Monday, January 29, 2007

Weekend Roundup

There were a couple of items over the weekend that caught my eye, aside from Hillary's little gaffe about "evil men she's known," and the return of Jane Fonda, anti-war protestor. At first blush, it's hard to say which of those events were more pathetic. On one hand, you've got next year's presumptive Democratic presidential nominee proving (once again) that she can't even deliver a decent stump speech or think on her feet without inserting an oversized foot in her mouth.

As for Ms. Fonda, despite all her "activist" credentials, she's really nothing than a piece of cultural flotsam, bobbing from one social trend to another. Admittedly, she's a traitorous bit of flotsam, but flotsam nonetheless. Not much demand for her work-out tapes these days; the marriage to Ted Turner didn't work out, and Monster-in-Law proved that her movie career is over. So, how does a fading member of the Hollywood Left prove that she's still relevant? Why, show up in D.C. for that "big" anti-war rally, and announce that "silence is no longer an option."

And that's a decent segue to some of the real news from the past couple of days, beginning with than contrived demonstration in D.C. I'll call it contrived, thanks to the investigative skills of Greyhawk at The Mudville Gazette, and reporters at the New York Sun. More than a week before the demonstration, Greyhawk posted the latest installment in his expose of the "Appeal for Redress," the military wing of the current anti-war movement. As Greyhawk notes, the apparent rise of anti-war sentiment within the ranks is hardly as "grass roots" movement, as organizers have tried to depict it. Instead, it's a classic example of "astro-turfing," a slick, professionally-run public relations campaign masquerading as a grass-roots cause.

In the case of "Appeal for Redress," the PR muscle behind the movement is Fenton Communications, a Washington, D.C. firm that is under contract with, the far-left activist organization that (increasingly) dominates liberal causes and politics. Last October (as reported in the Sun), another leftist organization (Fourth Freedom Forum) asked Fenton to publicize Appeal for Redress, which promptly organized a conference call between reporters and three of the group's members. Incidentally, Fourth Freedom Forum is also a Fenton client, as is Cindy Sheehan.

How convenient. Makes you wonder how many other "grass roots" causes recruited their own, high-powered public relations firm within weeks of their inception. As Greyhawk---and the Sun--have observed, virtually every media organization that has reported on "Redress" is aware of the relationship between the military group, Fenton Communications and Fourth Freedom Forum, but those connections have gone unmentioned, except in the Sun and in milblogs.

Not surprisingly, at least one of the designated "leaders" of Appeal for Redress was a major speaker at weekend protest in D.C.. That raises more--and very obvious--questions about how Fenton (and MoveOn.Org) are orchestrating the activities of the redress group, and who's paying the bills for PR work done on its behalf. I'll go out on a limb and say that the Appeal group's leading members (most of whom are junior enlisted personnel) can't afford Fenton's services on a military salary, so the PR work is almost certainly being funded by Fourth Freedom Forum, MoveOn.Org, or other well-heeled liberal groups. In fact, the first website dedicated to the Appeal for Redress was actually owned by a "forum" staffer, although the group is now attempting to conceal its involvement--some might say ownership--of the military organization. Nothing illegal about that, but it certainly refutes the notion that Appeal for Redress is some sort of grass roots, military campaign.

Greyhawk also has useful information on the military group's primary leader and supposed organizer, Navy Seaman Jonathan Hutto. Turns out that Seaman Hutton isn't your typical sailor. He enlisted in the Navy in 2004 after graduating from college, an unsuccessful stint as a school teacher, and positions at various non-profit organizations, including Amnesty International. He apparently participated in anti-war protests in 2003, only a year before he joined the service. That's enough to make us wonder if (a) Seaman Hutto has a security clearance, and (b) how much of this pre-enlistment activity actually surfaced during his background check.

And, despite his written claims that the Navy is a hotbed of racism and discrimination, Hutto has continued to advance in his military career. In 2006, He was named "Blue Jacket of the Quarter" for his ship (the USS Theodore Roosevelt), shortly before he emerged as leader of Appeal for Redress.

That's why reporting by Greyhawk and the Sun on Appeal for Redress (and its leadership) is so important. Viewed through the prism of this information, the military group emerges as just another slick tool in a well-orchestrated campaign to undermine the war effort. But you wouldn't know that from the fawning coverage that Appeal for Redress has received from the MSM; according to those outlets, the organization is little more than Seaman Hutto, his computer and an idea. Only in the blogosphere do you learn that Hutto and his group are simply one element of an activist/PR machine that staged that little anti-war "event" in D.C.


The other gem that I discovered over the weekend came from the indispensable Hugh Hewitt. On Friday evening, Hugh posted an open letter to Virginia freshman Senator Jim Webb, who delivered the Democratic "response" to President Bush's State of the Union speech last week. The letter was written by a career Navy officer, who (like the Senator) is an Annapolis graduate. Read the entire letter; not only does the writer point out the factual flaws in Webb's nationally-televised speech, he also finds a disturbing "streak of vengeance" in the senator's character, apparently dating back to a famous academy boxing match against another midshipman, Oliver North.

"On close inspection, something about Senator Webb is very disturbing. Perhaps it harkens all the way back to his midshipman days in Annapolis and a simple boxing match lost. You see, James Webb lost a boxing match to a man he clearly despises, Oliver North. Webb, as chronicled by Robert Timberg in his best-selling book, The Nightingale├é’s Song, was heavily favored to beat North in the Brigade boxing championships but lost. Timberg claims that Webb believed he was intentionally denied the title by poor preparation from his coach, or more accurately the boxing coach made sure Ollie was better prepared to beat him! Regardless, Webb believes he was wronged and today we can see this streak of vengeance in him."

And, as we have pointed out, the writer finds Webb's arguments are long on accusations and short on solutions.

"Webb invokes his opinion and those of others who were against entering into Iraq in 2002 and 2003. They made their arguments but they were not compelling and were predicated on managing the threat by containing Saddam - but all of that changed at the World Trade Center. We were brutally attacked and most of us expected further equally violent and destructive attacks. The president took the best information he had from numerous intelligence agencies, our own and those of our allies, regarding WMD and made the tough choice. Hindsight is perfect but given what the president AND Congress HONESTLY BELIEVED to be the threat, the accusation of recklessness is a cheap shot unworthy of a former warrior. Mr. Webb opines that we have lost opportunities to defeat the forces of international terrorism. Where? When? How many plots must we foil before the Democrats will admit that we are winning the overall war on terror and Iraq is but ONE theater in that larger war? I challenge Mr. Webb to be more specific. He is long on general accusations but they cannot survive serious critical thinking and examination and at least not to support the charge that the president was incompetent or reckless. Reasonable people can disagree about American Grand Strategy in the post 9/11 world, but the senator did not offer reasonable disagreements. Thus, he resorted to the recent Democratic ploy of finding one or two generals to counter what the president has done, and adopting them as oracles."

Very well stated, indeed. It's reassuring to know that other military professionals see Jim Webb for what he has become--an opportunistic political hack, eager to recite his party's talking points, and with little regard for their basis in reality, or their impact on the War on Terror. We've taken tcallingng Mr. Webb "One Term Jim," in hopes the electorate of Virginia will see the error of their ways and send him packing in 2012, assuming, of course, that this "simmering cauldron of arrogance, anger and resentment (as that other Annapolis grad described him)doesn't pitch a fit and quit on his own before then. Hey, we can always dream.

Kudos to that Annapolis grad for calling Jim Webb what he really is, and to Hugh, for posting that timely letter.

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