Early reviews of Campaign 2006 may foreshadow an ugly Fall campaign.
Republican attack ads in California’s June 6 special House election have been called “trash…a sleazy smear campaign…below the belt…rubbish.” And that’s from the San Diego Union-Tribune, which endorsed Bush in 2004.
An ad from liberal MoveOn.org Political Action are described as “loaded with the sort of innuendo and half-truths that mar modern campaign advertising” by the Virginia Pilot, which endorsed John Kerry.
The bad reviews are being quoted by both sides, selectively, in response ads.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee aired an ad May 19 responding to earlier Republican attacks against candidate Francine Busby.
“Trash” & “Rubbish” In California
(A picture of Bilbray and a trash can with the newspaper quotes on screen.)
Announcer: Trash, rubbish, a sleazy smear campaign, that’s how the Union Tribune described the campaign Bilbray supporters are running against Francine Busby. Now Bilbray is attacking her on immigration.
Announcer: But Busby opposes amnesty for illegal immigrants, and supports tougher defense of our borders.
Announcer: And Brian Bilbray, he missed a vote to put a thousand new border patrol agents on our border. Why? He was on another special interest junket. Isn’t it time for a change?
Announcer: The Democratic National Committee is responsible for the content of this advertising.
The DCCC ad begins: “Trash, rubbish, a sleazy smear campaign, that’s how the Union-Tribune described the campaign Bilbray supporters are running against Francine Busby.”
That accurately quotes an April 29 San Diego Union-Tribune editorial, which noted that Busby had done well in a traditionally Republican district during the April 11 primary elections, and added:
San Diego Union-Tribune: …Busby’s showing was hardly reason for the Republicans to panic with a sleazy smear campaign. But that’s what the NRCC did, buying substantial television time for an attack ad that portrays Busby as a defender of teachers who engage in child pornography. What rubbish.
The editorial refers to an NRCC ad we criticized in an earlier article. The ad said Busby “praised a teacher reported to have child porn” but failed to mention she voted to fire him.
The Union-Tribune’s criticism of the GOP ad comes from a newspaper that endorsed President Bush for re-election in 2004, and has no special affection for Busby. In fact, on May 17 it endorsed her Republican opponent Brian Bilbray in spite of its disgust for the NRCC’s ad, saying his stance on immigration is “much more sensible” than Busby’s.
The May 17 editorial also criticized both the NRCC and DCCC ad campaigns:
San Diego Union-Tribune: Lamentably for voters, the party apparatchiks in Washington have hijacked the airwaves with a dismaying barrage of attack ads. Studded with brutal personal assaults, the television campaigns of both parties are truly insulting to voters. To begin with, the commercials are irrelevant to the genuine concerns of the electorate. Worse, they help through their cynicism to alienate voters from the political process.
“Innuendo and Half-Truths” in Virginia
Virginia’s Republican Rep. Thelma Drake was among four GOP incumbents attacked by ads from the liberal advocacy group MoveOn.org Political Action. We reviewed those ads here.
Drake Ad: “Negative Nasty”
Announcer: Seen the nasty negative ads run by Phil Kellum’s allies? The Pilot says the ads attacking Thelma Drake are way over the top. Smearing her for a bill passed before she was elected to Congress. The Pilot says the ads are false. Phil Kellum’s liberal attack dogs are making things up, and Phil Kellum says:
(quotes from newspaper appear enlarged and circled in red)
Kellum: I’m not sure.
Announcer: We are. Phil Kellum is wrong. He should do something to stop the nasty ads.
Drake: I’m Thelma Drake and I approve this message.
Drake came back May 19 with her own ad about “the nasty negative ads run by [Democratic candidate] Phil Kellum’s allies.” It accurately quotes the Virginia Pilot newspaper calling the MoveOn ads “false,” and “over the top.”
In fact, the newspaper’s May 9 editorial caught one distortion that we had missed in our own analysis. One of the MoveOn ads faulted Drake for supporting the 2003 Medicare prescription drug law, when in fact Drake was first elected in November 2004 and was not in Congress to vote on the Medicare prescription drug bill.
In general the Virginia Pilot complained that MoveOn had reached into the “dirty-tricks bag of political operatives” to tar Drake with “guilt by association.” MoveOn’s ads said she was “another Republican caught red-handed,” associating her with convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff and indicted former House majority leader Tom DeLay, as though it was a crime to take donations from oil companies and prescription drug makers while supporting legislation they favored. The Virginia Pilot said:
Virginia Pilot: [T]o twist Drake’s $7,500 in oil- and gas-company donations and $5,000 from a pharmaceutical company into a link with Abramoff is way over the top. You’d never know this from the ad, but Drake wasn’t even in Congress when the Medicaid prescription drug bill she’s tarred for “supporting” was passed.
MoveOn.org has plausible deniability for every word in the Drake ads. But the overall impression that she has participated in corrupt, illegal acts is false.
The Virginia Pilot endorsed Democratic candidate John Kerry for President in 2004.
Footnote: Another “Missed Vote”
The DCCC’s ad against Bilbray says the former House member “missed a vote to put a thousand new border patrol agents on our border.” It’s true that Bilbray was not present in August 1999 when the Department of Justice, State and Judiciary spending bill came up for a vote. It is also true the bill proposed to add 1,000 new border patrol agents.
However, the bill passed 217-210, so Bilbray’s absence changed nothing. Furthermore, he was present nearly three months later for the much closer 215-213 vote on final passage of the measure. At that time 195 Democrats voted against the measure, which President Clinton eventually vetoed. So once again the DCCC is faulting Republican Bilbray for failing to support a bill 90 per cent of Democrats opposed.
The ad says Bilbray missed the first vote because “he was on another special interest junket.” This is the same trip mentioned in another ad we analyzed on May 17. Bilbray said the trip was paid for by the Australian American Business Leaders Forum.
-by Justin Bank & Emi Kolawole
Watch DCCC Ad: “Real”
Watch Drake Ad: “Nasty Negative”
“Bilbray for Congress; Illegal immigration is key issue in hot race,” The San Diego Union-Tribune.B8. 17 May 2006.
Congressional Record. H10835-H10836.
“Departments of Commerce, Justice, and State, the Judiciary, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2000,” United States House of Representatives. HR 2670. 106th Congress.
“Moveon missteps on Drake attack ad,” The Virginian Pilot. 9 May 2006.
“Political Trash: GOP ad in 50th hits below the belt,” San Diego Union-Tribune. 29 Apr 2006.
United States House of Representatives. Roll Call Vote No. 387. 106th Congress.
United States House of Representatives. Roll Call Vote No. 518. 106th Congress.