The Veer Towards Smear

We knew things would start to get ugly as November 7th approached and the Republicans got more and more desperate, didn’t we? The Washington Post has an excellent article, The Year of Playing Dirtier , that describes the depths to which negative advertising has sunk this election year:

On the brink of what could be a power-shifting election, it is kitchen-sink time: Desperate candidates are throwing everything. While negative campaigning is a tradition in American politics, this year’s version in many races has an eccentric shade, filled with allegations of moral bankruptcy and sexual perversion.

Unlike much of the MSM, who try to be “balanced” by claiming both parties equally guilty even though they can’t find any actual examples of negative ads on the Democratic side, the Post places responsibly right in the lap of the GOP.

The result has been a carnival of ugly, especially on the GOP side, where operatives are trying to counter what polls show is a hostile political environment by casting opponents as fatally flawed characters. The National Republican Campaign Committee is spending more than 90 percent of its advertising budget on negative ads, according to GOP operatives, and the rest of the party seems to be following suit.

Perhaps the best (worst?) example of the politics of desperation is the “Osama Bin Laden is coming – Be very afraid” ad sponsored by the Republican National Committee.

The RNC has raised eyebrows with an ad consisting almost entirely of al-Qaeda videos starring Osama bin Laden and his top deputies. There is no sound except the ticking of a bomb before the final warning: “These are the stakes. Vote November 7th.” John G. Geer, a Vanderbilt professor who has written a book defending negative political ads, said he told a well-connected Republican friend in Washington that the ticking-bomb ploy seemed like a desperation move. The friend e-mailed back: “John, we’re desperate!”

As seems to be the case every week, Keith Olbermann hits it out of the park with this video.


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