Friday, August 17, 2012 • 4:13pm
After enduring two weeks of television advertising that accompanied Olympic coverage, I am ready for a lobotomy. Fortunately my desire is being fulfilled in the form of presidential campaign advertisements, which now that the Olympics have concluded are running faster than Usaine Bolt.
Many of these campaign ads claim to be negative. They are blatant attempts to tarnish the character of the opposing candidate with half-truths and innuendo.
I guess this is in sharp contrast to positive political advertisements, which are blatant attempts to bolster the character of the sponsoring candidate with half-truths and innuendo.
But a lot has been written about the growing number of negative campaign ads recently. Most of it negative. It seems that going negative is somehow not polite, not fair, not sporting. Polls suggest that Americans don’t appreciate negativity in politics.
Thank god we don’t apply this same sensibility to our overweight, philandering, celebrities.
Personally, I find it hard to distinguish negative messages from positive messages in political television advertisements. When I see a fund manager from Watzthadillio, Texas pose in front of an American flag and tearfully relate how he lost both his healthcare and his lower marginal tax rate after being put out of work, I don’t really know what to think.
I take my cues from the candidate approving the message.
Not that it matters much. Being a firm believer in democracy, I exercise my right to vote with my remote. I find paid political advertisements are less common on the Cartoon Network. And the programming is usually better.
Sticks and stones . . .
As you can tell, I am not much of a political wonk. But it seems to me that if candidates are intent on misrepresenting each other’s views and besmirching each other’s characters, then shouldn’t they be calling each other names too?
I for one would like to know before I cast my vote if a presidential candidate is truly brain dead or just a big fat stupid head as his opponent claims. There is a big difference. And we are talking about the leader of the Free World here.
And if you somehow think I am shallow and superficial, let me point out that I would like to know some more substantive negative information about the candidates too. For example, I would like to know whether a candidate has bad breath. There is no worse diplomacy than greeting dignitaries at a state dinner reeking of garlic.
Obviously halitosis is not something a presidential candidate would readily reveal; it is only appropriate that this information be strategically leaked on national television.
I read recently that in the election of 1828 incumbent President John Quincy Adams accused rival Andrew Jackson of cannibalism, his wife of adultery, and his dog of fleas. The unfounded accusations went viral on handbills.
Now that is a negative ad!
Unfortunately for John Quincy Adams, these were just the traits the American people wanted in a president.
Liar, liar pants on fire . . .
I am told that in today’s world, negative is the new positive
It seems that negative attacks place candidates on the defensive forcing them to clearly articulate the views they try so hard to obfuscate.
I get this. My son and I sometimes fall into political debates over the rights of teenagers. On this issue we are on opposite ends of the political spectrum. He believes in freedom of speech and a right to a fair trial. I believe that Big Parenting should regulate his very existence.
To back my position I point out studies that suggest the teenage brain is not fully developed.
He claims my arguments are insulting, divisive and don’t address the issue. He blatantly attacks my integrity by claiming I am out of touch with reality.
As negative attacks go, this is pretty effective. I would rather he call me a cannibal. It would be easier to defend.
Then he ends the discussion with something deceptively polite like, “Dad, I would agree with you but then we would both be wrong.” He is a skilled debater.
I’m rubber and you’re glue . . .
Although I am concerned about election results, my campaign desires are relatively simple: survive until November.
But the current presidential election climate demands a very tough skin. We can’t be frustrated by insensitive and vicious attacks instigated by representatives of the other party. No, we must hurl the insults right back to propagate the proud history of political debate and free expression in this country.
We must set an example for our children.
After all, negative campaigning is the American way. And as well-informed voters free from censorship we can proudly justify our reactions with full confidence that the other guy is just a big fat stupid head.
Neener neener neener . . .