Bush keeps pulling the same old trick — accuse your opponent of your own dirty secrets, then keep beating the drum till everyone’s confused. In the South Carolina primary he slammed John McCain with a stream of low-blow negative attack ads, then ran a barrage accusing McCain of being the attacker. He painted Gore as a liar and exaggerator, even though Gore’s always been known as a stiff-but-honest statesman and as we’ve all seen Bush is more dishonest than Tricky Dick and Slick Willie put together. Somehow he even managed to accuse Vietnam vet and war hero John Kerry of having a tarnished war record — pretty gutsy move for a draft-dodger who went AWOL.
Now he’s got it down to such an art that he can do both at the same time. His latest ad (which I’ve cached in both original and toned-down versions) starts with the tired whine that “Kerry’s Democratic Party” compares Bush to Hitler — as usual leaving out the fact that the ad in question was one of over a thousand submissions to MoveOn.org’s Bush In 30 Seconds contest, and that MoveOn disavowed and removed the ad from their site as soon as it was noticed. Then under the guise of showing the “wild-eyed” “pessimism and rage” of his opponents he fast-cuts back and forth between shots of Hitler and shots of Gore, Dean, Edwards, Kerry and Michael Moore, all shouting in the same manner. It gets the Hitler comparison across great at a gut level, all the while staying subtle enough that it doesn’t quite blow the cover story of “look how mean they’re being!” I keep wavering between admiration for the psychological artistry and absolute disgust at the underhanded indecency of it all.
Not being the kind of guy who knows when he’s gone too far, if Bush succeeds here I’m sure the sky’s the limit. Who wants to bet before November we see ads accusing Kerry of lying about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction?
Update: the video is now headlining GeorgeWBush.com.
Another update: looking at the video again, I’m also struck by how well the ad plays with size to maximize it’s impact. Watch how it starts with a tiny frame (about 55% total) that grows to near full by the end shot of Kerry. Then they make sure to zoom and crop all the shots of Democrats so they’re more in-your-face and don’t quite fit in frame — by the time you get to Michael Moore’s Oscar acceptance speech he’s been zoomed about 500%. Compare the overall feel to the original snippit.
Yet another update:The NYT notes that the original version of the ad (without the initial disclaimer, added after the Kerry camp complained) is still archived as a part of the Living Room Candidate online museum of campaign ads. I’ve archived both versions, above.