District 72 disappointment: A straight denunciation of attack ads without qualification? Sadly, perhaps too much for us to expect.



Bluegill, that makes two of us … and I suspect the number will be growing.

Thanks to my co-editor for pointing to this earlier today. In Disappointed. Already., he describes viewing a political attack ad on television:

In the middle of it, I see Richard Nixon. And Elvis. And an old photo of Bill Cochran smoking a cigarette. Apparently, I was supposed to be outraged that taxes have been raised since 1974 and believe that dead people are somehow forced to write checks posthumously to pay them.

Recognizing the text and images as the same tripe that’s been stacked in my mailbox lately, the only outrage I felt was directed at the state Republican party for not honoring Ed Clere’s request to stop the insulting cannonade.

Then I saw “Paid for by www.edclere.com” at the bottom of the screen. And that wasn’t funny, either.

I don’t watch television, so my personal disappointment came a bit later. I stopped laughing over morning coffee and the Tribune, where reporter Daniel Suddeath brings the general public up to date on the Indiana House Republican Campaign Committee’s snail mailings on Bill Cochran, to which we’ve already devoted much discussion in the blogosphere.

Below the belt in Indiana District 72?, by Daniel Suddeath.

A knife dangles from an outstretched hand. Dirty fingernails clasp around its handle. This menacing image might encourage New Albany residents to lock their doors out of fear. But it’s not a scene from a horror movie. It’s a photograph slapped onto a political flier attacking District 72 State Rep. Bill Cochran for a 1994 vote against House Bill 1335. The bill, among other amendments, included stiffening sentences for convicted cult or ritualistic child abusers.

Previously, Ed Clere discussed the mailings in a statement at NAC.

Clere: “I am interested in substance, and no postcard can change that.”

I had no prior knowledge of the postcard featuring a dirty, knife-wielding hand, and my immediate reaction was visceral. I’m sure that was the intent. The piece was conceived, produced and paid for by an arm of the Indiana Republican Party, and I did not know it was coming until it arrived in my mailbox.

I have been trying to run a positive campaign. Anyone who has heard me talk will agree that my focus is on what I would do, not on what Bill Cochran has or hasn’t done. A particular 1994 vote (the subject of the mailer), whether right or wrong, is of little relevance to me or any other reader of this blog. We are concerned about the future, and we vote based on substantive information, not scare tactics.

Far too many voters, however, vote based on misinformation and exaggerated, out-of-context claims. Our discourse is reduced to sound bites and colorful postcards that inflame rather than inform. In August, I challenged Bill Cochran to a series of debates, and he declined. The vacuum that remains is filled with assumptions, prejudices, “name recognition” and, yes, postcards.

I have contacted the state party and expressed my concerns about the mail piece. I don’t know what else, if anything, may be on the way. I hope any future pieces will focus on me and what I hope to accomplish in Indianapolis. I can’t guarantee they will.

Obviously, they haven’t stopped, but Rovepublican politics as usual is not the reason for my personal disappointment. It is these comments by Clere in this morning’s Tribune article, suggesting that the candidate is becoming more comfortable with the idea of the state committee sliming Cochran from afar (italics mine).

“I had no prior knowledge of any of the mailings. At the same time, I’m thankful the state party has taken an interest in my race,” he said. “I would have perhaps chosen to communicate the message in a more positive manor. But the message itself is based on his record.”

And …

Clere said the fliers could be a vacuum effect from lack of debates. He said Cochran would not agree to any debates, though Clere claims he first requested three to be held in August.

Hmm. It’s not about his record, but it is, and anyway, it’s his fault for not debating.

As an alternative, maybe “the mailings are disgusting, period” might be a more succinct way of expressing the truth of the matter, but that leaves unexplained the paid television ad, so leave it to the incumbent, Cochran, to see matters with crystal clarity (italics mine).

“It’s all just half the truth,” (Cochran) said. “I don’t even want to acknowledge [the fliers]. It will probably energize my supporters more than anything else.”


Conversely, among thoroughly annoyed Clere supporters like me, and in spite of the last-minute nature of the process, it may well initiate the great District 72 rethink of 2008 … and that’s a gut-wrenching thing, indeed.