|The Sleaziest Campaign of All?|
By Quin Hillyer
Thursday, August 09 2012
When the political Right runs accurate (or mostly accurate) ads about opposing political candidates – about Willie Horton, or from the “Swift Boat veterans”— the dominant media narrative becomes how sleazy and unfair conservatives are. But as we are seeing this year, while vicious and utterly inaccurate ads from the political Left do draw rebukes from self-proclaimed establishment media fact-checkers and by an occasionally honest cable network, the dominant narrative ignores the calumny.
That the establishment media is a hypocritical institution is by now beyond dispute. The level of hypocrisy, though, keeps growing – and it encourages the Left to be ever more brazen in its soul-less assassinations of character and of human decency itself.
Consider occurrences of the last several weeks alone. Democratic spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter suggested that Mitt Romney is a "felon." Former Speaker Nancy Pelosi called Republicans the “E.coli caucus.” Majority Leader Harry Reid accused Mitt Romney of not paying taxes for ten years (and both Pelosi and Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz spoke up in Reid’s support). The Obama campaign consistently has blamed Romney for the closure of a steel plant that Romney’s Bain Capital firm had invested in, even though the plant closed, amidst a nationwide rough patch for steel, two years after Romney had left Bain – and even though the plant probably would have closed years before if Bain had not invested in it in the first place. (In short, Bain saved those jobs for another five or six years.)
To the media’s partial credit, a number of outlets have tut-tutted a bit about this ad going “over the top,” but hardly with the level of outrage it merits, much less the outrage that greeted the Willie Horton ads in 1988. The ad is “unsupportable at best,” writes Washington Post blogger Greg Sargent. But (there’s always a “but”) “Romney — even though his campaign has now said universal health care is the right answer in cases like hers — is promising to roll back government protections for families like theirs. Whatever you think of the ad, that's the more important larger argument to be having here.”
What a bloodless, soulless piece of crud. Sargent makes a pro forma admission that, well, yes, the ad tarring Romney with a woman’s death is just perhaps slightly over the top, kinda sorta, but then Sargent uses the hurried admission as a way to pivot quickly to another attack on Romney.
As NRO’s Jim Geraghty reminds us, this is hardly the sort of reaction engendered when an outside group aired the only ad that ever mentioned Willie Horton by name or showed his picture – an ad entirely accurate, on a subject first broached by Al Gore. And as the level-headed, not-overtly-partisan Tom Bevan at Real Clear Politics notes, even the Harry Reid attacks – not to mention the “Romney-killed-my-wife” sleaze – amount to “a new low for modern political campaigns.”
Politico, to its credit, has now shown the cancer-death ad has far closer ties to the Obama campaign than Stephanie “Romney is a felon” Cutter has admitted (even up to filming the same guy in the same shirt in the same lighting). And Mark Halperin on MSNBC called the cancer ad “about as low as either side has gone,” but not without repeating several times that of course Republicans step over the line as well.
But just wait – by week’s end, all of this will be ignored again, as if it were just a minor kerfuffle, while weeks from now the media likely still will be pushing back against Romney’s entirely accurate ad criticizing Obama for gutting welfare reform. And it certainly won’t be turned into a permanently coined expression such as “Swiftboating,” used to describe political perfidy of the worst sort. (Actually, those ads themselves were not false, as explained by Mark Hyman in a 2008 piece for The American Spectator.)
Conservatives might have a good point if they called the full array of leftist/Obama/Democratic campaign tactics against Mitt Romney the sleaziest campaign in history. But they might not be right. The sleaziest campaign might be what happens when the establishment media soon explains away the Obamite tactics as just politics going a little bit over the top.
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