- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 20, 2008

LANCASTER, Pa. — Liberal bloggers are in an uproar over the revelation that Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton bashed MoveOn.org while asking donors for money at a private fundraiser.

Mrs. Clinton said the liberal group — which was formed to help her husband fight off impeachment but now backs the presidential candidacy of her rival, Sen. Barack Obama — had “flooded” party caucuses and tried to “intimidate” her supporters.

Activists wrote on the Internet that Mrs. Clinton has alienated a key part of the Democratic base in advance of Tuesday’s make-or-break Pennsylvania primary, though new national polls suggest she is experiencing a rebound among primary voters after trailing Mr. Obama for weeks.

In her remarks to donors in February, Mrs. Clinton falsely said MoveOn had opposed the war in Afghanistan and said she disagrees with the group’s foreign-policy stance even though she courted its endorsement.

“We have been less successful in caucuses because it brings out the activist base of the Democratic Party. MoveOn.org didn’t want us to go into Afghanistan,” she said. “I mean, that’s what we’re dealing with. And, you know, they turn out in great numbers. And they are very driven by their view of our positions, and it’s primarily national security and foreign policy that drives them. I don’t agree with them.”

“They know I don’t agree with them,” she said. “So they flood into these caucuses and dominate them and really intimidate people who actually show up to support me.”

The audio obtained from the Clinton fundraiser was first published by the Huffington Post. The New York senator’s remarks were made after Super Tuesday, when Mr. Obama, of Illinois, dominated the states that held caucuses.

After the audio surfaced, bloggers reacted in frustration.

“It could be that there is a valid explanation for these comments, that they were taken out of context, that they don’t really reflect her views of the Democratic base and the ‘netroots,’ that they were merely the result of the inevitable exhaustion brought on by near-constant campaigning,” Jonathan Singer wrote at MyDD. “I’d like to hear it. But until I do, it’s hard not to come away from these comments with the sense that Clinton holds a key part of the Democratic base in contempt.”

Mrs. Clinton once sought the group’s backing, appearing at two “virtual town hall” forums in hopes of an endorsement. In her comments to the donors, she said the group’s endorsement had brought Mr. Obama a “gusher of money.”

She said with praise last April that the group has “been refusing to back down when any of us who are in political leadership are not living up to the standards that we should set for ourselves.”

Obama spokesman Hari Sevugan was harsh in his assessment of the Clinton comments.

“Hillary Clinton’s decision to trash Democratic activists in a closed-door meeting with donors after publicly praising them when she needed their support is just another example of why she has such a serious credibility problem with the American people,” he said.

Asked to clarify his boss’s remarks at the fundraiser, Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson said yesterday that even though Mrs. Clinton disagrees with the group on some issues, he is “quite confident” the party will unite before the fall general election.

He added that he is a MoveOn member and said the group “does very good work in supporting progressive causes.”

Mr. Obama was snagged in his own controversy last week when the Huffington Post published audio of his remarks at a private San Francisco fundraiser calling some rural voters “bitter.”

MoveOn executive director Eli Pariser characterized the Clinton remarks as “unfounded and categorically false.”

“MoveOn did not oppose the war in Afghanistan. We set the record straight when Karl Rove used that line in 2005,” he said, referring to the former adviser to President Bush. “We’re proud that our members have been part of the record-breaking participation in this election. … MoveOn’s dedicated to mobilizing voters and winning in November, and we’re focusing our energy and resources toward those goals.”

Others viewed the remarks as insulting to Democratic activists and the strategy that won the party control of Congress in the 2006 elections.

A Talking Points Memo blogger noted: “Well, this should get antiwar voters angry with Hillary Clinton — and be a real political headache for the homestretch in Pennsylvania.”

Liberal blogger Jane Hamsher called the comments “completely unacceptable,” while Markos Moulitsas of Daily Kos declared: “For a campaign that has morphed into nothing but ‘Republican talking points,’ it shouldn’t come as any surprise. I’m curious though, what part of our foreign-policy approach doesn’t she agree with? The ending the war in Iraq part? I’d like more details on that one.”

Mr. Singer of MyDD blogged that he wanted to know more about the “so-called intimidation” and wondered if Mrs. Clinton “believes that it is a bad thing that voter turnout in almost every primary and caucus this year has set new records.”

He said Mrs. Clinton was “maligning the Democratic base, specifically those who have been driven to the polls at least in part in response to the Iraq war.”

Several bloggers said Mrs. Clinton was pandering to MoveOn last year, when she lauded the group’s work during a closing statement at an online forum about the candidates’ Iraq plans. Mrs. Clinton told Mr. Pariser that MoveOn members were “lively participants” in democracy and praised the group, saying it had helped “change the face of American politics for the better.”

Mr. Obama won the Iraq forum, and former Sen. John Edwards, who has long since dropped out of the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, won the MoveOn climate-change forum. A scheduled forum on health care never took place.

MoveOn endorsed Mr. Obama on Feb. 1 after its 3.2 million members overwhelmingly voted for him in an online contest.

Mr. Wolfson told Huffington Post that there have been “well-documented instances of intimidation in the Nevada and the Texas caucuses,” even though the MoveOn endorsement came after the Jan. 19 Nevada caucus and the remarks were made before the Texas caucus.

MoveOn was formed in September 1998 with an online petition to “Censure President Clinton and Move On to Pressing Issues Facing the Nation,” then later became a group advocating progressive causes. Its members’ fierce opposition to the Iraq war helped it increase in size, and its members aided the Democrats in 2006 when they won back control of Congress.

They have partnered with Al Gore to combat climate change and are currently running a “Make your own Obama ad” contest. Finalists will be announced tomorrow.

MoveOn has made headlines this election season for running a full-page ad in the New York Times suggesting Gen. David H. Petraeus, the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, could also be called “General BetrayUs.” Mrs. Clinton was at first silent about the ad while other politicians attacked it as unfair, but two weeks after it ran, she denounced it, saying, “I condemn that.”

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