Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS super PAC is out with a new ad today, decrying the Obama campaign for "going negative," which for our purposes basically means registering objections with the premises that underlie Mitt Romney's campaign.
But, the Crossroads folks imagine themselves to have a good case, based upon the fact that earlier as a candidate Barack Obama made a bunch of high-flown promises about creating a new sort of politics -- promises made contemporaneously against a fantastically negative campaign that attacked Sen. John McCain. As we noted in our wrap-up post last Friday, Obama's success in assembling the reputation of an "above-the-fray" politician in 2008 is having some blowback in 2012, precisely because of the media's amnesia on the matter of Obama's being a negative campaigner.
Well, here it comes. Rove et al, in this new ad, avail themselves of many statements made by people on Obama's side of the ideological spectrum professing to be upset with the negative tone of the Obama campaign. This includes my boss, Arianna Huffington, who makes an appearance criticizing the ad Bill Clinton made for Obama on the Osama bin Laden mission, which she termed "despicable." (Ed Rendell and Cory Booker also show up in the ad: They are here to defend against attacks on private equity, an industry that provides each with political patronage and donors. Obama and Clinton also court the same donor base, for an added layer of irony and confusion.)
Karl Rove coming out against the politics of "fear" is a truly vertigo-inducing phenomenon. It's like the pope coming out against Communion wafers. It's like Ian MacKaye making an ad for malt liquor. It is difficult to believe.
And, in fact, you shouldn't believe it. Six months ago, Crossroads was cutting fearmongering ads painting Elizabeth Warren as a buddy to bailout fat cats. In mid-May, Crossroads did much the same with Obama -- releasing a negative ad that strikes the same tone of any of the ones we've seen from Team Obama Reelect.
What's happened since then is that Crossroads had its sins washed clean in a New York Times story that depicted the group as taking a kinder, subtler tone in the campaign. What was particularly ridiculous about this is that this piece in the Times was written by the same reporter who a week earlier wrote about Crossroads contributions toward "an unusually heavy and vicious air war as outside political groups assume a larger role than ever."
Huffington stands by her earlier criticism of the Bill Clinton-Osama bin Laden ad but also finds it ironic that Rove is trying to trade on the high road. She told me today, "I consider all political fear mongering despicable, whether it comes from Republicans, who elevated it to an art form during the last Bush administration -- including American Crossroads' co-founder Karl Rove and former Vice President Dick Cheney, with his patented 'what if' scenarios of mass murder -- or from Democrats, as in the 3 a.m. call ad Hillary Clinton used against Obama in their primary battle, or in the insinuation that Romney would not kill Osama in this latest ad."
You can read my take on the Obama team's bin Laden ad, along with a historical compendium of fear-stoking ads through several generations of politics, here.
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