Still Bitter

Jeff Alworth

"All this sliming may make political sense. While voters say they dislike negative campaigning, polls show they are influenced by it. Still, the constant tit-for-tat squabbling between the candidates is dispiriting and so convoluted than even political junkies have trouble keeping score."
Newsweek, August 11, 2008

No doubt the political junkies--or at least the political media--will have trouble keeping score after Obama's latest ad:

Cue the finger-waggers: it's "negative." In their remarkably uncritical way, the media will argue that this is further evidence of the slime wars.  In a variation on the same argument, they will compare it to McCain's latest web ad ("Fan Club," so odious I don't want it on the site), which continues to mock Obama for being well-liked. 

Two thoughts spring to mind (as they so often do, in the closed, antic confines of my brainpan):

  1. Have a careful look at Obama's ad.  Nowhere does it criticize McCain as a person--it sticks to the politics.  This has been a hallmark of a very clean campaign.  Now have a look at the McCain ad (or better yet, don't).  It only attacks Obama as a person--there's no policy critique whatsoever.   There's a big difference between criticizing policy and demonizing character.  This "tit for tat squabbling" is not convoluted.  It's very clear: when you say mockingly "hot chicks for Obama," you've crossed the line; when you say "supported George Bush 95% of the time," you're talking policy and telling the truth.  See?  Simple.
  2. Point two is a little more nuanced, so I don't expect it will ever get beyond the shadowy corners of the blogosphere.  Still, it's an important piece about why I'm having a hard time with this uncritical analysis of the campaign. For the past eight years, we've been warned to shut up by members of the administration, been called traitors, and had our candidates characterized as terrorists. This wasn't just in the realm of campaigns, either--it was the mechanism by which the ruling party consolidated power.  I don't expect or want political payback--but it would be nice if this dark era of political history wasn't forgotten even before it's ended.

This concludes our regularly-scheduled rant. Tune in next week, when our blogger whinges mightily about some other random issue, sliding ever further toward Rooney-like crankiness, apparently something that happens once you turn 40.

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    Actually McCain's ad was making a policy point and doing so in a humorous way.

    McCain's ad was saying that Obama may be a rock star but is he ready to lead.

    THAT is a legitimate question and he found a way to ask it that resonated with the American people.

    You may not agree with it but you are incorrect to say it was nothing but a personal attack.

    Now back to your regularly scheduled programming of personally attacking Republicans: (wrinkly white haired dude, old senile slobbering guy, he believes we're all stupid, they want to starve children, etc...)

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    I would have preferred more crankiness, like: What's wrong with having a presidential candidate that world citizens cheer on instead of burning effigies? Old crank-pants Jeff Alworth, get it together. I expect more crankiness next time.

  • (Show?)

    The best economics bumper sticker of the campaign: "Barak Obama, the Middle Class First"

    The preamble to that smash ending, namely McCain's support for runaway waste spending, is perfect prologue.

    Is Obama fit to lead? I'll say!

  • davidg (unverified)

    I am still not convinced that fierce negative campaigning wins elections. Yes, Karl Rove's candidate won the last 2 presidential elections, but both were squeakers. A very slight tip of the vote in numerous places could have turned the election the other way. Then Rove's tactics would have been thought to be the cause.

    Somebody has to win the election. Winners always get the good write ups by the pundits, even if they may not deserve it. It may be that the loser was just ineffective. I don't see anyone ever arguing that Kerry or Gore were effective campaigners, yet both nearly won. They would have been called genius campaigners had they done so, even if by a slim margin.

    I am encouraged that Obama has been laying off the negative stuff. If he sticks with that and wins, the pundits will declare a new era in campaigning. I don't think the pundits will be any more correct about that than they were when they declared the alleged success of negative campaigning. I would sure like to see the end to negative campaigning. It doesn't endear me to any candidate.

  • LT (unverified)

    "McCain's ad was saying that Obama may be a rock star but is he ready to lead.

    THAT is a legitimate question and he found a way to ask it that resonated with the American people."

    First of all, if people say "Gee, I liked what Obama said about----(incl. the situation in Georgia) better than I liked what McCain said because__" they are saying they think Obama has the judgement they are looking for.

    Second, I would suggest remembering back (or looking up) the events of exactly 18 years ago. The first rumblings about Iraq's invasion of Kuwait (which eventually led to the Gulf War) took place in August 1990.

    Also, the book THE GUNS OF AUGUST might be worthwhile reading this summer if you have not read it before.

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    You may not agree with it but you are incorrect to say it was nothing but a personal attack.

    Dude, there's no way to sell a commercial that concludes with the phrase "hot chicks for Obama" as anything but a personal attack. That was among the most content-free, personal attacks in political history. The mocking gives it away. That may be good comedy in a Navy locker room, but it debases the political process.

  • BOHICA (unverified)

    Atrios had it right a while back. The Republican message is, "Obama, an Uppity ni*r who wants to fk your sister".

  • Karl (unverified)

    What i don't understand is why anyone would think that McCain is "ready to lead".

  • Randy2 (unverified)

    What i don't understand is why anyone would think that McCain is "ready to lead".

    ***Amen. He (a) finished close to last in his Academy stint, (b) seems to still be fighting Viet Nam with his bellicose pronouncements and (c) is proclaimed a "hero" simply for being shot down and held prisoner. How many American pilots flying missions in VN managed to do so without getting shot down?

    *** Just askin' ya know.


  • inbf (unverified)
    <h2>Unfortunately Obama is not running on his record. He shouldn't either, it is too short and dotted with terrible votes like voting FOR Cheney energy bill (McCain voted against it even!). The Rove strategy is to attack opponents on their strengths, so Obama is very vulnerable. He's popular and keeps changing his stances so there is little else to attack him on. People are starting to just not believe Obama when he asserts a stance (FISA, campaign finance, guns, abortion, religion in the government, on and on) The republicans are just playing around, its still summer, these are mostly internet ads getting lots of FREE air time as the MSM has to play them to discuss them. Wait till September to see some actual negative campaigning. These ads only read to super Obama supporters (the ones with the blinders on) but most people see them as sort of entertaining so the bitterness of the "going negative" is lost on most people. You have to hand it to them, the internet ads so far have been brilliant. And they are Trojan Horses with hidden messages. Sorry, but this was predictable. Obama is not helping either with the Yucca Mountain ad. Gads.</h2>

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