09/19/2007 11:08 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011


Roll Call's headline today blares "House Centrists Seek a Little Moderation on Iraq." The story is about "a small band of moderate House Democrats and Republicans is hammering out a bipartisan position on the Iraq War."

This story has been written over and over and over again on every single issue. It is as if reporters have a template set up in Microsoft Word, where they just fire up the story and change the names and issues. You know how it goes. It starts out with a declaration that the Brave And Serious "Moderates" are going to "put partisanship aside" and rescue America. Typically, the plan to rescue America is at best a non-binding gesture, and more likely one that runs roughshod over what most Americans actually want - but that kind of context isn't reported in the template.

Yet in this particular Roll Call story it actually is (although perhaps inadvertently).

The article first informs us that the Brave And Serious Heroes "have drafted a letter backing a series of proposals" - the diversionary haze of paperwork about paperwork (letters about proposals??) being one of Washington's tell-tale signs that this is much ado about nothing. This paperwork suggests that the Brave And Serious Heroes may be willing to support non-binding legislation "aimed at shifting the Iraq mission." And then comes the giveaway:

"None of this leads to the end of the war," Rep. Mike Castle (R-DE) said, but it would mark a departure from the polarized debate over whether and when to withdraw troops. (emphasis added)

The story goes on to trumpet the Brave And Serious Heroes who are part of a bipartisan Washington dinner party circuit called the "Center Aisle Caucus" spearheaded by New York Democratic Rep. Steve Israel (D) - but the punchline has already been delivered.

As we can see so clearly here, the term "moderate" in Washington when it comes to the war means guaranteeing that whatever bill takes center stage in the war debate - well, that "none of this leads to the end of the war." It means making sure that we "depart from the polarized debate over whether and when to withdraw troops" - you know, the debate over the actual issue, the debate that the latest Gallup Poll shows almost two-thirds of America wants Congress to have - and wants Congress to conclude by passing binding timetables to end the war.

As I have written before, when you look at actual public opinion data, you see that the terms "moderate" and "centrist" in Washington are wholly and completely divorced from the terms "moderate" and "centrist" out in the rest of the country. The term "moderate" may be defined in the dictionary as "avoidance of extremes or excesses" but in D.C. it means the opposite - embrace of extremes or excesses, in grinning defiance of what the public wants.

And that's what it is. When it comes to the war, the so-called "moderates" have taken on the qualities of the smiling Darth Vader-ish poster boy for extremism - Dick Cheney. Remember, it was our Vice President who told ABC News last year the Iraq War "may not be popular with the public - it doesn't matter." I guess he's a "moderate" now too.

Cross-posted from Working Assets