January 1, 2008

What's so bad about negative advertising?

Since Mike Huckabee wanted to rope everyone into showing his negative ad against Mitt Romney, I'm going to show Mitt Romney's negative ad against Mike Huckabee:

Now, what's wrong with doing that? I think it's better than these empty feelgood ads about hope and character and experience. Facts are stated. It's substantive. Don't we want substance? If the facts are wrong or distorted or incomplete, there will be plenty of talk about it. And we'll be talking about substance.

The main thing that troubles me about this ad — and it was true of Huckabee's anti-Romney ad — is that the music tries too hard to manipulate us into thinking these facts are really horrible. Like in Huckabee's ad, there's a list of terrible things about Romney, and one is: "No executions." And the music is all: He killed a guy with his bare hands and he wants to kill you too.


Eli Blake said...

Interesting distortion. Massachusetts has no death penalty. So of course there were no executions while Romney was Governor. That would be like criticizing the Governor of Alaska because his state produces no bananas.

Republicans go nuts over the death penalty though. I remember when I lived in Texas in 1998 and the Republican candidate for railroad commissioner (a low-profile statewide elected position) ran exclusively on how tough he was on the death penalty. And of course he won, big (though luckily I'd moved to Arizona by November.) Nobody except his opponent bothered to ask what exactly the death penalty had to do with being railroad commissioner.

I guess he planned to propose that they bring back 'tying to the tracks' as a method of execution.

David Walser said...

I'm not in the least opposed to negative ads, if they are of the type Romney calls "contrast ads". Romney's ads have had an interesting format: They open with a compliment of his opponent (Huckabee's a good family man, McCain's an honorable man). Then the ads compare Romney's positions with his opponent's positions. (Naturally, the ads put Romney's positions in the best possible light and his opponent's in the worst.) If a viewer prefers the opponent's positions to Romney's, the viewer might be left with a greater desire to vote for Romney's opponent.

For negative advertising, this is pretty tame. He's not questioning his opponents' character or honesty, nor is he whispering that the opponent's religion is just too weird...

Randy (Internet Ronin) said...

Partisans always complain about the dirty negative advertising by the candidate they oppose. Most of the time, the ads are reasonably accurate (which is why partisans find them so dirty). Just as in the glowing positive ads, there is some hyperbole, but that's politics.

Cedarford said...

Eli - By a very interesting quirk of history, members of the Texas Railroad Commission have been among the most powerful and influential people in Texas for over a century.

Think oil. Think gas.

When this newfangled mined fossil energy resource was found in huge abundance in Texas and its waters and people realized the vast money it created from onshore, offshore, the refineries and pipelines - someone had to regulate it, control it.

All the oil, the support equipment were transported by rail or through pipeines that in large part utilized railroad right of ways. And the railroad commission was the most advanced regulatory body.

Even now, the oil, gas, refinery and petrochemical, fertilizer biz is 30-35 billion in revenue and the elected Railroad Commissioners have it all under their aegis. Running for a spot is a huge deal. And candidates will use death penalty, their undying love of sweet baby jesus, oil and lawyer lobbies, and historically - serious graft - in seeking those offices.

But it is funny that the Huckster is boldly taking Romney to task for not violating his state laws and killing somebody in Massachusetts. How weak of Romney! Maybe that explains in part why he pulled the stunt with the negative ad - someone pointed Mass law out to him, but then the Huckster insisted on pushing his "failure to execute prisoners" as a talking point for his one-time airing of his unacceptably negativead - where he hoped for free publicity and guillable Iowans not to see it as a stunt.

And I agree with Walser, Romney's ads do not personally attack his opponents but try to establish distinctions that favor Romney with what his campaign has determined are the voters they wish to target.
Walser is right that if you disagree with Romney on, say, Amnesty for illegals, his ads actually steer voters to the position and maybe to vote for McCain or Huckster.


I also think that McCain has milked sympathy for his POW status longer and more sucessfully than Rudy milked 9/11, Edwards the death of his son, or John Kerry exploited his medals and protests for his war hero/anti-hero status with his undeserved "Senator for Life" career along with Teddy's undeserved one.

The press tends to give McCain immunity from allegations of intemperate behavior, treachery in breaking agreements for making backroom deals with Democrats better serving his agenda and chance to get in front of cameras -because he "served and suffered".

After McCain returned, his POW status guaranteed him near-automatic promotion to Captain in the Navy. But flag officer rank, despite his father and grandfather becoming 4-Stars Admirals, was purportedly too much for the Navy Brass to swallow given limited spots available to a surplus pool of highly qualified candidates, and long-standing questions of McCains temperment, vindictiveness, and insubordination.

Only so many spots existed, and people like McCain didn't need much wrong with them to lose out to more noteworthy and commendable officers, even if they hadn't been captured by the enemy. Up or out is the rule in senior military careers in most Western countries - you get promoted, or you go if passed over.

He was passed over for Admiral, thanked for his commendable 27 years, and wished well on what he did after his Navy career was shut down.

Douglas MacArthur was a "good man", who "suffered" and served his country well. Unlike McCain, who was an "average officer" and in the bottom 5% of his Academy class, MacArthur was brilliant and top of his class. He went 5-Star. But even MacArthur found he was not "owed" the Presidency, and matters of temperment soon ended talk of his running. Instead, being a top general of 1st class integrity, character, temperment and loyalty to his men and superiors got Eisenhower the nomination.

Fen said...

Maybe that explains in part why he [Huckabee] pulled the stunt with the negative ad

I hope that was his Dean Scream moment. He couldn't drop out of the race fast enough for me.

I curious what other conservatives here feel about the field.

Paul and Huckabee have been elminated from my ballot.

McCain is marginal [anti-free speech, pro amnesty without enforcement].

Romney is somewhat immunized b/c the Left hates Christians and I don't trust media sources to give me a good read on him. Will wait and see, but nothing about him captures me.

I like Fred Thompson best, but he hasn't knocked the ball out of the park.

Eli Blake said...


I only lived for less than a year in Texas, never got registered to vote there and didn't study the duties of the railroad commissioner. I can see now why the race had such a high profile, but I still question what it has to do with the death penalty. Maybe besides 'tying to the tracks,' the guy was thinking of adding 'stuffed down an old oil well,' to the list of methods of execution.

By the way, Iowa is another of the 13 states that have no death penalty on the books (AK, HA, IA, ME, MA, MI, MN, NJ, ND, RI, VT, WV, WI) plus the District of Columbia.


As a liberal I don't like any of them (though what I dislike most varies from candidate to candidate.) But I noticed that Rudy has so unimpressed you that you forgot to even mention where he stands on your list.