Obama super PAC refuses to pull scurrilous TV ad
posted at 10:45 am on August 10, 2012 by Howard Portnoy
“It was the most negative political ad in American history,” wrote the New York Times in October of 2011. The occasion for the article was a panel discussion by media experts at Louisiana State University, and the ad in question was the infamous “Daisy Ad,” run by the campaign to elect Lyndon Johnson in 1964. The spot depicted an innocent toddler standing in a meadow picking petals off a daisy and counting imperfectly to 9, at which point a thundering male voice replaces her own, counting backward from 10. As the camera pans in on a freeze frame of the little girl’s face, the countdown ends and a mushroom cloud fills the screen. The “Daisy Ad” aired only once but that was enough to help clinch Johnson’s landslide victory over Republican challenger Barry Goldwater.
The ad represented a high mark—or low mark, depending on how you look at it—in political advertising. Either way, it changed the landscape once and for all, leading to complaints like this one:
How does it strengthen our country to pollute our politics with false and mean-spirited attacks?
The speaker was Obama campaign press secretary Bill Burton, and the ad he was grousing about, run by the Washington State Republican Party in 2008, questioned the patriotism of Michelle Obama, who was stumping for Gov. Christine Gregoire.
Burton has since left the Obama administration, more or less, to found Priorities USA, a super PAC that has released its own candidate for the dubious title of “most negative political ad in American history.” Data are not yet available on how many voters have viewed the shameful ad, which falsely imputes a woman’s cancer death to actions taken by Mitt Romney, but Burton has so far intimated that his group has no intention of canceling the spot.
He appeared on the defense during a grilling on Thursday by Anderson Cooper on CNN, where he denied that the intent of the ad was to link Romney with the cancer death of Ranae Soptic, but earlier in the day Burton was more brazen, telling the Huffington Post:
The truth is, there are a lot of sad stories that came as a result of what happened when Mitt Romney was in business. I don’t think those stories should be off limits because they’re particularly heartbreaking.
Questions are now surfacing on whether the Obama administration is colluding with Priorities USA in disseminating the Romney-as-murderer linkage.
In the meantime, a number of Democrats have condemned the ad. Former Rep. Joe Sestak, Pennsylvania Democrat, called it “over the edge,” and Lanny Davis, an adviser to President Clinton, said it is “disgusting.” The ad even managed to raise the hackles of MSNBC co-host Mika Brzezinski, who accused Obama campaign officials of “not telling the truth” about how much they knew about the commercial.
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