Changing the Subject

CHANGING THE SUBJECT….Matt Yglesias provides an insider lefty look at the “General Betrayus” ad foofaraw:

I completely agree with the dread DC Establishment that calling General Petraeus “General Betrayus” was dumb. That said, I’m staggered by the amount of emphasis that people inside this town are placing on this. One virtue of having moved to the Beltway is that I can tell you, the reader, a thing or two about the mood here and that while you might think the reverse is true, the truth of the matter is that the left-of-center establishment is being restrained in terms of expressing its absolutely fury at MoveOn over this. People seem to really think that this was not merely a misstep, but a huge blunder of world-historical proportions.

Matt thinks this view is nuts, but I guess I’d point out something else. (Aside from the fact that I’m glad I don’t live in the Beltway and can therefore ignore stuff like this if I want.) If there’s anything interesting to be drawn from the reaction to MoveOn’s ad, it’s the Republican reaction. I mean, they’ve practically been slathering over this ad for two straight weeks now. Am I the only one who thinks this shows a desire to change the subject so palpable as to be almost desperate? You can practically feel the flop sweat rolling down their cheeks. These guys want to talk about anything other than the underlying reality of what’s going on in Iraq. Anything. It would be kind of creepy if it weren’t, you know, actually important.

UPDATE: I see that Michael Kinsley got here before me. After a bit of mockery aimed at all those conservative tough guys getting the vapors over the MoveOn ad, he gets to the point:

The constant calls for political candidates to prove their bona fides by condemning or denouncing something somebody else said or to renounce a person’s support or to return her tainted money are a tiresome new tic in American politics. They’re turning politics into a game of “Mother, May I?” Did you say “Here is my plan for health-care reform”? Uh-oh, you were supposed to say “I condemn MoveOn.org’s comments on General Petraeus, and here is my plan for health-care reform.”

All this drawing of uncrossable lines and issuing of fatuous fatwas is supposed to be a bad habit of the left. When right-wingers are attacking this habit rather than practicing it, they call it political correctness. The problem with political correctness is that it turns discussions of substance into arguments over etiquette. The last thing that supporters of the war want to talk about at this point is the war. They’d far rather talk about this insult to General Petraeus. It just isn’t done in polite society, it seems, to criticize a general in the middle of a war.