A friend just sent me the link to the new Move On “$87 billion” ad. It’s extremely well done, and Move On claims it has actually moved Bush’s negatives where it’s been shown.
In one sense, the ad’s question is a good one: If it won’t wreck the economy to spend $87 billion helping Iraq, why would it wreck the economy to deal with some of our domestic needs? But the basic appeal is to the worst sort of isolationist stinginess that opposes all “foreign aid” because “charity begins at home.”
I suppose I ought to be pleased to see the stinginess about helping people abroad that Republicans have used against Democrats for so long turned against them. But I’m not, really. The ad mostly makes me tired.
In the real world, $87 billion is about 0.9% of one year’s GDP. If there’s something the country really needs that costs $87 billion, we can afford it. Whether or not it was a good idea to make Iraq a high-stakes place for us, we’ve done it now, and money ought to be the smallest element in our calculations. If we could pay $87 billion for a stable, democratic Iraq, that would be a terrific bargain. The idea of risking a bad outcome by cheaping out is just plain outrageous.
That’s not to say that Bush shouldn’t be criticized for the way he intends to spend that money. Arguably, we could get a lot more done by spending a lot less. (A billion dollars in moderately well-concealed bribes to the leading clerics, for example, might work miracles: think of it as faith-based foreign policy.)
But to focus on the amount of money, rather than how it’s being spent, is precisely wrong in substantive terms, no matter how effective it is politically.
None of this changes my mind about the importance of independent expenditures on anti-Bush ads. I think they’re a great idea, and I expect to give money to them, perhaps even through Move On. But the ad seems to me a pretty sad start.