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GOP pushes panic button

The Utah Spectrum | October 23 2006

In a move LBJ's strategists would have loved, the Republican Party Sunday launched a TV ad showing Osama bin Laden and quoting his threats to America.

The ad includes footage of explosions, fires and terrorists in action. "These are the stakes," the ad concludes. "Vote November 7."

And so a desperate party tries to frighten disaffected conservatives and wavering swing voters into going to the polls and pressing the "R" button.

"R," in this case, also stands for "Rerun."

TV ads such as this have a long, deplorable history, from Lyndon Johnson's infamous 1964 ad showing a child picking daisies amid a countdown for a nuclear blast to the Willie Horton ad blaming Michael Dukakis for a robbery and rape committed by a prisoner he helped release. Both ads did a number on their intended targets: Barry Goldwater and Dukakis, both honorable public servants who deserved better treatment.

In every case, the tactic damaged the electoral process, warping honest debate about the candidates' issues and character and manipulating voters with fear.

This time, the party that hopes to benefit is the one that is on the defensive because of the Mark Foley sex scandal and a high-casualty war in Iraq. It is also the party of the White House that just five years ago admonished TV networks against airing video messages from bin Laden, calling them "propaganda."

Apparently, it's now "good" propaganda.

What a despicable thing political campaigns have become. Strategists try to outdo one another in venomousness, and voters have to fight off nausea to get to the polls.

Who thought it would ever have to be said? Terrorism should never be exploited in the name of democracy.


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