And now, a few positive words about negative advertising:
I love it.
If you’re honest, you’ll admit you love it, too, for the simple reason that, unlike regular advertising, attacks ads are interesting.
I bring this up because the supply of negative ads — and consequently, the supply of the only enjoyable part of politics — has been threatened by the announcement of a major candidate in Maine that he’ll denounce any third-party attempts to smear his opponent. On May 19, Democratic US Representative Tom Allen held a news conference to declare that his campaign for the US Senate seat currently held by Republican Susan Collins would have “no place for the politics of personal destruction.”
Allen went on to say, “If you plan to attack Senator Collins, don’t. That won’t help your cause and it has no place in the conversation I intend to have with the voters of Maine.”
Just the thought of a conversation with Tom Allen, super-serious in tone and content, caused significant portions of my brain to begin exhibiting coma-like symptoms, a condition staved off only by the liberal application of beer and marathon viewing of South Park videos.
But some good news did come out of this declaration of non-negativity. The Collins campaign used the occasion to launch a personal attack at Allen. If he’s so positive, said deputy campaign manager Felicia Knight, where was he last summer when leftist groups like Moveon.org were spending a million bucks ripping Collins? “He had ample opportunity over the past year to come forward and do the right thing and denounce the myriad of advertisements that were run against Senator Collins,” Knight said in a written statement.
Fortunately for those of us with limited attention spans, Collins has no qualms about negative campaigning, handling the task herself, rather than relying on outsiders. At this year’s GOP state convention, she accused Allen of trying to block government efforts to intercept phone calls from “terrorists plotting to kill Americans.” In February, she produced a video for her Web site that linked Allen with flag burners and other perverts.
That’s entertainment. It’s also honesty.
When a politician is slandering somebody, voters can be sure what’s being said, however calculated and contrived, represents a real opinion. Quite a contrast from the bland — and barely credible — generalities candidates usually spout.
Democratic 1st District congressional hopeful Mike Brennan has produced TV spots with scripts full of mush (“I want to make sure that everybody who lives in Maine feels a sense of community”), notable only for their low production values and out-of-synch sound that give the candidate a vaguely extraterrestrial air.
I prefer the radio ads put out by Dean Scontras, a GOP 1st District contender, in which he kicks his primary opponent, Charlie Summers, right where it hurts: “Summers voted to raise income taxes, sales taxes and taxes on food. He didn’t stop there. Summers also voted to increase gas taxes, and taxes on meals and lodging.”
I don’t even care if that’s true — although, as it happens, it is. What I care about is what kind of counterpunch Summers throws. He didn’t disappoint me, accusing Scontras of demeaning the memories of several now-deceased Republican legislators who also supported those 1991 tax hikes. That beats the pap Summers dribbles out on his Web site (“Maine’s economic future will depend on innovative, small firms that develop ...” zzzz).