MoveOn Strikes Out

What's in a name? MoveOn.org obviously wants to move debate about American troops in Iraq. Unfortunately, from its perspective, it has moved the argument in the wrong direction.

For years, the left was always reluctant to play hardball. Now, finally, the flabby liberals have toughened up and they're in the same game. But so far they're pretty bush-league, not ready to play in the Bush league in this dirty rough political sport.

To further torture the baseball analogy, they may have a decent fastball, but they've also got lousy control. That would explain why the pro-war Republicans are able to hit a home run each time at bat and win each game played at Congressional Stadium. They knocked that "General Betray Us" pitch, for instance, right out of the park.

But enough with the stupid metaphors. The point is that the get-out-of-Iraq movement is not going to succeed until a new president takes over, if then.

And being a contrarian, I'll suggest that this should not just be a forward-looking campaign, but a backward-looking one.

How did we get into a situation where the only ways out will cause grievous harm to our country and Iraq? Why did we get in in the first place — into this neo-continental misadventure?

Once we were there, how was it possible to be so incompetent? From before day one, how could the intelligence about weapons of mass destruction been such a slam BUNK? Was it really that bad? Could the reasons to invade have been more insidious than inept? What a choice!

How could we not predict the religious and ethnic divisions in the country that were as obvious as they were in the Balkans? How could the occupation forces be so surprised to learn that a Muslim society operates differently than ours? How could virtually every decision on the ground be so wrong?

Then we can look forward. What is the best way out, or the least-worst? Will Democrats be able to convince the voters that even though they've been dithering in Congress, they'll be able to do better at the White House? Or will the Republicans be able to sell their image of toughness one more time?

Iraq is just one of the fundamental issues. But contrary to the astounding contention of Karl Rove, it will certainly dominate, along with Terrorism, Tattered Diplomacy, Global Warming, Taxes, Economic Equity, Healthcare, Discrimination, Corruption, Immigration, Gay Marriage, other demagoguery and, of course, whatever becomes the "October Surprise."

The overall question for voters will be: "Who can stop the downward slide of the United States?" It's not hyperbole to say this will be a defining election. It is truly about how we move on. It is not a game.