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Let’s go straight to the negative ads, the lifeblood of campaigns

By Steven Harmon
Tuesday, September 14th, 2010 at 5:02 pm in Uncategorized.

You don’t have to go any further than the California gubernatorial race to understand the power and importance of political paid advertising, even if they don’t survive full scrutiny.

The funny thing is that with all the digital technology at our disposal and the sophisticated imagery available, it was a simple ad using the barest campaign methods — sifting through archival footage — that threw a little fizz into the 2010 campaign.

A little thing like a nasty exchange with an old sparring partner is quite compelling, especially if he turns out to be a two-term president with enduring popularity.

I’m talking, of course, about the footage of one of the 1992 presidential primary debates between Bill Clinton and Jerry Brown, in which Clinton savaged Brown for allegedly lying about his record on taxes.

So, suffice it to say, the Whitman campaign found gold in them hills, using Clinton’s very words to whittle rip away at fellow Democrat Brown – to bolster the case that Whitman is trying to make. In fact, Clinton made Whitman’s case so well, her admakers didn’t have to do much more than add a snappy slogan at the end. Here’s the ad that has caused so much ruckus, as I reported on here and here:

With 40 years of material at its disposal, the possibilities for Whitman’s oppo research team are almost as unlimited as her bank acount.

As good and effective as the Clinton ad was (never mind accuracy for the moment, and discounting how ineffective it may become now that Clinton has repudiated his own words), you can be sure there are other pearls the Whitman campaign is sitting on, with equal or greater devastation. It really is a matter of whether the Whitman campaign believes its path to the governorship is through a wholesale search and destroy mission.

The Whitman team, led by Mike Murphy, has been called out by news organizations and fact-checkers for straying from outright ignoring the truth on several fronts. But, operating under the principle once laid out by a top official in the Bush administration (many believed him to be adviser Karl Rove), it appears that the Whitman folks have created their own reality and aren’t worried about how the “reality-based community” sees it.

So, the Brown campaign complains and demands Whitman to pull the ad down, pointing out that even the original author of a report that Clinton used to savage Brown in that debate acknowledged his information was wrong.

Clinton himself comes out and endorses Brown, disavows what he said 18 years ago, and still the Whitman team holds fast. So, what’s a campaign to do? Go negative, of course.

With great reluctance, says Brown’s campaign manager Steve Glazer, while wiping off the saliva from his lips. In truth, campaign strategists relish being in the attack mode. Reporters don’t consider it a real race until the swords start clanking and blood spills.

Some will whine and question how Brown, after stating his disgust with the negative tone of the Republican primary, can add to the effluvium. How can he not? Conflict is part of our DNA as a political body. Anything less would be considered unAmerican.

All that by way of an introduction to Brown’s first two negative ads, below:

and this:

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  • RR, Uninvited Columnist

    Hey, hot-shot! Youse like dem big woids! Effluvium is one dude’s stream, effluvia is a coupla suckers’ spewin.’

  • Ryan

    “As good and effective as the Clinton ad was (never mind accuracy for the moment, and discounting how ineffective it may become now that Clinton has repudiated his own words),”

    I find this line to be rather disingenuous as Brook concluded in his review of his CNN report that “The point I was trying to make in 1992 remains valid”.

    http://www.factcheck.org/2010/09/jerry-brown-and-california-taxes/

    Also Clinton’s repudiation of his own words is about as genuine as Brown saying that he thinks Clinton was an excellent president.

    http://www.verumserum.com/?p=17101
    It is quite obvious that the two are being all supportive of each other now that it is politically expedient to do so

  • Steven Harmon

    Ryan, here’s the rest of the story. But I’ll let my colleagues at Calbuzz explain:

    (Whitman is) clinging to Jackson’s argument that his report was essentially “valid.”

    “As I said then, rising taxes in Brown’s early years helped bring about a tax revolt. It came in the form of Proposition 13” Jackson wrote.

    But in this context, that’s misleading. Those “rising taxes” were the result of inflation in the housing market – not Brown’s tax policies. By trying now to make it look like his original report had merit, Jackson has given Whitman an excuse to perpetuate her lie.

    Yes, Brown vehemently opposed Proposition 13 – as did eMeg campaign chairman Pete Wilson and most other people in public office. And once it was passed, he implemented it with relish and allowed state spending to increase, spending down a big surplus, to make up for billions in funding lost by cities, counties and schools.

    Despite that, Brown’s spending as governor – adjusted for inflation and population, as economists do when comparing dollars in and out over time – were actually lower than his predecessor, Ronald Reagan. The Associated Press has a story detailing that fact.

  • ryan

    “But in this context, that’s misleading. Those “rising taxes” were the result of inflation in the housing market – not Brown’s tax policies. By trying now to make it look like his original report had merit, Jackson has given Whitman an excuse to perpetuate her lie.”

    I’m inclined to disagree with that statement because Brown, as governor, was responsible for the management of the state. If the state’s tax structure at the time made its people vulnerable to inflation in the housing market and he did nothing to stop the subsequent spike in taxes then he is responsible for implementing a policy of inaction. His outspoken opposition to the ensuing tax revolt (prop 13) gives further evidence that he was fine with taxes going up. The fact that Wilson opposed it as well is irrelevant, he isn’t running for office and if he were I’m sure everyone would judge him for it at well.

    “Despite that, Brown’s spending as governor – adjusted for inflation and population, as economists do when comparing dollars in and out over time – were actually lower than his predecessor, Ronald Reagan. The Associated Press has a story detailing that fact.”

    This last point you make is the point I believe Brook tries to refute in his analysis. The lower state spending is a result of 13 and the revolt in three ways: directly (instant tax relief), indirectly (raising vote thresholds), and through politicians realizing lower taxes were in style with the voters. Brown saw this and went with the political wind by implementing prop 13 and cutting spending. Though one should note that he worked to raise taxes by the end of his second term.

    In short, Brown went from pro to anti and back to pro tax through his terms and to declare him one or the other ignores the larger picture.

  • Elwood

    Comcast pulls latest Whitman ad.

    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/blogs/nov05election/detail?entry_id=72374

    Liar, liar, pants on fire!

  • ryan

    sorry Elwood, that is the union add against Meg Whitman

  • Elwood

    Oops!

    Make that latest lying anti-Whitman ad from the desperate Brown forces.

    Remember, remember, on the 2nd of November:

    IT IT’S BROWN, FLUSH IT!

    Hear that gurgling sound?

    It’s Jerry circling the drain.