Why we should applaud brutally negative campaign ads

The Week's Editorial Staff
The Week

It's ridiculous for anyone to expect Obama to run a clean, high-minded campaign, says Frank Rich at New York. That would be positively un-American

"Barack Obama has made his mistakes as a politician and as a president," says Frank Rich at New York, "but here is one thing he indisputably did right: Pummel Mitt Romney with a volley of attack ads once Romney sewed up the Republican nomination." Republicans and some Democratic allies have admonished Obama for attacking Bain Capital, the private equity firm Romney founded, citing some pseudo-mythic era when American politics were supposedly more wholesome. But the fact of the matter is that negative campaigning is a rich American tradition — and a vital component of the democratic process itself. Here, an excerpt: 

Given the anemic employment numbers and the pack of billionaire GOP sugar daddies smelling blood after their Wisconsin victory, a reboot of hope and change would truly be the re-election campaign's most self-destructive option. Obama is embarking on one of the roughest political races in memory, not a nostalgia tour. He is facing an opponent with a proven record of successful carpet-bombing attacks, as Gingrich and Rick Santorum can attest. ...

The president, any president, should go negative early, often, and without apology if the goal is victory. The notion that negative campaigning is some toxic modern aberration in American democracy is bogus. No campaign may ever top the Andrew Jackson–John Quincy Adams race of 1828, in which Jackson was accused of murder, drunkenness, cockfighting, slave-trading, and, most delicious of all, cannibalism. His wife and his mother, for good measure, were branded a bigamist and a whore, respectively. (Jackson won nonetheless.) ...

Romney could yet succeed in "creating a new character for himself" before the Democrats create a frightening one for him. The task for the Obama campaign... is to nuke him first in 60 seconds of gut-wrenching and — dare one say it? — nauseating TV.

Read the entire article at New York.

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