January 7, 2008
Nix On "Negative" Nomenclature
Am I the only person whose bones boil whenever he hears every "compare and contrast" ad lumped together with character-assassinating hit pieces under the all-purpose pejorative of "negative campaigning?"
I declare a temporary ban on the use of that phrase. Thwart me at peril to your immortal soul. In the meantime, here is a quick primer on negativity:
- If Mitt Romney puts up an add accusing John McCain of authoring a bill to grant "amnesty" to illegal aliens, rejecting the Bush tax cuts, and killing the nominations of several conservative circus-court nominees via McCain's "Gang of Fourteen," that is a perfectly legitimate issues ad.
- If McCain responds with an ad calling Romney "untrustworthy" and a "liar," that is a petulant and scurrilous personal-attack ad.
The latter is never justified by the former, unless the so-called "victim" of the first ad (McCain in this case) can show that his opponent's ad really was misleading to the point of being a lie; not just by the ever-fluid definition of John Sidney McCain III, but by the ordinary dictionary definition as well.
But to the elite media, which this year wants the GOP nominee to be Mike Huckabee or John McCain (and which always wants a vicious civil war among Republicans), any ad that looks critically at any issue belonging to either of the two favored candidates -- when coming from one of the disfavored ones -- is functionally identical to personal excoriation of the sort that a hundred years ago would require my friends to pay a visit upon your friends: Saying McCain struck a great blow against freedom of speech with McCain-Feingold is, to the elites, ethically the same as saying "McCain does Girl Scouts."
So how does the drive-by media -- itself interested only in snippets of sound to bitch-slap the Right -- expect mere mortal voters to make up their minds about the vote? If not from a candidate's rivals, then how?
Do they imagine we can rely upon each candidate to tell us where he falls short, when he stepped off the path of ideological righteousness, and why he says one thing while doing another? Or do the media think there is another electoral entity, one perched far above the madding campaigns, who will remind us what each candidate did that he now wishes undone? (Yes, of course they do: themselves!)
I want to see "negative" issue ads. I want to hear from Romney what McCain did, and from Huckabee what Romney said. When Gaylord Parkinson, Chairman of the California Republican Party in 1966, enunciated his Eleventh Commandment -- Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican -- he said nothing about his fellow Republican's cockamamie proposals, bills, and resolutions. Those are, and have always been, fair game in a campaign. Heck, primaries have to run on some kind of fuel besides hot air.
I also want to see positive issue ads: I want to know what are the candidate's priorities, what he proposes, and what grand vision superglues his propositions seamlessly together. Both positive and negative approaches have their validity, so long as we don't transmaugrify disagreement into demonization.
The only time it's appropriate to attack a candidate's character -- is when that character is so toxic and villainous that even electing a Democrat is preferable... such as the 1991 gubernatorial election in Louisiana.
The Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, David Duke, placed second in the open primary when many voters cast "protest votes" against incumbent Republican Gov. Buddy Roemer. This put Duke into the runoff with the Democrat, Edwin Edwards... and the Louisiana Republican Party actually endorsed Edwards, the Democrat, for governor.
So yes, Sen. McCain... you are welcome to attack the character of your opponent in an election; but only if you can make the case, with a straight face, that he's as evil as David Duke. If not, then shut your pie-hole and stick to the issues.
And in the meantime, Ms. CNN newsreader, Mr. Times Square traducer, Mr. Boston Globe brahmin... see if you can wrap your "multiple layers of editing" around the distinction between examination and extermination.
Hatched by Dafydd on this day, January 7, 2008, at the time of 3:39 AM
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The following hissed in response by: Geoman
Some people just don't get the difference between "My opponent is an idiot" and "My opponent's policies are idiotic".
I expect politicians to throw a few sharp elbows occasionally. Just don't get whistled for it, and don't make a habit of it.
The following hissed in response by: eliXelx
So, daffy, can we take it as understood that you are a fully paid-up NBR ("No-one but Romney") and that anybody who opposes that position is a scoundrel, while anyone who supports you is a blood-brother?
This internecine warfare "me-yay, you-boo" is PRECISELY what we accuse the moonbat Libs of doing, and we hate them for it. Let's not cheapen the debate on this side by vicious and exclusive partisanship!
"Jerusalem was destroyed because of unfounded hatreds." The Talmud.
The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh
In the first place, we don't allow name-calling against commenters, and especially not against the hosts: Call me "Daffy" again, and your comment will get deep-sixed.
Second, no you can't assume I'm "No-one but Romney." I would be fairly happy with McCain. Remember, I actually support his immigration plan; and he's the best candidate on the actual war on global hirabah, though he's not good -- verbally, at least -- on interrogations (I suspect that once in the big chair, he would change his mind about, e.g., waterboarding).
His negatives are considerable -- judges, McCain-Feingold, temperment -- but he has considerable strengths, too.
I'm somewhat less happy with Giuliani, but I would still be fine with him. I don't know much about Thompson, but I haven't seen anything to disqualify him in my mind.
So as it turns out, your entire premise is fundamentally wrong: I think Romney is the best of the bunch, but I would vote for any of the big four in preference to any of the Democrats.
I would even hold my nose and vote for Mike Huckabee, though he is at the bottom of the barrel of top-tier candidates, in my opinion... his foreign policy "ideas" are staggeringly naive; it's clear he has never so much as thought about anything beyond these shores until late last year. And as an agnostic, I'm not at all comfortable with a man whose main qualification for being president, in his own estimation, is that he's "the Christian in this race."
And by the way, I have said this before. It's not a secret.
I see only one person here who has an "unfounded hatred," and it's not I.
Now, there is one candidate I would not vote for, even were he the GOP nominee: That candidate is Ron Paul, despite the fact that if I had to call myself by any political label, it would be libertarian.
But this is not "unfounded;" it's based upon what I have personally heard him say in debates, in interviews, what I have heard his supporters say when they accost me in airports, and on the sort of people who have been flocking around him from Day One -- which includes a disturbingly large segment of racists, Neo-Nazis, and assorted haters... and I mean those terms literally, not as hyperbole. And based on the fact that he refuses, even today, to repudiate those American Nazi Party supporters; he hasn't even undertaken a "Sister Souljah" moment with them.
I would honestly feel slightly less scared with a President Obama or even President Hillary Clinton than with a President Paul.
Perhaps this bothers you; I can live with that.
The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh at January 8, 2008 1:33 PM
The following hissed in response by: eliXelx
Daffyd, here in Spain we tend to use short forms of names as marks of familiarity and regard, so calling you "daffy" was not intended as a comparison with a much-loved cartoon character, or as another word for crazy; it was meant as a friendly greeting, and I'm sorry you saw it as an insult.
That said Daffy does rhyme with Taffy, which we, when I lived in England, tended to call Welshmen, a practice I know is today frowned upon. So let's take it as said that calling you "daffy" was my bad. I will never address you as "daffy" again.
Now to the red meat. You must admit that your post was as charitable as possible to Romney while being as uncharitable as possible to McCain; why would that be, except that you are a Romney supporter who sees his man going down and is throwing him, and yourself, a capsule of amyl to revive your hopes. Well now, after NH, a capsule won't do it; the man needs intensive care, if he's not already moribund! Romney's biggest negative is that he DOESN'T need money, hence doesn't ask for our support; he thinks he can buy a Presidency, but there's no way he can buy 60million votes!
Having a perfect profile doesn't make him the best man for the part; that only happens in Hollywood!
My other, more generic, objection to the column was the "yay-boo" dichotomy that has become par for the course in every single aspect of American Life; and believe me I say this as an OUTSIDER, who maybe sees a little more clearly than those of you who are living through the social and cultural war in America!
I lived in Britain where we have had this for decades--the building up with the specific and vindictive intention of tearing down! The Brits do it with all their icons, and now the Americans are doing it too; If you don't believe me just take a look at the treatment of Hillary between Iowa and New Hampshire!
And the passion of opposition now uses the terminology of hate.
BDS is just the tip of this iceberg; it is everywhere in America, and this election campaign is just going to bring it front and centre; "Negative Campaigning" will seem like praise compared to tsunami of abusiveness that is just over the horizon.
Americans used to love the winner, but they never hated the loser; In 21st century America Americans only love THEIR winner, and hate everybody else!
And this "unfounded hatred" is not going to go away after Jan 20th, 2009!
"That which you find objectionable DO NOT DO unto your brother" (Rabbi Hillel's Negative Golden Rule)
The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh
You must admit that your post was as charitable as possible to Romney while being as uncharitable as possible to McCain; why would that be, except that you are a Romney supporter who sees his man going down and is throwing him, and yourself, a capsule of amyl to revive your hopes.
Because I despise whiners and kvetchers... and in the Republican race, there is nobody more given to whining and moaning about how shamefully he is treated by his rival -- when all his rival is doing is running compare and contrast ads -- as John S. McCain.
As I just told you, on paper, there are about as many issues where I support McCain's position instead of Romney's as the other way 'round: Immigration and war strategy go to McCain; economics (taxes), judges, and free speech go to Romney. I think McCain's personality, as I've witnessed it over the decades, is far to volatile to make a good president; Romney is more even-tempered. But McCain communicates better with people; Romney is too remote.
But lo! Never once have I seen Romney run to the elite media to tattle on McCain, thus playing right into the hands of those who wish us, and the country, ill. Yet I can't hardly swing a dead cat without bowling over yet another interview with JSM in which he does exactly that.
That is what this post is about: crybabies who constantly complain about the normal campaign tactics of normal campaigns, even while they themselves do as bad or even worse (I don't recall Romney saying McCain was "untrustworthy" and a "liar") Ergo, I couldn't possibly write it without frequent reference to the crusty, old senator from the Big Ditch state.
Americans used to love the winner, but they never hated the loser.
Good heavens. We learn British history in school here in America; don't they teach American history in Great Britain anymore? Try reading some Civil War era commentary on Abraham Lincoln, or the broadsheets of the American Revolution, which brought the fine art of personal invective to a hair-curling, excruciating excess unimaginable today.
About the worst Romney has said about McCain is that he voted against the Bush tax cuts and is squishy on judges. Well, didn't he? And isn't he?
The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh at January 9, 2008 3:25 AM
The following hissed in response by: eliXelx
Dafydd, Wasn't Lincoln President when the "Despised whiners and kvetchers" (talk about incontinent!) harangued and abused him?
So, how about the Germans and the Japanese and the Koreans and the Vietnamese? Did Americans hate them too? I mean after the event!
I wonder how Mohammed Ali felt about his opponents after the rumble in the jungle, or the thrilla in Manila! Did he hate them?
I was trying to point out that the American is generally more generous of spirit with the underdog, or the defeated, than people elsewhere; yet you take it as an insult! Such a thin skin! You want to hear hair-curling insults? Go to a Rugby match between Cardiff and Swansea at the Millenium Stadium!
There is nothing to be proud about when Chavez abuses Bush. There is even less to brag about when Sean Penn does it!
Frankly, I could give tuppence if it's Romney or McCain or Obama or Clinton. They don't and won't affect my day-to-day life; but I despair for the generosity, the spirit, the never-say-die forthrightness of your country.
It is not fit to publicize that this or that candidate has been slandered by so-and-so and then to excuse such incontinent discourse because everyone else is doing it! That's my beef with you and with this election campaign! It's already become vulgar and below-the-belt! One despairs of how much worse it will get!
Mitt is patrician, patronising, remote; too out-of-touch with the American people to give them the direction they need and yearn for. Right now America needs a Lincoln or a Churchill (who, as you, a History buff may know, was also more loved by Americans than he was by his own countryman) or even a cheerless but upright Gladstone to steer them through the troubled times ahead.
Two defeats in two tries after spending 10 times as much as your challengers would have ruled a less-wealthy person out! But not Mitt! He's ready to spend, spend, spend, until he can buy what he feels is his by right!
That's why I believe it will be John McCain despite all his faults, his backsliding, his pugnacity. Right now America needs a combative, straight-ahead-and-damn-the- torpedoes President.
That's not Hillary, or Barack, or Mitt, or Mike!
Would that McCain was R-100%, but McCain R-70% is still much much more than the others!
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