The Blame Game
The squirm-inducing moments that followed were the result of weeks of negative campaign ads and heightened media coverage of this negative campaigning. The Project for Excellence in Journalism recently reported that "for the first time in a month, the 2008 campaign generated more coverage than the financial crisis." The story that trumped the financial crisis (between October 6-12)? Increased negative campaigning and attacks.
In the debate, Sen. John McCain hammered Sen. Barack Obama about his relationship with William C. Ayers. This came in light of weeks of McCain's campaign trying to make an issue of the relationship, with running mate Sarah Palin going so far as to claim that Obama "pals around with terrorists."
McCain also accused Obama in the debate as having "spent more money on negative ads than any political campaign in history," adding, "And I can prove it." Obama, for his part, countered that "100 percent" of McCain's ads "have been negative." Additionally, the Obama campaign recently released a 13-minute documentary-style campaign ad, complete with its own website, detailing John McCain's relationship to the so-called Keating Five.
However, it appears that the candidates may not be slinging mud in the same quantity or velocity. According to an article in the October 16 edition of the Wall Street Journal, an independent study reports that "higher proportion of Sen. McCain's ads are negative than Sen. Obama's." And voters are noticing. According to a New York Times/CBS News poll released on Wednesday - which Obama quoted in the debate - 61% of respondents felt that McCain engaged in more negative campaigning, compared to 31% of respondents who felt that Obama did.
These same voters are none too happy about the political mud-slinging going on, no matter who they feel is contributing the most to the heated political fray. However, the same Wall Street Journal article referenced above notes a silver lining to this flood of negativity. "Attack ads," the article notes, "are more likely to be about issues than are positive ads. They're likely to contain more information, back up their claims with evidence and delve into details."
It seems then, that despite the bad reputation attack ads get, there may be something good, or at least valid, in all that mud. Thus, as with all other campaign information, it behooves voters to neither accept nor reject an attack ad at face value, but rather investigate the claims it makes as much as possible on their own. With the election less than three weeks away, we all owe it to ourselves not to be thrown by the hype - campaign created, media-induced, or otherwise - and stick to the facts.
To watch current campaign ads, or view those from elections past (did you know campaigns used to have musical ads?) visit the Living Room Candidate.