Mudslinging is nothing new in politics, but television has magnified it to unimagined proportions. One need not make a speech or issue a press release to attack an opponent. It can be done more effectively in a 30-second television commercial, and the attacking candidate can appear to avoid responsibility. He can have the job done by hired guns -- by emotionally charged film and anonymous voice-over announcers. . . .
Negative commercials are aired because they work. They tear down opponents. They overcome seemingly insurmountable odds, and they win elections. . . . They demean the candidates. They disgust the public. They destroy our sense of fairness. They transform the democratic process into guerrilla warfare.
Recently many people have commented about the mood of ill will they have noticed in the U.S. Senate. They have noted a testiness and lack of comity among the members. The Senate has been called "The Club," but it is not so club-like anymore. One does not feel part of a club if he thinks other members are keeping tabs on his every move. Some senators fear that if they miss committee hearings, even on minor subjects, their absence will be noted and will be made an issue in the next campaign. There should be little wonder that Congress cannot function in this atmosphere. There should be little wonder that it fails in its most basic tasks. It cannot even pass a budget resolution. I am convinced that negative commercials have damaged both campaigns for Congress and Congress itself.