Domestic violence. Promoting prostitution. Impoverishment of the elderly. Higher unemployment. Drug dealing. These are the values that inspire and drive Republican politicians — at least according to the barrage of Democratic attack ads airing this election season.
Faced with voters unenthusiastic about (or downright hostile to) legislation passed by the Democratic majority in the past two years — notably, President Obama’s health-care plan and the stimulus bill — Democratic politicians are resorting to ads that paint Republican opponents as out-of-touch lunatics.
“There’s no question that [Democratic] campaigns this year have an air of panic,” Republican media consultant Brad Todd told NRO. “We have seen more Democratic incumbent congressmen say less about what they’ve done in office than we ever remember.”
To distract voters from concerns that Democrats have slashed Medicare spending and deepened the economic downturn with their fiscal policies, Democratic ads have relied on boilerplate accusations that GOP candidates will end Social Security and outsource jobs overseas.
Here, in order of least offensive to most outrageous, are the five worst Democratic ads of the 2010 midterms — so far.
5. Sen. Patty Murray’s “Airbus.”
Boeing employs about 72,000 workers in Washington state, making it a crucial contributor to the local economy — and the reason why Boeing’s fight with the European consortium Airbus over a Pentagon contract for an Air Force tanker has become a prominent statewide issue. Airbus originally won the contract in 2008, but when the World Trade Organization ruled that Airbus had received $24 million in illegal subsidies, the Pentagon reopened bidding for the contract. Since then, the WTO has ruled that Boeing has also received illegal subsidies, although the exact dollar amount has not been reported.
Deciding to capitalize on voters’ concern that Boeing was being treated unfairly in the tanker bidding, the Murray campaign launched an ad featuring the question, “Should Boeing workers have a level playing field?” The ad then cut to a clip of Republican candidate Dino Rossi answering “No. Not as far as I’m concerned. No.”
But Rossi was actually answering a different question: whether the “WTO ruling should have [been] a factor in the tanker bid.” If Rossi’s no to that question was ambiguous, what wasn’t is a statement of his in the same interview, where he says, “We need to fight for the tanker contract, no matter what.”
4. The National Education Association’s endorsement ad for New Mexico Democratic gubernatorial candidate Diane Denish.
Blasting Republican Susana Martinez, who had expressed support for vouchers in the primary, this ad accused her of “covering up her real plans to cut public-school funding.” The ad featured a special-education teacher, Freda Trujillo, enthusiastically speaking about Denish’s record on education, and saying that “when it comes to education, she’s on our side.”
But the NEA didn’t exactly find a disinterested teacher to endorse Denish. In 2007, Martinez, a district attorney, had helped convict Trujillo’s husband on charges including threatening violence to and kidnapping an ex-girlfriend. He was sentenced to prison for 23 years.
3. Kentucky Democratic senatorial nominee Jack Conway’s “Rand Paul Is Soft on Crime.”
In a 2008 interview, Republican candidate Rand Paul said that “things that are nonviolent shouldn’t be against the law.” Conway’s ad uses that clip, and then interprets Paul’s statement to mean he opposes laws against selling drugs to a minor, Wall Street fraud, burglary, promoting prostitution, and theft.
Paul has since come out and clarified that he supports current drug and prostitution laws. He has also emphasized that the original interview was focused on sin-tax policies and whether motorcyclists should be legally required to wear helmets — not exactly topics similar to how to handle Wall Street fraud or theft.
2. Sen. Harry Reid’s “Domestic Violence.”
Since Sharron Angle became the GOP nominee in Nevada, she has been bombarded with attack ads by Reid. But this one, which accuses her of “siding with the abuser, not the abused,” is the most outrageous. While in the state assembly, Angle did vote against a 2001 bill that would have required Nevada to honor out-of-state restraining orders. But she did so because of concerns over a legal technicality in the bill, not because she — a mother of two and grandmother of ten — approved of domestic abuse. “She did not oppose the merits of the bill,” Angle campaign spokesman Jarrod Agen told CNN. “She raised concerns to ensure that enforcement documents were authentic and present.”
1. Rep. Alan Grayson’s “Taliban Dan Webster.”
It’s an ad so shameless that it horrified even the Left. MSNBC host Contessa Brewer publicly scolded liberal favorite Grayson about it. Warning viewers that “religious fanatics try to take away our freedom in Afghanistan, in Iran, and right here in central Florida,” the ad then airs a sound bite of Dan Webster, Grayson’s GOP opponent in the Florida district that includes Orlando, saying “submit to me.” It accuses Webster of wanting to make divorce illegal and deprive abused women of medical care.
So here’s the full context of Webster’s “submit to me” remark: It was said at a Nashville religious conference last year, where Webster told men not to focus on the verses “that say, She should submit to me.” Rather, “pick the ones that you’re supposed to do,” Webster advised.
“So instead, [choose] ‘Love your wife, even as Christ loved the church he gave himself for’ as opposed to ‘Wives, submit yourself to your own husband,’” he said. “She can pray that if she wants to, but don’t you pray it.” That’s not ordering women to submit to men; it’s urging men to consider how they can love their wives selflessly.
The nonpartisan site FactCheck.org responded to the divorce claim by reporting that in 1990, Webster — then a Florida state representative — supported creating covenant marriage, which would have permitted divorce only in cases of adultery. But what Grayson neglected to mention is that the proposal stipulated that such marriages would be an option, not the only way couples could get married.
Will these five and other Democratic attack ads succeed in scaring off voters from casting their ballots for Republicans? Brad Todd doesn’t think so. “Voters are really focused this year. They have a pretty clear idea of what’s wrong with the country, and they are looking and responding to campaigns that address this.”
He added, “It’s more about the voters versus Washington than Candidate A versus Candidate B.” Or, in other words, this year is about the voting records — and even attack ads can’t distract voters from looking at those.
– Katrina Trinko writes for National Review Online’s Battle ’10 blog.