Washington state Democratic Rep. Brian Baird has seen his recent turnaround on the Iraq war assailed by critics of the Bush administration. But the congressman offered a muted response to a TV commercial that the group MoveOn.org has started running against him.
"As a staunch defender of free speech, I welcome the advertisements by MoveOn.org regarding my position on the Iraq war," Baird said in a statement released by his office on Thursday. "At the same time, on matters of this importance, I believe I must speak and act based on what I believe is in the best interest of our nation regardless of political advertisements or partisan interests."
The four term Congressman from southwestern Washington had earlier revised his position on the need to end US military involvement in Iraq.
"As a Democrat who voted against the war from the outset and who has been frankly critical of the administration and the post-invasion strategy, I am convinced by the evidence that the situation has at long last begun to change substantially for the better," he wrote in the Seattle Times on August 24. "[T]he people, strategies and facts on the ground have changed for the better and those changes justify changing our position on what should be done."
In response, MoveOn recorded a 30-second commercial with John Bruhns, an Army veteran of the Iraq War who calls for the withdrawal of US troops.
"To keep American soldiers in Iraq for an indefinite period of time being attacked by an unidentifiable enemy is wrong, immoral, and irresponsible," the veteran Sergeant says before the TV spot urges voters to tell Rep. Baird to send US service members home.
MoveOn's commercial followed on the heels of intense criticism of Baird from war opponents. "Is Bush Dog Democrat Baird the next [Joseph] Lieberman," asked Matt Stoller of the website OpenLeft in a blog post, referring to the Connecticut senator who broke with Democrats largely over his support for President George W. Bush's continued war effort.
An editorial in Investors' Business Daily assailed such commentary for questioning Baird's 'patriotism.'
"With an opportunity to blame a Republican president for a what they see as a failed war, the left considers such words not patriotism, but treason," the politically conservative op-ed page argued Thursday. "That is why an honorable liberal Democrat like Brian Baird, because he cares about his country, has begun to get the Lieberman treatment."
Baird's muted defense in response to the onslaught of critics like MoveOn and Stoller stands in contrast to the remarks of Lieberman and his surrogates.
"The blogger bomb-throwing may be good for inflaming the activist base, and, as they demonstrated in the 2006 Lieberman-Lamont Senate primary race in Connecticut, for occasionally blowing up the opposition. It's not bad for bullying your friends, either," wrote Dan Gerstein, a consultant who has worked with Lieberman's political campaigns, in a February column at the Politico. "But the typical blog mix of insults and incitements is just not an effective strategy for persuading people outside of your circle of belief - be they moderate Democrats, moderate Republicans, or the swelling number of independents - to join your cause. In fact, it's far more likely to alienate than propagate them."
But while Baird has steered his remarks away from invective, he has echoed Lieberman by focusing his message on the consequences of ending the war effort in Iraq.
" Though the task is still difficult and dangerous, when one weighs the recent constructive changes against the likelihood of increased chaos, death and instability if we withdraw precipitously, I believe we must not withdraw or withhold funding from our troops at the present time," he maintained his Thursday statement.