Sunday, October 21, 2007

Republicans Get This Year's Chutzpah Award

Note: The classic definition of Chutzpah is the man convicted of murder who throws himself on the mercy of the jury because he's an orphan.

Jim Hoeft recently conducted a poll of Bearing Drift readers. His main question was who benefits more from negative ads, the Democrats or Republicans. Well, the results are in, and Bearing Drift readers said Democratic candidates gain more by going on the attack.

What prompted the poll, and Jim’s thoughts on the subject, was his and his fellow Bearing Drift contributors’ contention that Democrats are running nastier, more negative and more unfair campaigns than their Republican counterparts. In fact Jim states:

So, the result of the poll is pretty clear: The only way Democrats can win is to tear down good people and obfuscate the truth.

Bearing Drift readers are very astute.
Well, no. Actually Bearing Drift readers are just very one sided and can’t see their own double standard at work.

Indeed, Bearing Drift was the blog that ran this and crowed proudly about somebody’s “Willie Horton moment.” Now Willie Horton is synonymous with both racism and negative campaigning. So why Brian Kirwin, who posted it, would even be proud of this and then turn around to complain about the other side being negative is totally beyond me. But I think Bearing Drift does get the Chutzpah award this year.

Furthermore, if Bearing Drift’s consistently fair, high minded, and always positive Republican readers really believe what they are saying about attack ads, I’d like to know if they consider this ad, launched in September by the RPV, to be a truthful and positive ad?

In fact, it was pulled from the RPV Website almost immediately, not because their communications director, Shaun Kenney, and the other members of the RPV, suddenly developed a conscience that told them it was the wrong thing to do, but because they feared the blowback from something so patently absurd. Morality had nothing to do with their retraction. Simple pragmatism did. You know that’s true because they certainly haven’t declared a moratorium on other negative campaign ads against their Democratic opponents.

In fact, as today’s Washington Post points out in this article, this has been one of the most hard fought campaign seasons in Virginia history. And both sides have gone negative even earlier than usual. But as this shows, some Republicans have added an even nastier fillip to the usual brew of negative charges and counter charges with accusations that Governor Tim Kaine and other Democrats support terrorism in Virginia. The charge was levelled against the Democrats because they have reached out to Northern Virginia’s Muslim community and to its largest mosque in Falls Church, Virginia.

The problem is that, despite their denials, Republicans have inserted bigotry and racism into the campaign. And even some of their fellow party members, who run for office and represent Northern Virginia and, who have Muslim supporters and constituents, are objecting to these extreme charges, as Delegate Tom Rust did. Here’s the entire quote from the Washington Post, including quotes from political science professor, Mark Rozell and others as well as Rust:

As Republicans work to retain their majorities in the General Assembly, the two delegates from the Shenandoah Valley say they are conducting an investigation into Democrats' ties to the Muslim American Society and Dar Al Hijrah Islamic Center, both in Falls Church.

Dels. C. Todd Gilbert (Shenandoah) and C.L. "Clay" Athey Jr. (Warren) allege that the society and mosque have links to terrorism, even though federal officials have found no such connection.

The delegates have been trying to connect Kaine and other Democrats to prominent Muslim leaders affiliated with the organizations. On Friday, Gilbert and Athey released a photograph of Kaine speaking at a Muslim American Society dinner this spring.

Politics and campaigning have stooped to a new low when the governor of Virginia's effort to reach out to people of all faiths and races is characterized as an association with terrorists," said Delacey Skinner, the governor's communications director.

Several political observers predicted the GOP effort to link Democrats to terrorists will backfire and cost the party votes in the Nov. 6 election, when all 140 seats in the legislature are on the ballot.

"The idea is such a stretch, so beyond the realm of believability, this just strikes most people as either ridiculous or just political desperation," said Mark J. Rozell, a political science professor at George Mason University. "The people doing this risk alienating a growing segment of the population and don't really gain anything substantial in return."

The Republican-controlled General Assembly unanimously approved a resolution in 2005 praising Mukit Hossain, one of the Muslim American Society's leaders, after the Herndon Times named him its citizen of the year. Hossain was honored because he raised $10,000 to buy coats for day laborers.

Del. Thomas David Rust (R-Fairfax), one of the co-sponsors of the resolution honoring Hossain, said Gilbert and Athey should temper their investigation.
"I know Mukit; he is a friend of mine. I have lots of friends in the Muslim community, and I am very disappointed this is going on," Rust said.

The irony of this, of course, is that both Delegates Gilbert and Athey are running unopposed. But they have an interest in preventing the Democrats from gaining control of the state Senate and House. That’s a very real possibility this year. Especially the Senate.

And that’s the reason there is so much negative campaigning this year. So much is at stake and the simple truth is negative ads work.

Republicans have accepted this reality and embraced the strategy and tactics of negative campaigning for years. Lots of Republicans may not like it. Indeed, I think there are many Republicans who are good and decent people and they are embarrassed when their candidates go too far, just as there are many Democrats who would rather eschew all attack ads.

But the fact is if you want to win an election and you really believe your ideas will move the state and the nation in a better direction that will help more people, you don’t lie down and let the other side Swiftboat you while you stick to the high road. Democrats, especially, have tripped too many times on that rocky road. And too much is at stake to buy that siren song about being nobler than the other side.

So, ok Jim and Brian, if you really believe what you are saying here, you get your side to lay down their swords first and conduct a really positive campaign. Show us how to do it and lead by example rather than just complain about what we are doing to your side.

Truthfully, I don’t think you will do that for the same reason we won’t. But let’s at least be honest about it. Both sides do the same thing. It’s not right. But it’s effective. And neither side will quit. In fact, to do so would be to abdicate the election. And that would be wrong too In fact, only a bully who doesn't want a fair fight would even suggest it.


Eileen Levandoski said...

"Doc" Welch really "Kilgored" himself with those ads. Read more here...

Brian Kirwin said...


After seeing wave after wave after wave of Democrat attack ads, ads that called Republican Chris Stolle "a bum," ads that tell lies about transportation, ads that attack candidate families, ads that misquote newspapers and draw a "cease and desist" from the paper (how often does that happen?)...all Democrat ads that fly under your radar because I won't post about them and add to their reach, you pick the one ad that I only posted about because the newspaper wrote about it, cross your arms, and expect me to fall for the "both sides do it" game.

Democrats, like Creigh Deeds, stand up and talk about campaigning positives, and everyone on the left applauds Sorenson. But Democrats this year have run truth-twisting relentless negative attacks for months at a time and funded with party and pac money, since the actual candidates are so pathetic about raising money from the people in the actual district. They haven't offered a single detailed proposal for themselves, except Kaine's pre-k plan that even he has no idea how to pay for.

Eileen's buddy is running an ad right now that attacks a Republican's family, lies about his voting record, and attacks him for doing something Brian Moran did (leaves that part out though).

It's pathetic. To call them half-truths would be grading on a curve.

So, a Delegate runs an ad about what the RICHMOND TIMES DISPATCH called "get out of jail free" cards, and your hands fly up.

And guess who was second in command of the department who had oversight? Is that a "hands off" issue? Dems can lie about transportation, call people bums, lie about voting record and improperly cite sources, but one Republican ad is too far?

Guess what? When someone gets a "get out of jail" card and winds up killing a father of three, no one cares what race the murderer is. I sure don't. But I do care when someone releases him and is surprised when he no-shows his "promised" substance abuse meetings. Great management, huh?

And if you think the Willie Horton issue is a racist one, call Al Gore, since he brought it up in the 1988 primaries first. He'd be happy to know you think he's a racist.

AnonymousIsAWoman said...

Brian, your grievances are valid. But so are the Democrats' grievances when it comes to negative ads.

We spent years getting the stuffing whumped out of us because we wouldn't respond to things like the Willie Horton ad, the distortions about Al Gore in 2000 and, most egregious of all, the Swiftboating of a Silver Star and Bronze Medal winner, John Kerry. Talk about a distortion of somebody's war record.

Furthermore, somebody who never even served in Vietnam got away with painting Max Clellan, who lost three limbs over there, as soft on terrorism. Dare I call Saxby Chambliss a lying chicken hawk?

And the Republican smear machine wasn't even confined to Democrats. The Bush team, in 2000, smeared John McCain so badly in the South Carolina primary that they even accused him of mental instability, his wife of drug addiction, and claimed his adopted daughter was the product of an illicit interracial affair.

Yeah, Republicans hungry for victory by any means don't care which veteran they smear, even those within their own party.

Do Democrats engage in dirty politics? Yes, they do.

But don't tell me Republicans are all pure of heart or that it was the mean old Democrats who made them do it.

I don't buy that for one minute. And neither should you. Republicans have been engaging in the politics of character assassination and attack for far too long and done it far too well for Democrats to feel guilty about turn about, which after all, is fair play.

Brian Kirwinn said...

AIAW, how many times have you heard a Republican candidate called stupid?

How many times have you heard Democrats accuse Republicans of wanting to kill social security, medicare, that they'll close the schools, children will starve.

Don't go back to the 80s. Go to this month, when I get recorded phone calls saying my Congresswoman wants children to lose all health care coverage.

It's evil, it's lying, and it's Democratic.

And in every case in my neck of the woods, the Democrats went nengative first and repeatedly so.

Vivian J. Paige said...

Perhaps your neck of the woods doesn't include Norfolk. Because in both the 87th & the 6th, the negative ads came from the Republicans first. I've kept every single piece of mail - and I can prove it.

AnonymousIsAWoman said...

Brian, only one of my examples goes back to the 80s, the Willie Horton ad. What was done to John McCain happened in the 2000 presidential primaries. The smears of Max Clelland occurred in the midterm elections of 2002. And the Swiftboating of John Kerry happened in the 2004 presidential election.

From 1988 to 2004 is, in fact, quite a long history of attack ads based on distortion and outright lies.

This isn't ancient history but a recurring pattern. And I'll let Vivian speak for what goes on in your neck of the woods.

To repeat my main point: Democrats are not going to unilaterally disarm and concede the playing field to Republicans so get used to it.

Brian Kirwin said...

AIAW, you can cite specific instances and years, but Democrats have lied about Republicans so often, I can't list them all. What do you think of the examples I've cited? You make it seem as if Democrats are suddenly responding in kind, when in fact they've been at it for a long, long time.

AnonymousIsAWoman said...

First of all Brian, I can't comment on your neck of the woods because I don't live there and am unfamiliar with what's going on down there or how truthful the charges from either side are. But Vivian claims that she has gotten negative ads from Republican candidates in the 6th and 8th districts. And she says she's kept them all. So, she would be in a better position to speak to what is going on in your local races.

In Northern Virginia, we've seen Jeannemarie Devolites Davis distort Chap Petersen's record and Tim Hugo take quotes out of context and use them in a misleading way against Rex Simmons, who then responded with an attack of his own against Hugo, which also was probably misleading.

As far as who started it, Dems or Repubs, attack ads and nasty campaigns probably go back to the Whigs and the Torries.

I'm not being facetious. Some of the most vicious campaign attacks against an opponent came in races in the 1800s. Someday, I'll do the research and sourcing and write a post on that - but it will have to wait until after election season when I've got more time to do it properly.

If, however, you are truly upset by negative campaigning, the only one you can change or control is yourself and your own style of campaigning. After all, you are a professional campaign operative. So, do it differently, the way you'd like to see it done. Advise your clients to take the risk.

If it works and they win, others will follow suit. And I'd support the change.

But I'm a skeptic. I'll believe eschewing the negative works when I see it.

Unfortunately, I've watched too many Democrats lose important races because they failed to fight back. I will not advise any candidates to do anything but hit back and hit hard when they are attacked.

Brian Kirwin said...

I really like this...we should debate sometime.

I've heard too many Democrats, like Creigh Deeds, talk about campaigning without the negative attacks and then vanish when their party does the attacking.

It's been 101 days since Deeds gave his "no negative attacks" speech at Blogs United. Where is he?

I'm not stating any personal opinion here. I'm just pointing out the hypocrisy of the left on this issue. It's right up there with the "bipartisan redistricting" that they say they're in favor of, but never in 140 years while they were in control would they ever. In 2000, the Democrat leadership in the House even refused to seat Republican members elected by special election because it would cost them power. And now we're supposed to believe that if only they have control of the legislature, they'd give up the power to draw districts? Never in a zillion years.

And that's what I thought when I saw all the nodding left-leaning heads at Blogs United chanting "must be positive...must be positive" because I knew once Deeds' speech was a memory, they'd be back in the mud again, calling people "bums," making fun of a candidates name, and running ads that the newspaper even admits are full of lies.

AnonymousIsAWoman said...

I've enjoyed this back and forth between us and think it has been a debate. I wouldn't debate you in person, though, because I really am bad at live debates. I think with my fingers at a computer better than with my mouth. And I really don't have a great memory for facts and figures. Sitting at my computer, I can look things up and check my facts. Can't do that at a podium. So, in person, you'd win a debate hands down.

Hopefully, we will meet at the next Blogger Conference.

I'd like to think if I had been able to make it to the last one (instead of having my damned root canal), I'd have been shaking my head and telling Creigh he was crazy for saying that :)

Ok, probably not because I would have been caught up in the warm and fuzzy moment too.

As for the non-partisan redistricting, that's something I truly do believe in. I can't control the politicians but I think districts should be drawn in ways that make geographic sense. And I believe it should be done by an appointed non-partisan, or at least bi-partisan panel. The elected officials and party hacks should be left out of it.

Having said that, the districts that were drawn - or gerrymandered - to protect people failed to do so in the last national election, when some supposedly safe seats turned over in major upsets.

Politicians should all note that they can't thrawt the will of the people with tricks forever.

As for actually calling somebody a bum or making fun of a name, I suspect people realize that's childish and backfires. Notice, I don't do it in my blog. And I won't. Even when I do go after those I disagree with, I hope I do so respectfully.

But when both sides produce attack ads, yes, they get vicious. Again, all I'll say about that is neither side will be the first to lay down its sword.

Also, it has occurred to me that Creigh may really not engage in negative ads. I don't know him that well, but maybe he truly does dislike them. I doubt he'd publicly say anything in the heat of an election but let's see how he personally conducts himself before criticizing him for hypocrisy.

After all, he can no more be responsible for all Democrats than I can or than you could be responsible for all Republicans. If he tried, he'd probably be ignored anyway. People will do what they will do.

Loudoun Conservative said...

um -- I thought that's the definition of ad misericordium...

Chutzpah has a more varied definition...

AnonymousIsAWoman said...

I am unfamiliar with the term "ad misercordium." I hope you come back and explain what that is.

As for Chutzpah, yes it is far more varied, but that does capture some of the essence of it.

BTW, many years ago, there was a perfume in Israel called Chutzpah. I don't know how long it lasted but when I was there in the 1970s, I saw advertisements for it all over.

Anonymous said...

I think you hit on something there with Creigh. It will be interesting to see how he reacts if/when he starts running against Moran.

But first 2007 and 2008 :-p