeted senators, who in fact had publicly expressed strong disapproval of sending additional US troops.
MoveOn insists that voting to block debate on a non-binding resolution disapproving of a troop increase is tantamount to favoring “escalation” of the war. The ads fail to mention that two of those depicted as saying “escalate” are authors of the language contained in that very resolution. John Warner of Virginia and Sen. Gordon Smith of Oregon sponsored the Republican measure whose exact language is now endorsed by leading Democrats. A third target, presidential hopeful Sam Brownback of Kansas, has said “I do not believe that sending more troops to Iraq is the answer.”
The fourth Republican target, John Sununu of New Hampshire, has been quoted as saying he won’t support additional troops without further efforts from the Iraqis.
MoveOn.org sent out the “emergency” ads to members on Tuesday, Feb. 6th, a day after Republicans blocked immediate consideration of a non-binding, bipartisan Senate resolution to disapprove of a troop increase. MoveOn then announced within 24 hours that they had raised over $150,000 to pay for airtime. The ads are to run on CNN nationally and will specifically target four Republican senators in their home states: Warner in Virginia, Smith in Oregon, Brownback in Kansas and Sununu in New Hampshire. Others who appear in the ads but whose states are not directly targeted include Senators George Voinovich of Ohio, Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina, Judd Gregg of New Hampshire and the Republican minority leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.
Wrong about Warner
Announcer: Remember their faces. Remember their names. The Republicans in the United States Senate. A majority of Americans are opposed to escalation in Iraq. Yet, instead of allowing a vote on escalation, the republicans blocked the debate. They’re willing to send tens of thousands more troops to face danger in Iraq, but they don’t have the courage to face a vote.
Call Sen. Warner. Tell him to stop the escalation. MoveOn.org Political Action is responsible for the content of this advertisement.
In the ads, MoveOn refers to a Senate vote on Feb. 5 in which Warner and all but two other Republican senators voted to block debate on a resolution opposing President Bush’s plan to send 21,500 additional combat troops to Iraq.
It was Warner’s own language that was being held up, which might seem puzzling. But Warner stated two days later that his vote was a reflection of the stringent rules of debate set by Senate Democrats, which would have denied consideration of a GOP resolution (also non-binding) disapproving any cut-off of funds for American troops. Warner stressed that he had not changed his position on his own measure or his disapproval of any troop increase.
Warner appeared on the Senate floor to read a letter he wrote, along with his six Republican co-sponsors, voicing their intention to get the legislation passed:
Warner: Monday’s procedural vote should not be interpreted as any lessening of our resolve to go forward advocating the concepts of S. Con. Res. 7. We will explore all of our options under the Senate procedures and practices to ensure a full and open debate on the Senate floor. The current stalemate is unacceptable to us and to the people of this country.
Despite Warner’s statement, MoveOn said the next day, Feb. 8, that it would go forward with its ads. “We wrote the script after he voted to block debate on his own resolution,” Tom Matzzie, Washington Director of MoveOn.org told FactCheck. “John Warner gave a thumbs up to George Bush while saying something different to voters back in Virginia. . . . He’s flip-flopping.”
But the ads show Warner’s photo with a word bubble containing the word “escalate,” which is the opposite of the position Warner has stated and re-stated. The Feb. 5 vote did delay action on Warner’s language, but that’s not the same thing as advocating escalation.
MoveOn has better justification for picturing Senators McConnell, Dole, and Gregg, who all have stated opposition to the bi-partisan resolution. But Warner wrote the language. The bill he originally sponsored on Jan. 22 says in part:
Warner Bill: The Senate disagrees with the ‘plan’ to augment our forces by 21,500, and urges the President instead to consider all options and alternatives for achieving the strategic goals set forth below.
Those words were later adopted verbatim in a measure sponsored by Democratic Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, the measure to which the MoveOn ad refers.
Smith & Brownback
Another MoveOn target, Sen. Smith, is a co-sponsor of the Warner-Levin resolution and a co-signer of the letter promising to explore “all options” to bring it to the floor. Additionally, after President Bush’s Iraq speech announcing the increase in troops, Smith described the troop increase as a “Hail Mary pass,” saying that, “we are extending an ineffective tactic to further the status quo.” Yet MoveOn’s ads show him saying “escalate.”
Sen. Brownback isn’t co-sponsoring the Warner/Levin measure, but he has expressed pointed skepticism about the President’s plan to send additional troops. On Jan. 17, he released a statement saying, “it is difficult to understand why more U.S. troops would make a difference,” and calling for a “broadly supported, bipartisan strategy.” On January 10, the Wichita Eagle reported Brownback reiterating,”I do not believe that sending more troops to Iraq is the answer.”
These quotes don’t sound much like support for an escalation to us, or to the Wichita Eagle. That home-state newspaper said Feb. 8 that the ad targeting Brownback “skews” his real position, which it described this way: “In fact, he was among the first Republican senators to publicly oppose it (Bush’s proposed troop increase).”
Sen. Sununu has said he has not made “any commitment to vote for or against any of the resolutions.” Indeed, he has a much more nuanced stance on an increase in troops. On the eve of the President’s Iraq speech, he indicated a tepid approval of the President’s plan for an increase as long as it was “accompanied by a significant deployment of Iraqi security forces” amongst other conditions. Then on Jan. 17, CNN reported paraphrasing Sununu as saying “that he can’t support sending additional troops before the Iraqis step up to the plate themselves.”
Watch MoveOn Ad: “Escalate”
Stearns, Matt, “Ad skews Brownback stance: A liberal group’s ad says Brownback, who has publicly opposed the troop surge in Iraq, is supporting the president’s plan,” Wichita Eagle. 6 Feb 2007.
Stearns, Matt, “Brownback opposes sending more troops to Iraq,” Wichita Eagle. 10 Jan 2007
DiStaso, John, “In the heat of battle,” The Union Leader (Manchester, NH). 7 Feb 2007.
Bash, Dana, “Sununu says he won’t support Bush’s Iraq surge,” CNN. 17 Jan 2007.
U.S. Senate, 110th Congress, 1st Session. Senate Vote No. 44.
MoveOn.org Political Action, “Script and Substantiation.”
Sununu, John, “Statement Regarding President Bush’s Address to the Nation Regarding Iraq,” 10 Jan 2007.
Warner, John, “Republican Senators Letter on Iraq Debate,” 7 Feb 2007.
Warner, John, “S.Con 7: Expressing the Sense of Congress on Iraq,” 22 Jan 2007.