Politics Ain’t Beanbag
Matthew Yglesias says the Democrats need to quit whining abou Republican attack ads like the one used against Max Cleland:
The infamous anti-Cleland ad was legitimately scummy, presenting a seriously distorted and underhanded view of the issues at hand. That said, what does Cleland’s triple-amputee status have to do with it? Saxby Chambliss wasn’t attacking Cleland’s personal bravery, he was attacking Cleland’s policies. Democrats over and over again seem to think that biographical qualities either are or out to somehow immunize nominees from political attacks based on national security issues and they keep getting burned. They need to get over it — the world doesn’t work that way and the world shouldn’t work that way. This is on a par with whining that Republicans are politicizing national security. Well, guess what, national security is a political issue. The Democratic Party is full of politicians. They need to learn to do politics — the whining just looks weak and pathetic.
Here’s the ad in question:
Yglesias is right. The ad distorts Cleland’s voting record (portraying procedural votes on alternate versions a homeland security bill differing mostly the issue of union rights as opposition to President Bush’s efforts to protect the homeland) but is purely about public policy.
Kevin Drum agrees, noting that the recent controversy over the RNC ad “The Stakes,” which implies that voting for the Democrats will make it more likely that al Qaeda will use nuclear weapons against the United States, is “a standard-issue bit of fear-mongering with roots in both LBJ’s infamous ‘Daisy’ ad from 1964 and Reagan’s ‘Bear in the Woods’ ad from 1984.” (A point I’ve made as well.)
Both suggest that the Democrats would be far better off running effective rebutal ads than whining about the unfairness of Republican ads. I would agree. Cleland could certainly have run ads charging that Chambliss was more concerned about screwing workers out of their rights than passing the Homeland Security bill. The rebuttals to the current “we’ll protect you from Osama” ads are rather obvious.
Of course, I’d prefer that the Democrats keep relying on people’s moral indignation about ad campaigns from four years ago and hoping that picking candidates with military medals will overcome the public’s skepticism about their ability to be trusted with the nation’s security. It might be the Republicans’ only shot.