- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 6, 2007

During a Super Bowl ad, a half-dozen Iraq veterans speak on behalf of the sponsor, VoteVets, in urgent opposition to President Bush’s troop escalation. One of them is amputee Robert Loria, who says: “If you support escalation, you don’t support the troops.”

As much a sign of both the emotional heights of the present Iraq debate and the human toll of war is this ad an indication that a coming-of-age of sorts has taken place among a set of formerly greenhornish anti-war activist groups. Recall that VoteVets is the political action committee that sponsored discreditable body-armor ads in last year’s midterm elections. The nonpartisan FactCheck.org labeled the armor ads “false” and “nasty.”

Last year’s ads featured live-fire demonstrations of faulty body armor allegedly “left over from Vietnam.” The ads then deployed the explosive allegation that several Republican lawmakers, including the ill-fated Sen. George Allen, voted against additional body armor for the troops in Iraq.

It turned out that the vote in question was for unspecified Reserve and National Guard equipment and that the featured armor, “left over from Vietnam,” actually dated from the 1980s and was in common usage as recently as 1999. Meanwhile, the Government Accountability Office concluded that the ad’s news hook, the infuriating body-armor shortages in Iraq, were the product of “a classic supply-chain foul up,” as FactCheck put it, not a congressional vote. The Super Bowl ad, on the other hand, was timely and free of obvious error. It ran in the D.C., Maine and Minnesota markets to target the constituencies of Sen. John Warner of Virginia, Susan Collins of Maine and Norm Coleman of Minnesota — three Republicans who could be prove to be decisive allies for anti-surge forces in the Senate. Each is up for re-election in 2008.

Some serious cash is behind the ads when prices for some of this year’s 30-second ads were as high as $2.6 million (VoteVets obviously would have paid much less for just three markets). A perusal of the group’s Federal Election Commission filings shows that its 2005-06 donors included sitcom titan Norman Lear, L.A. architect Frank Gehry and Democratic bigwig Tony Coelho. Board members include Wesley Clark, Bob Kerrey and Leslie Gelb. This ad speaks to the evolution of the anti-war activist leadership, and is a reminder that the age of reverse swift-boating is here.

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