Brace yourselves, Grand County, the attack ads have arrived
August 4, 2008
We can’t turn on the TV these past couple of weeks without seeing an attack ad. The season has started early and they are unusually misleading.
Usually attack ads appear on TV near the last couple of days of a campaign, making some outrageous, negative claim about the opposition’s character or distorting a position on an issue so that the competing candidate does not have a chance to respond.
Usually they are paid for by a group with a name which indicates they are something other than what they espouse. Usually the candidate launching attack ads is the one perceiving he/she is behind because negative attack ads are very effective in convincing voters not to vote for the other person. Often they play on the voter’s fears of the moment such as terrorism, gas prices, and racial tensions.
Attack ads sponsored by a group of veterans sank the John Kerry for President ship and became an icon of the strategy. Part of the veteran’s group’s name, Swiftboat, has become shorthand for last minute attack ads. It even added a new verb to the English language: swiftboating. Kerry thought the charges were so ridiculous no one would believe them; he made a strategic error by not replying immediately. That’s a lesson that candidates need to take seriously this year.
There is something very unusual about the recent attack ads. Not only are they being run early in the campaign, weeks before the Colorado primaries, and months before the November elections, but they have carried the attacks to new lows: they are simplifying for the simpletons and underestimating the intelligence of their intended audience. Talk about arrogance. Do they really think residents of Grand County are uneducated, unsophisticated blank minds who believe everything they hear delivered in 15 second snippets? I certainly don’t think so.
You have seen them: In the 2nd Congressional race for Congress (which includes Grand County ), one of those innocuously named groups claimed that Jared Polis supported school vouchers, making him too conservative for the Democratic party.
However, in the same week, in a candidate debate in Jefferson County as reported in one of the Denver dailies, Polis clearly stated he was opposed to vouchers. Even after his position was made clear, the attack ad kept running. Polis also ran an attack ad, claiming that one his opponents, Joan Fitz-Gerald, took campaign money for oil company political action committees. I am still waiting for her denial.
The lowest of the ads that “simplify for the simpletons” are those Sen. John McCain and his supporters have been running, charging that Barack Obama is guilty for our high gas prices.
Come, come. Tsk, tsk. Obama has not even been elected yet to a position of power to set foreign policy and fund alternative energy policies. I could suppose, though the McCain camp has not explained itself, that since Obama opposed off shore drilling, that caused oil prices to spike. However, oil prices had spiked way before the offshore drilling issue came up. McCain can’t take credit for recent oil price drops or increases, nor can Obama be pinned with the responsibility.
Supply and demand drive our economy. Americans drove 1 trillion fewer miles this past month than they did in the same month a year ago. An article in the July 30 New York Times quoted the chief energy economist at the well-regarded investment banking firm, Lehman Brothers that, “There was much more demand destruction than had been thought even a month ago, and inventories are building up quickly, and that, in fact, more supplies are coming onto the market”. The article continued by paraphrasing the president of OPEC, the oil cartel that controls the price of our imported oil, that he expects oil prices to drop, indicating in inferred context that it was a “result of looser market fundamentals.”
Where do the experts say even proposing off shore drilling had any impact on futures markets and the recent decline in fuel prices? Not a word. They do mention other factors, including President Bush’s newfound willingness to discuss issues with Iran instead of keeping tensions high with threats of military action. Causes of oil prices increasing and declining are just too complex to simplify, but they are easy to distort in political ads.
I can see these attack ads coming: Obama will raise your taxes. (Yes, if you make more than $250,000 per month, as his proposal is no more than a restoration of the tax schedules to the prosperous Clinton days, and if you ignore Obama’s proposal to lower taxes on the middle class.)
Another one will claim Obama is a militant black person since he belonged to a certain Christian church (from which he resigned and whose minister’s inflammatory statements he disowned); or Obama is a secret Muslim (in spite of all of the digging the media has done, the opposition research undertaken by his opponents, the whispered e-mails, there is no evidence he ever was or has been a Muslim, secret or otherwise).
Brace yourself. The arrogance has just begun.
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