The freaky stuff will make itself apparent later. First, you will read what I wrote in response to an article for the NBC Bay Area (i.e., television station KNTV San Jose) website by reporter Tom Sinkovitz. The report, titled "Looks Like They Are Staying Negative, Folks," was fleshing out an incident in a joint appearance at an annual state-sponsored "women's conference" by California Governor Schwarzenegger and gubernatorial candidates Jerry Brown (D) and Meg Whitman (R). Conducting a thirty-minute interview with the three of them was NBC's Matt Lauer, host of Today. In the accompanying video clip, you can see Lauer concluding the interview by making an attempt to shape the remaining days of the campaign by trying to shame Whitman and Brown into making a pledge "to end the negativity."
(A brief aside: Notice that only Whitman is pictured in the title frame for this video, and not Brown.)
Matt -- presuming he, y'know, watches NBC News -- was aware at that moment that Brown has opened up a lead in most polls that either is close to or exceeds error margins, and that Whitman must take drastic measures in order to close the gap. As any astute observer knows, that means going (more) negative. It stretches the bounds of credulity to think that Lauer (who, remember, is NOT a California resident) was unaware that Brown has nothing to lose by agreeing to this supposedly spontaneous request, and that he was ever-so-cordially requesting that Whitman fall on her $160 million sword rather than fight to the last moment.
My reaction, posted on the NBC Bay Area site (which was addressed to the piece's author, Tom Sinkovitz):
Oh, you're so disappointed, Tom - politicians aren't going to play nicey-nice. How old are you, 12?
Listen up, kiddies: Negative political tactics weren't invented during this campaign, since the invention of TV, or even in the past two centuries. Thomas Jefferson made remarks about John Adams that would be interpreted nowadays as "homophobic." Grover Cleveland was elected despite the rumors about his having an illegitimate child - John Edwards wasn't the first guy accused of it. You all sound like a mother wincing every time her halfback son gets put on the ground when he carries the ball. It's part of the game, Mom, so get used to it!
What's most ridiculous about such hollow calls for civility in campaigning is that it ignores three realities: 1. Negative campaigning works, 2. Every winning candidate who has a viable opponent has done it and will continue to do it (even YOUR favorite pol), and 3. Voters are NOT now nor have ever been sufficiently informed by political advertising in the first place!
What negative ads do is fill in the blank spots left by the sunny, smiling self-profiles that are like video of a cheeseburger with little resemblance to what you actually unwrap at a franchise joint. In the midst of his ads with teachers lauding his leadership, how many people knew Brown conceded his educational experiments as Oakland mayor [were] a failure before Whitman's negative ad? How many people knew of Whitman's history with Goldman Sachs before Brown's negative ad? Are those things you would have rather NOT known about either candidate before making a choice?
It's not the candidates' job not to offend your fragile sensibilities, it's your job to discover the truth neither side wants to admit, and to cast aside nonsense that has nothing to do with their ability to govern (such as that housekeeper compost Gloria Allred cooked up). It's not fun wading in the muck to get the facts, but you would think people would want to now more than ever. Grow up!
OK, now the spooky part. I wrote that part about Thomas Jefferson's attack on the manliness of John Adams before I was aware of the video below, which it seems was being posted on YouTube at about the same moment. It is Reason.tv's magnificent skewering of bemoaners of the tone of political ads, such as Lauer. Don't drink any beverages as you watch -- you will laugh so hard you will launch it on your screen halfway through, and the rest of it will be all blurry.