Last week, we wrote about reports that President Obama was intentionally trolling America in order to keep favored issues in the news. The strategy, dubbed “stray voltage” employed intentionally misleading statistics or data so that news networks and fact-checkers would devote airtime to debating the truth of the claim. It was the political equivalent of the “any publicity is good publicity” quote.
But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is employing a different, and even more subversive tactic in a desperate attempt to keep his party in power: False personal attacks.
The perfect example of this mudslinging strategy was in 2012 presidential race when Reid claimed in an interview, without any substantiation whatsoever, that Mitt Romney didn’t pay income taxes for a decade.
“He didn’t pay taxes for 10 years! Now, do I know that that’s true? Well, I’m not certain,” Reid told the Huffington Post.
And when asked for proof he said, “The burden should be on [Romney]. He’s the one I’ve alleged has not paid any taxes.”
Now, Reid, through his Senate Majority PAC, is back, doing its best to throw vicious (and false) smears at any candidate who threatens his perch atop the Senate.
The PAC recently went up with an ad attacking Senate candidate Tom Cotton for being “paid handsomely working for insurance company,” implying that he would work with them to dismantle Medicare. He has another one alleging that Rep. Bill Cassidy, who is challenging Sen. Mary Landrieu in Louisiana, fought to “let flood insurance premiums soar” and “cut off hurricane relief for Louisiana families.” And another ad, this time from the Reid-associated Put Alaska First PAC, suggests that GOP candidate Dan Sullivan may not be “one of us,” a political slur in Alaska.
The problem is that none of those attacks are at all true. Tom Cotton worked for a consulting firm called McKinsey & Company, which lists insurance as one of their areas of expertise, but he never has an insurer as a client. As Politifact, which rated the ad “FALSE,” pointed out, the closest Cotton ever got was working with the Federal Housing Authority to “improve insurance offered to lenders who finance apartment buildings in the government’s multifamily housing programs.” Not exactly the kind of client who is setting their sights on dismantling Medicare.
And the Cassidy ad is completely bogus. Rather than let flood insurance rates soar, he ran an amendment, that later formed the core of a legislative solution, to create
long-term relief from draconian rate increases. And the claim that he cut off hurricane relief funds is made up out of whole cloth. The ad is so egregious that the Washington Post’s “Fact Checker” said “[t]elevision stations in Louisiana should be ashamed of falling for such an obvious gambit” and that standards should be higher “if residents are going to have a civil political debate.”
As to the claim that Dan Sullivan is “not one of us,” i.e. a true Alaskan, it’s true that he has spent time out of state – as a decorated Marine serving two tours in the Middle East, and then returning to Washington to serve as assistant secretary of state. But it’s not like he has no Alaska bona fides. After all, he did serve as Alaska’s attorney general and Natural Resources Commissioner.
These types of ridiculous ad hominem attacks do nothing to advance the debate. They are purely meant to mislead; to make Republican candidates appear to be bad guys, working with shadowy companies to undermine government programs or trying to hurt their very own constituents for a few dollars in campaign donations. As Fred Barnes writes in the Weekly Standard, there’s a name for this misguided line of attack:
There’s a name for this strategy—the politics of personal destruction. It was successful in 2012 in transforming Romney’s image into that of an uncaring, greedy corporate boss who made millions while shutting down companies and throwing workers out of jobs. In one Obama ad, Romney was falsely blamed for the cancer death of a worker’s wife. . .
The chief practitioner of the Romney strategy today is Senate majority leader Harry Reid, who is desperate to keep Republicans from taking control of the Senate in the November midterm elections. The ads are the handiwork of Reid’s Senate Majority PAC or its sister organization, the Patriot Majority PAC.
As reckless as Reid’s PAC ads are, they’ve attracted little attention from the mainstream media, much less prompted any indignation. Such permissiveness should worry Republicans, since it’s likely to lead Reid to continue his unscrupulous offensive.
Actually, it should worry Americans, because they deserve better than these types of personal attacks. They deserve ideas for a brighter future.