The Mud Will Fly In 2008

[ Posted Wednesday, October 17th, 2007 – 10:10 UTC ]

This column really should be called "Variations on a Theme," as it continues the thought I began on Monday ("Will 2008 Be A Ho-Hum Election?") -- what kind of campaign will it turn out to be if we wind up with Hillary Clinton versus Rudy Giuliani? (As I said previously, I am not going out on a limb here and predicting that the race will come down to Clinton and Giuliani, but given their poll numbers it is certainly plausible that they will be the nominees next year.) While Monday's article examined the relative lack of enthusiasm for each candidate from within their own parties, today I'd like to look at the negative enthusiasm against the candidates from their opposition.

Hillary's detractors are well-known (and vocal). Hillary's negatives are also well-known. For whatever reason (I've never quite understood why, myself) Hillary also provokes an almost irrational amount of seething hatred against her from the right wing. None of this is earth-shattering news to anyone who hasn't been under a rock since 1992.

But what is going to surprise many in the middle of the political spectrum (those all-important "undecided voters") is the fact that Rudy also has plenty of baggage as well. Now, Republicans in the primary season are supposed to follow the "Eleventh Commandment" handed down from on high by Saint Ronald of Reagan -- "Thou shalt speak no ill of a fellow Republican." So far, all the Republican challengers have been mostly behaving themselves. This may change, though, as the challengers get more and more desperate to boost their poll numbers before the primaries. And the Democratic nominee is certainly not going to pull punches if Rudy is nominated by the GOP.

Add to this the impression that both Rudy Giuliani and Hillary Clinton have been exuding that they really really want to win -- much more than the other candidates on both sides of the political divide. Rudy and Hillary are sharp and commanding and downright hungry for victory on the campaign trail and in debates. The other candidates, not so much.

Put all of this together, and you have a recipe for one of the nastiest, slimiest, mudslingin'-est campaigns of all time.

If it is Clinton v. Giuliani next year, it will be interesting that both sides will be getting the opponent that will be (in their own opinion) easiest to beat. Even Karl Rove has been talking up the inevitability of Hillary, with barely concealed glee. The punditocracy, while still holding out for an upset in Iowa, are mostly in agreement that Hillary will be the nominee. The Republican Party, as a whole, is praying for a Hillary win, because they think she'll be so "polarizing" with "such high negatives" that she will be their only decent shot at holding onto the White House. Whether they're right or not is open to discussion, but they certainly aren't concealing their wish for Hillary as opponent next year.

There is no consensus on the Democratic side about who would be easiest to run against. This is largely because the Democrats (for once) are actually positively looking at their candidates on the merits. It's the Republicans (this time around) who are triangulating their vote on who is most "electable" versus the Democrats. This means the Democrats haven't been paying as much attention to the GOP race as vice versa.

Who would be easiest to run against? McCain? Romney? Thompson? Arguments could be made for any of the frontrunners, but for my money it's Giuliani all the way. Rudy would be easiest to beat because... well, because he's Rudy. Pre-9/11, Rudy ran New York City in an authoritarian and prickly way. He has been known to have outbursts of anger, and he's got a record of embarrassing public statements and positions that shouldn't just be considered a "gold mine" for opposition research, but rather as "the Mother Lode" of mud to sling. And that's before you even get to the numerous photos of him in a dress.

As a candidate, Rudy's a one-trick pony with his only issue "9/11," or "terrorism." But even on that, he's vulnerable in a big way. For Pete's sake, the man went to some funerals and soothed people's nerves (because President Bush was still hiding out somewhere), but he didn't fly up into the sky and personally stop the airplanes himself. He's not Superman, in other words. In short, he acted like any decent politician worth his salt and showed some human compassion at a time when the city needed it. This doesn't make you a "hero" by any stretch of the imagination, and there are quite a few New York firefighters eager, willing and able to explain that to America. Post-9/11, Rudy couldn't be bothered to attend the 9/11 commission's hearings because he was too busy personally making money off of 9/11, so eventually the commission kicked him out. Not very "strong on terrorism" there, eh, Rudy?

So both as "Hero of 9/11™" and as "America's Mayor™" Rudy falls short. Which is why I maintain he'd be easiest to beat, because when you strip that away from him, there's nothing left. His positions on everything else are just about the opposite of what the Republican base believes in. He's got Republican feet of clay, to put it bluntly. Which is why Democrats should be cheering Rudy on from the sidelines in the same fashion Republicans are cheering on Hillary.

But it still adds up to not just slinging a little mud, but rather truckloads and truckloads of mud oozing into America's living rooms through ubiquitous television ads all campaign season long. You're going to have to be pretty quick on the remote control, or else wear hip-waders while watching television during campaign season, because it is going to get mighty deep mighty fast.

Think about it. On the one hand, you've got a candidate Republicans are convinced has a "666" mark somewhere on her body (normally that would be considered "hyperbole," but not in this case -- I bet you could find plenty of folks willing to swear on camera that Hillary's the anti-Christ). Then on the other hand, you've got a guy who is so easy to throw mud at, it's not even funny.

And the ads will be nasty. Rudy's campaign will feel no compunction about reminding America of the worst Clinton traits they can dream up, over and over and over again. Hillary's campaign might be a little more circumspect to begin with, and might prefer that the really nasty ads come from independent groups rather than the campaign... but watch for Hillary to slam Rudy Giuliani eventually. Remember, Bill Clinton's campaign "war room" convinced America that his "bimbo eruptions" during the campaign weren't that big a deal, and could be ignored -- a stellar feat during mini-scandals that would have absolutely destroyed a less politically-savvy candidate. Look for that same level of counter-attack from Hillary's campaign as well.

How it will all play out will only be exacerbated by the painfully early primary schedule. If any of the Democratic or Republican contenders go negative at the very end of the primary campaign, it's going to happen over the Christmas holidays (Iowa is voting January 3rd). That's going to put a bad taste for political ads in the whole country's mouth, and that's just the beginning. The rhetoric is going to be ratcheted up all year long. Whether negative ads work or not is not even a debate anymore -- they do work, if done right.

So while (as I said previously) I think that a Rudy-v-Hillary matchup is not really going to excite either side's base much, this election could be decided by which side's base loathes the other side's candidate more.

If this turns out to be the case, we're all going to be in for a very long year.


Cross-posted at The Huffington Post


-- Chris Weigant


15 Comments on “The Mud Will Fly In 2008”

  1. [1] 
    fstanley wrote:

    Political campaigns seem to bring out the worst in people. In a way, it gives us a chance to see how low a candidate is prepared to go in order to win. Voters should ask themselves what kind of human being they want as a president and pay close attention to what campaign tactics may reveal about a person.


  2. [2] 
    Michale wrote:

    I could not possibly agree more with what Stan just posted...


  3. [3] 
    PlacitasRoy wrote:

    the Slime-boating of Kerry was probably the lowest tactic since before the civil war. Fortunately, who even the Democratic candidate is this cycle, they will not stand back and take the high-road of not responding to lies.

  4. [4] 
    Michale wrote:

    Which "lies" are you referring to??

    The "lie" that Kerry mislead Congress as to alleged "atrocities" that he witnessed??

    Or the "lie" about the circumstances surrounding psuedo Medals awarded to Kerry at his own instigation..

    There are many many other examples, but I think you get the point..

    As to the upcoming election, I am not sure what kind of "lies" you are thinking will happen..

    Perhaps you mean the "lie" that Hillary listened in on the private phone calls of political rivals.. Ooops.. That's not a lie, that really happened...

    Frankly, if Hillary actually is the Dem nominee, I don't think the GOP will have to resort to any form of lies...

    There is too much negative truth and facts about Hillary, that the GOP won't even have to bother making anything up...



  5. [5] 
    PlacitasRoy wrote:

    Ok Michale. PUT UP OR SHUT UP.

    You stated "The "lie" that Kerry mislead Congress as to alleged "atrocities" that he witnessed." CITE THE RECORD IN WHICH KERRY SAID HE WITNESSED 'ATTROCITIES." Just to help you begin our investigation, try this link to his congressional testimony; NO CITATION, NO CREDIBILITY.

    You wrote some nonsense about psuedo [sic] Medals awarded to Kerry at his own instigation..,. You fell for lies, propaganda and bullshit that Snopes toughly debunked: “
    Claim: John Kerry's Vietnam War service medals (a Bronze Star, a Silver Star and three Purple Hearts) were earned under "fishy" circumstances. STATUS: FALSE! Read all the details:

    Regarding Hillary and phone calls: “Republicans on Capitol Hill and around the country engaged Tuesday in a coordinated effort to paint Hillary Clinton as hypocritical on the issue of government surveillance, seizing on an ALLEGATION in a recent book that Clinton secretly listened to [TAPE RECORDED] phone conversations of political opponents in 1992.” As if $70 million + squandered by Ken Starr’s investigation and the Congressional Investigations, which included 140 hours of sworn testimony about the Clinton’s Xmas card list, how the White House responded to mail sent to Socks the cat, and iclose to a 1000 subpoenas, wouldn’t have uncovered it. The only logical conclusion: pure bullshit.

    "There are many many other examples, but I think you get the point..' Yeah, I get the point. You regurgitate LIES, propaganda and bullshit. PUT UP OR SHUT UP.

  6. [6] 
    Michale wrote:

    I'll take these in reverse order...

    The "allegation" in the book was a statement of fact. It was never disputed by Clinton or her campaign staff..

    If it is not true, why did they not dispute it??

    Because, it IS true....

    You lose on that point..

    As to John Kerry's Medals..

    But, hay.. I am a fair guy.. All John Kerry has to do is sign the SF-180 Form and release his military records. Then this will ALL be cleared up...

    But wait.. John Kerry SAID he signed it... But, as usual with Kerry, he signed it but then he didn't sign it.. But then he did sign it...

    Go figure..

    The simple fact is, Kerry has so twisted things that one can't even believe him when he says that ice is cold and water is wet...

    As for John Kerry witnessing atrocities, you do get a draw on this round. I was referring to the Winter Soldier Report, but I had misread it. John Kerry was reporting what OTHER people allegedly witnessed. But those reports were never verified or substantiated..

    The simple facts are..

    A> John Kerry is not the war hero you would wish him to be. Well, he WAS a war hero, but then he wasn't... At least, according to him..

    B> Hillary Clinton is more Republican than Democrat..

    C> Politicians are the same thru and thru. Your attempt to try to portray that Democrats are better than Republicans is for naught, because it just ain't so...

    Class dismissed..


  7. [7] 
    PlacitasRoy wrote:

    B> Hillary Clinton is more Republican than Democrat..

    finally we agree on something.

  8. [8] 
    Michale wrote:


    I would be willing to wager you any amount that, if we got away from issues of National Security or Self-Defense, that we would agree on practically everything...


  9. [9] 
    Michale wrote:

    Add HCGW (Human Caused Global Warming) to National Security and Self Defense, as I am sure we disagree.. :D


  10. [10] 
    PlacitasRoy wrote:

    "But those reports were never verified or substantiated..' Never heard of Mi Lai (sp)?
    You're really not so naive to think that attrocities weren't committed...are you?

    The simple fact is that while Dubya was dodging the draft and evading his obligations, Kerry served his country, was wounded in combat, received medals and then close to 40 years later was attacked by partisan hacks and pro-war activists with personal grudges to settle.

    "The "allegation" in the book was a statement of fact." that was just an alligantion with no proof to back it up.

    "If it is not true, why did they not dispute it??" Because logical people decided if the Reich-wing Clinton attack machine, a partisan political special prosecutor, and a few hundred congressional hearings didn’t find any substanciation, there was no credibility to the allegations stated as fact in a single book?

  11. [11] 
    PlacitasRoy wrote:

    I assume you got the Slime boat talking point you referenced in your October 18th, 2007 at 12:59 PDT (3:59 EDT) from the RNC's fund raising e-mail that was distributed 10/18/07 1:21 PM?

    Media Matters has a good report on the 'publicons' latest LIE about the allegations about Hillary's eavesdropping.

    In that report the (Arkansas) Democrat-Gazette, "....The law that [Arkansas] GOP Chairman Dennis Milligan said that now-U.S. Sen. Clinton of New York may have violated [during her husband's 1992 presidential campaign] wasn't on the books until 1993. And the complaint was filed 14 years too late."

  12. [12] 
    Michale wrote:


    >You're really not so naive to think
    >that attrocities weren't committed…are you?

    Of course not..

    You are not so anti-American that you would think that actions committed by a renegade few reflect on the entire country... Are you???

    As far as you quoting Media Matters, you just lost all credibility there..

    Media Matters is a propaganda machine started by Hillary Clinton (at least according to her) and paid for by George Soros...

    It is about as biased and partisan an organization can possibly be...


  13. [13] 
    CDub wrote:

    So you're on record as a believer of Hillary Clinton.

  14. [14] 
    Michale wrote:


    >So you're on record as a
    >believer of Hillary Clinton.


    For the record, I do believe that there is a Hillary Clinton...

    I just don't believe in most of what she stands for.. Including her "pet project" Media Matters, assuming she is telling the truth when she says that she started it...


  15. [15] 
    PlacitasRoy wrote:

    CDub - I think you just got insulted. I'm sure you have as much passion and common sense as Cindy. You probably have more courage than Pelosi& Reid. Doubt if you have the comedic ability of Franken and might probably can't match his intellectual wit....but then again not many people do.

    Michale says "As far as you quoting Media Matters, you just lost all credibility there.." It is a lot easier to dismiss the site than dispute their links and documentation. That’s what I do when I debunk the lies, half truths, and misrepresentations that Newsmax, Sludge, Brent Bozell's POS Newsbusters site, or any of the Reich-wing propaganda outlets. But then again, I like to show specific examples of how the bastards distort and lie.

    I was glad to see Media Matters deconstruct little bow-tie castration phobic Tucker Carlson’s hyping the bullshit story.

    BTW: you forgot to mention the rumor a Reich-wing hater attempted to start on his national radio show: "Dave Brock is the illegitimate bastard child of Hillary Clinton and [philanthropist] George Soros."

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