Friday, November 03, 2006

Desperate or do they just know their base

You don't need to have been alive and old enough to follow poitics in 1964 to have heard of Lyndon Johnson's infamous Daisy ad.

That's the ad that showed a little girl picking petals off a daisy and then cut to a shot of an atomic bomb being tested. The subtle point being that Barry Goldwater's extremism in defense of liberty far from being no vice was the sort of craziness that would lead to the world's getting blown up. Goldwater was nutty enough to drop the bomb or provoke the Russins into dropping one of theirs.

I saw the ad in college in an introductory course on broadcasting and film. Almost 20 years after the election the ad was being used as an example of effective, but heinous propaganda. The ad was considered so egregious, our prof told us, that Johnson was shamed into pulling it after it had aired only once.

Flash forward to 2006. From the Times Herald-Record's On the Campaign Trail column today: More proof that the Republican Right learned all the worst lessons of the 1960s.

The race for the 19th Congressional District must be closer than anyone thought. This week, Rep. Sue Kelly, R-Katonah, dropped an atomic bomb on the campaign of her Democratic opponent, John Hall.

Her weapon of mass destruction? A glossy, trifold brochure featuring the face of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il and at least four images of mushroom clouds. Hall's image appears among these icons of Armageddon intermixed with quotes from the Democrat that Kelly argues add up to this national security policy:

"Dismantle our defense. Lay down our arms. Hope for the best."

Sounds like Kelly's desperate. On the other hand, fear-mongering to rile up the base is Republican Campaign Tactic Number One, the first and most important chapter in the Lee Atwater/Karl Rove playbook---and by the way, when I was comparing the first President Bush to his son the other day and the father was coming off looking good by the comparison, I didn't forget that the first real Atwater run campaign, which means the first of the Rovian campaigns, was waged by George Senior in 1988.

I used to tell the blonde back then, Mark my words! George Bush will rue the day he ever heard of Willie Horton.

Yes, I used to say things like Mark my words and rue the day.

I wonder if George Herbert Walker Bush looks at the mess his son is in, the messes his son has caused, the way he's ruined his brother Jeb's Presidential hopes and made the name Bush a curse word around the world, and thinks, God I wish I'd just fired those two sumnabitches Rove and Atwater when I had the chance.

Probably not.

As for Kelly and her mushroom clouds---Doesn't the Bush League position on North Korea, Blame It On Bill, in fact, don't all their positions, on the bankrupt treasury and wasted surplus, on getting caught with their pants down on 9/11, on the broken levees in New Orleans, all those things that are Bill's fault, depend on the base accepting the idea that for the last six years their hero-king has been virtually powerless?

I mean, I know they believe that Clinton was the worst President since FDR, but do they believe that he was so bad that even the divinely-chosen St George, with all his miraculous powers to keep us safe from terrorism just by wishing it, hasn't been able to fix any of Clinton's mistakes?

Do they think that even though for the last six years Bush has been totally overwhelmed he's going to suddenly find his way in the next two?

John Hall doesn't seem much concerned about Kelly's last ditch attempt to paint him as a traitor and surrender monkey. He's probably buoyed up by something he heard from his brother-in-law when he first told his family he was running for Congress.

Hall told this story when I met him at Night Bird Lizzy's house back in June.

Hall's wife's family includes a bunch of West Point graduates. His brother-in-law teaches there. He has a nephew who's a cadet there now. When Hall told his brother-in-law the news, his brother-in-law said, "Who're you running against?"

Hall told him, Sue Kelly.

His brother-in-law's response was subdued. "YES!" he shouted, pumping his fist several times.

Hall asked his brother-in-law what he had against Kelly. His brother-in-law said, "She talks the talk, but she doesn't walk the walk." By which he meant that like a lot of Bush League Republicans, her support for the military is a matter of calling the troops heroes while sending them off to war underequipped, undermanned, untrained for the mission, and with no good plan for bringing them home, using them as cannon fodder and flypaper, letting them die to protect the President's ego and the Republicans' majority, and then hiding their coffins when they come back.

For the likes of Sue Kelly the troops are just another prop in their campaign theater. They are part of their play, The War on Terror, which from the outset has been more useful for the Republican than necessary. They are serious about using it defeat Democrats and stifle dissent and about nothing else.

Bill Clinton was in the district Monday, stumping for Hall, and he summed up the Republicans' basic position:

"OK, we messed up, but you still have to vote for us. Because if you vote for those terrible Democrats, they will tax you into the poorhouse and, as you're going, you will meet a terrorist on every street corner and, when you try to run away, you will trip over an illegal immigrant. I mean, isn't that it?"


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