Monday, October 6, 2008

About That Radio Ad

A left-of-center source sends me the Collins radio ad script. Here's the beginning of the spot, which has been on the airwaves in recent days:

Where do you begin with Tom Allen? There's the hypocrisy. Allen holds a press conference denouncing negative ads, and then conveniently forgets his pledge and attacks Susan Collins.

Then there are the countless distortions. In his new ad, Allen incredibly blames Susan Collins for the financial meltdown. But the one who voted against stronger financial regulation is Tom Allen.
While I'd usually prefer to wait for aural confirmation of the ad's existence before commenting on it, the Collins campaign isn't exactly rushing to take responsibility for their handiwork here. So I'll just dive in.

Reading the copy, my original suggestion, yesterday, that the ad contains a bald-faced lie now seems misleading, or at least incomplete.

Because the spot actually contains two whoppers.

First: The notion that Allen has "[forgotten] his pledge" is a blatant lie. The pledge itself is a fabrication--Allen never pledged to refrain from criticizing Collins' record. So that's just plain false.

Allen did call on third party groups to keep their ads positive. But that's obviously very different from promising not to draw contrasts with your opponent.

Conflating those two stances--one of which Allen backed and one which he didn't--is disingenuous and deceitful.

It's the campaign equivalent of perjury.

Second: The notion that, of the two candidates, Allen is "the one who voted against stronger financial regulation" is almost equally egregious. It's probably short of an outright lie--there's probably some vote Allen cast that could conceivably be portrayed as having been against a regulation touching on financial matters.

But both in terms of specifics and on the big picture level, the charge is an exercise in up-is-downism.

At the level of specifics: The one piece of financial regulation Susan Collins has said might have helped avert the financial meltdown is the 2005 Federal Housing Finance Reform Act. But Allen actually voted for that bill. It died in the Senate, according to former Rep. Michael Oxley (R-OH), its author, because of opposition from the White House. The Financial Times notes that the bill also "lacked a champion in the Senate." (Too busy holding hearings about Great Lakes Restoration Management, Sen. Collins?)

If Collins has another bill in mind, she ought to say so. But simply calling Allen a foe of regulation, in the absence of evidence, is more smear than critique.

So that takes care of the legislative minutiae.

In terms of the big picture: Look, Susan Collins is the candidate who, in the midst of a historic Wall Street meltdown, insisted that more regulation isn't the answer and tried to shift the discussion from her Wall Street allies and patrons to government-sponsored entities that were only peripherally involved in the crisis.

She routinely votes the interests of multinational corporations, Wall Street and the insurance industry--and in return, they distort her opponent's positions and shower her with their financial support.

So let's get real: Susan Collins is a dream candidate for the anti-regulation forces that have dominated our political system for the last eight years.

Her opponent, meanwhile, has been part of a team fighting the corporate agenda.

If you're Susan Collins, that's certainly not a convenient state of affairs four weeks from election day. But pretending the opposite is preposterous. And Collins can't be allowed to get away with it.

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