Gutter Trawling

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More about negative campaign ads from AFP. Oddly, it's actually more balanced than the article in today's Washington Post that I linked earlier. It points out both Republicans and Democrat negative ads pretty evenly. It also mentions the long term effect of these tactics – they are not good.

Characters are twisted and records trashed as Republicans and Democrats tar each other as misogynous and seedy terrorist-appeasing hucksters, who leech off the public purse and lie as naturally as drawing breath.

A campaign commercial in Tennessee featured a sexy blonde beckoning African-American Democrat Harold Ford, sparking claims that Republicans backing Ford's white rival Bob Corker are mining stereotypes about inter-racial dating to play on latent Southern racism.

Like most negative ads, the spot sought out the merest grain of truth: Ford reportedly once was among 3,000 guests at a Superbowl party sponsored by Playboy magazine.

But anyone in the staunchly conservative state watching the scantily-clad woman pout "Call me, Harold" might be left with the impression Ford regularly snuggled with Playboy bunnies.

In Virginia, Republicans seeking to overcome racism accusations clouding Senator George Allen claimed his opponent Jim Webb was guilty of past discrimination against women military recruits.

Other ads have New York congressional candidate Michael Arcuri accused of dialing a telephone sex line from his hotel room and billing taxpayers — an allegation since disproved.

In Idaho, Democrat opponents of Republican Bill Sali pounced on a quote from a party colleague branding him an "absolute idiot."

Negative advertisements are used by both parties simply because they work, experts say.

"People may express their distaste for them, but they do remember them," said Professor Tom Baldino of Wilkes University.

"If they are not over the top, negative ads can force the target to go on the defensive."

But some analysts believe gutter-scraping negative ads further poison the public view of politics.

As it is, an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll this month found only 16 percent of registered voters approved of Congress's performance.

"Negative campaign ads reinforce and amplify the prevailing view of US politics as something decent people should avoid at all costs," said Professor Rich Hanley of Quinnipiac University.

Read that last sentence again. This is exactly why some of the best people in the country would never run for office. Why would you volunteer to jump into a meat grinder? Weird that AFP is actually more even-handed than the WaPo, though. That's not something the WaPo should be proud of. New motto: The Washington Post, more unbalanced than the French.

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