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SOWELL: Negative advertising
Question of the Day
One of the oldest phenomena of American elections - criticism of one’s opponent - has in recent times been stigmatized by much of the media as “negative advertising.”
Is this because the criticism has gotten more vicious or more personal? You might think so, if you were totally ignorant of history, as are so many of the graduates of even our elite universities.
Although Grover Cleveland was elected president twice, he had to overcome a major scandal that he had fathered a child out of wedlock, which was considered more of a disgrace then than today. Even giants like Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson were called names that neither John McCain nor Barack Obama” href=”/themes/?Theme=Barack+Obama“>Barack Obama has been called.
Why then is “negative advertising” such a big deal these days? The dirty little secret is this: Liberal candidates have needed to escape their past and pretend they are not liberals, because so many voters have had it with liberals.
In 1988, Gov. Michael Dukakis of Massachusetts called himself a “technocrat,” a pragmatic solver of problems, despite a classic liberal track record of big spending, big taxes, and policies that were anti-business and pro-criminal.
When the truth about what he actually did as governor was brought out during the presidential election campaign, the media were duly shocked - not by Mr. Dukakis’ record, but by Republicans’ exposing his record.
John Kerry, with a very similar ultra-liberal record, topped off by inflammatory and unsubstantiated attacks on American military men in Vietnam, disdained the whole process of labeling as unworthy. And the mainstream media closed ranks around him as well, deploring those who labeled Mr. Kerry a liberal.
Barack Obama is much smoother. Instead of issuing explicit denials, he gives speeches that sound so moderate, nuanced and lofty that even some conservative Republicans go for them. How could anyone believe such a man is the very opposite of what he claims to be - unless they check out the record of what he has actually done?
In words, Mr. Obama is a uniter instead of a divider. In deeds, he has spent years promoting polarization. That is what a “community organizer” does, creating a sense of grievance, envy and resentment in order to mobilize political action to get more of the taxpayers’ money or to force banks to lend to people they don’t consider good risks, as the community organizing group ACORN did.
After Barack Obama moved beyond the role of a community organizer, he promoted the same polarization in his other roles.
That is what he did when he spent the money of the Woods Fund bankrolling programs to spread the politics of grievance and resentment into the schools. That is what he did when he spent taxpayers’ money bankrolling the grievance and resentment ideology of Michael Pfleger.
When Barack Obama donated $20,000 to the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, does anyone imagine he was unaware that Mr. Wright was the epitome of grievance, envy and resentment hype? Or were Mr. Wright’s sermons too subtle for Mr. Obama to pick up that message?
How subtle is invoking the deity to “damn America!”?
Yet those in the media who deplore “negative advertising” regard it as unseemly to dig up ugly facts instead of sticking to the beautiful rhetoric of an election year. The oft-repeated mantra is that we should trick to the “real issues.”
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