I'm not sure whether that’s still true. These days, it seems to be “he who throws mud feels fairly confident of redefining the discussion.”
The thing 35 percent of Americans picked as their least favorite element of campaign season? The negative ads.
Americans hate negative ads. It is because of this that you wind up in November with maybe six disillusioned-looking people standing at the polls grumbling about picking the “lesser of two evils.”
In fact, an effective tactic might be to run an ad saying, “My opponent wants to coat the airwaves in negative ads,” except that such an ad might collapse under its own logic.
We hate them so much that we are willing to denounce even the ones that don’t happen.
Or so it would seem.
But he’s most recently raised a stir with one that didn’t even make it out of the twinkle-in-an-ad-maker’s eye stage. The New York Times reported on the anti-Obama ad, being pitched to Joe Ricketts, which featured references to everything from 9/11 to Reverend Jeremiah Wright. “The 54-page proposal was professionally bound and illustrated with color photographs, indicating that it is far beyond a mere discussion,” the Times wrote, with no apparent irony.
But it didn’t happen.
I think this is the politest way the New York Times can come up with of saying that this is a slow news week.
Also, the line of attack — that Barack Obama was wrongly portrayed as a “metrosexual, black Abe Lincoln” misses the point that — hey, a “metrosexual black Abe Lincoln” actually sounds pretty cool. Condescending, sure. But not uncool.
Still, this is probably a good time to tell you about the attack ad that I am planning.
Rest assured that it is printed on very, very glossy paper and neatly bound together, so you should take it as seriously as possible.
After all, the best way to stop people from using small weapons is to get a really big weapon and sit on it while glaring pointedly in their direction.
So with this in mind, I bring you the nuclear option of attack ads.
This is versatile. It will work for anyone.
And it’s lethal.
VIDEO: An elegant, visual feast. You thought that proposed Jeremiah Wright video was an “elegant visual feast”? This is an elegant visual BANQUET.
AUDIO: This film is narrated by Morgan Freeman, as God. For certain especially taxing portions of the narration, Tom Hanks holds his hand and sits there silently, just to add value.
VIDEO: Several shots of an egg. A phone rings in the background. It is 3 a.m.
The egg does not answer the phone.
The phone continues to ring.
CUT TO: A father, mother, daughter and son family of optimistic-looking American homeowners stand proudly in front of their farm and small business.
AUDIO: We had faith. We had hope.
CUT TO: For no reason, the words “CHAPPAQUIDDICK WATERGATE MONICA LEWINSKY SECRETLY CONSTRUCTING A DEATH STAR??? DEMOC-RATS REPUBLIC-RATS LIES WEINERGATE HUBRIS SNAKEHEADS SNAPE KILLS DUMBLEDORE” scroll rapidly across the screen.
AUDIO: Now all we have — is charity.
CUT TO: The farm family again. The daughter is now evidently addled by illegal drugs and sending ill-advised sexts. The son looks like he is being ill-served by the public school system. We zoom in on the weathered and increasingly despondent face of the father as his cow dies in the corner of the screen, masked figures sneak over the fence and steal his livelihood, and an ominous BANKER-LIKE FIGURE comes and nails “FORECLOSED” on the door of his home.
AUDIO: Real Americans are hurting.
CUT TO: A bat-like creature with flaming red eyes swoops across the screen, breathing fire. Clocks melt. Teeth fall out. The farmer is forced to give a public speech for which he has not adequately prepared.
AUDIO: The American dream has become an AMERICAN NIGHTMARE!
CUT TO: footage of Adolf Hitler. We can tell that he is speaking about OPPONENT because the subtitles say so.
AUDIO: How could we have been so stupid?
CUT TO: Emotionally manipulative footage of every major and minor American tragedy, including, but not limited to, Pearl Harbor, 9/11, the Oklahoma City bombing, the Titanic, the sinking of the USS Maine, extinction of passenger pigeons, death of Michael Jackson, box office failure of “John Carter,” death of the famously obese cat Meow, limited success of OWN as a cable channel.
AUDIO: These are the stakes.
VIDEO: Footage of Hitler, Mussolini, Saddam Hussein, Satan, Joseph McCarthy, Judas Iscariot, Emperor Palpatine, Osama Bin Laden, Hannibal Lecter, John Wayne Gacy, Lord Voldemort, Saul Alinsky and the Eye of Sauron, clearly engaged in some sort of debauched orgy.
Zoom slowly in to the center of the shot to reveal Stalin cradling CHILD VERSION OF OPPONENT in his arms and reading him a book of COMMUNIST PRECEPTS AND HUMAN FLESH RECIPES.
AUDIO: But with an upbringing like that, what else would you expect?
VIDEO: Flip-book of RAPIDLY AGING OPPONENT. In each picture he is gleefully trampling the American flag and shooting lightning from his fingertips. The lightning somehow increases the national debt.
AUDIO, only semi-logically, but Morgan Freeman sells it: After all, you are what you eat.
VIDEO: An aged veteran, seated on a Hoveround, stares sadly into the camera.
AUDIO: Was it for this that this man died fighting in the jungles of Guam?
VIDEO: A child methodically picks the petals off a daisy.
ZOOM IN on the child’s eye. Nuclear bomb explodes.
AUDIO: Also, if you elect OPPONENT, someone will blow up your toddler.
Fade to black.
It’s perfect. Just put it on the air, and everyone loses. Guaranteed.