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Thursday, August 11, 2005

Ads

This will be my last post til Monday night or Tuesday, as I am off to fabulous Las Vegas, Nevada.



No, I am not going to help out Harry. Rather, it's bachelor party time....Hoping to make it back alive, with my liver in one piece. I know CHB will keep you all in the loop.

That said, I do want to comment on two advertising issues.

First comes NARAL's ad against John Roberts. According to the WaPo:
"Supreme Court nominee John Roberts filed court briefs supporting violent fringe groups and a convicted clinic bomber," the ad states. The ad concludes by saying, "America can't afford a justice whose ideology leads him to excuse violence against other Americans."
There's been quite a bit of controversy over this ad. GOP henchmen like Orrin Hatch and the oxymoronically named Committee for Justice have criticized (to put it mildly) the ad, with even non-extremist Republicans like Arlen Specter saying that NARAL should take it down.

I've read a number of articles about this controversy, though I haven't seen the ad. However, the last statement quoted above--suggesting that Roberts's "ideology leads him to excuse violence against other Americans"--is way over the line. NARAL has a page up detailing the violent acts of anti-choice extremists in the period preceding Roberts's involvement in Bray vs. Alexandria Women’s Health Clinic. Let's stipulate all those facts (which I'd bet are true). Let's also stipulate NARAL's (correct) point that "Roberts was a senior political appointee responsible for shaping legal strategy", rather than being just a lawyer representing a client.

I don't know all the details of this case, but from what I do know I think that NARAL's ad is both over the line in the language uses and misleading in the point it makes. In a 1986 memo, Roberts argued against pardoning violent anti-choice extremists, saying

"No matter how lofty or sincerely held the goal, those who resort to violence to achieve it are criminals," the memo said.
Now, I don't think anyone should refer to anti-choice people's goals of depriving women of liberty as "lofty", and the sincerity of their beliefs is a complete non-sequitur. But the fact is that this is Roberts arguing against precisely the view that NARAL seeks to ascribe to him. NARAL President Nancy Keenan even told the Post's Dan Balz that "We're not suggesting that Mr. Roberts condones clinic violence."

But that's exactly what it means to say that Roberts's involvement in the Bray case means he "excuses" violence. This is just plain wrong. It's also guilt by association, something liberal defenders of liberty have to battle all the time when the rightwing extremists who run this country say things like "Your tactics only aid terrorists for they erode our national unity and diminish our resolve" to critics of the Administration's assault on basic liberties.

NARAL will only hurt its own cause by insisting on this distortion of the record. Why not simply point out the facts: Roberts could have argued for the Administration to take the side NARAL agreed with in Bray, but he did not; he could have argued for the Administration to stay out of Bray, but he did not. Even if he sincerely believed that the KKK Act didn't apply to this case, he could have argued for laws that would have done; but he did not. Isn't that a damning enough indictment of him? Why act like Republicans when the truth works?

The second ad I want to discuss is the Montana Democratic Party's ad against incumbent GOP Sen. Conrad Burns, who is up in 2006. After the Burns campaign and the NRSC whined about the ad and sent a threatening letter to TV stations, the MDP agreed to change the wording.

The ad said that Burns "takes $136,000 from notorious Rebuplican lobbyist Jack Abramoff" (who was just indicted today for other reasons). The Republican complaint is essentially that Abramoff didn't personally give the cash to Burns....No, he just arranged fund-raisers to drive that same cash Burns's way.

The MDP wound up changing the wording of the ad, doing something like adding "associates of" before "notorious lobbyist...".

This is exactly what they should do. Never mind fighting over the basically irrelevant details. Focus on the key issue.

If they're smart, the MDP will follow up by running an ad that makes fun of the GOP freakout about this ad. For example, they could run an ad that says

Sen. Conrad Burns has received $136,000 thanks to notorious lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who is under federal indictment. Burns and national Republicans are so worried about his connection to this sleazy lobbyist that they threatened Montana TV stations to try to stop us from telling you about it. What else are they hiding? And why are they so afraid of the truth. Conrad Burns: the wrong man for Montana.


This is not the first time the GOP has tried to knock Dems'/allies' ads off the air: for example, it happened a few months ago when the Campaign for America's Future placed ads criticizing Rep. Jim McCrery's (R-LA) support for SS privatization.

Many national Republicans have become nothing more than schoolyard bullies: they can dish out the lies, slander, and smears, but they don't think they should have to face even the truth. The right way to handle them is mockery, and a good, hard smack in the face. Let's hope Dems take advantage of these openings.

8 Comments:

Anonymous bu$h ate my baby said...

Jonah,

Why when you are criticizing NARAL for the ad, which is admirable, do you feel the need to take gratuituos shots at Republicans ("This is just plain wrong. It's also guilt by association, something liberal defenders of liberty have to battle all the time when the rightwing extremists who run this country say things like 'Your tactics only aid terrorists for they erode our national unity and diminish our resolve' to critics of the Administration's assault on basic liberties." or "Why act like Republicans when the truth works?").

You claim that you are non-partisan, yet when you write a post criticizing NARAL, you seem to reflexively need to balance it with jabs at Republicans. Why isn't it simply sufficient to take NARAL to task?

Oh, and on another topic, since this blog takes its name from an ACLU reference, I was wondering if you were going to comment on the ACLU subsidiary lawsuit against the NYC subway searches.

8/12/2005 2:15 PM  
Blogger strategery4 said...

Isn't the NARAL stuff proof that it's long past time for the Dems to throw THEIR abortion nutjobs over the side -- you know, so that maybe they can win some elections. I mean, the Democratic Party is like an episode of Survivor now, and they've got to decide who to vote off the island.

So Roe gets overturned? Then it goes to the states, and red states ban abortion and blue states don't. Meanwhile, back in Washington, Dems are actually able to accomplish other things on their agenda (whenever they figure out what they are) because they actually have some POWER. The tribe has spoken.

8/12/2005 6:06 PM  
Blogger strategery4 said...

Oh, and have fun in Vegas baby. You're so money! Just remember that what happens in Vegas . . . gets blogged.

8/12/2005 6:13 PM  
Blogger Jonah B. Gelbach said...

You claim that you are non-partisan

Exactly when did you ever hear me make this claim, Peter?

yet when you write a post criticizing NARAL, you seem to reflexively need to balance it with jabs at Republicans.

It's hardly reflexive to point out the much more regular sins of the GOP -- it's just basic fairness.

Why when you are criticizing NARAL for the ad, which is admirable, do you feel the need to take gratuituos shots at Republicans

First, thanks for the "admirable" comment. Second, those shots are hardly gratuitous. John Ashcroft said what he said, and I've never heard him apologize or take it back. Nor am I aware of prominent elected Republicans' -- Congressional or Administration -- having suggested he should. Rebublicans constantly use guilt by association and dishonesty, which are among the cornerstones of their electoral strategies (kind of hard to convince a majority of people to vote against their own economic interests unless you constantly lie to them about your policies and their opponents....but I digress).

Why isn't it simply sufficient to take NARAL to task?

Actually, my main point in this post was originally going to be about the Montana thing. I thought it would be unfair (and gratuitous!) not to also point out NARAL's descent into Republican tactics.

By the way, your silence on the Montana GOP/NRSC's disingenuousness speaks with some volume, my friend....

Probably will not comment on the ACLU lawsuit in NYC, as time is tight these days.

8/16/2005 10:25 AM  
Blogger Jonah B. Gelbach said...

Just remember that what happens in Vegas . . . gets blogged.

Eek!

:-)

8/16/2005 10:25 AM  
Anonymous bu$h ate my baby said...

I guess I thought you were "non-partisan" when you said "you may find this difficult to believe, but one can write from a
particular point of view (i prefer that to "partisan"---though you
still don't seem to realize that my loyalties are more to positions
than parties) without doing a 'hack job'." From that, I assumed that you didn't need to balance Democratic criticism with Republican-bashing. How is it not gratuitous to link to Swift Boat Veterans for Truth when you are talking about a NARAL ad? Except that you feel compelled to say something bad about Republicans to even the score (or maybe to continue your card-carrying bona fides).

As to the rest of your post, it seems like kind of a trivial thing, I agree. I don't see what's disingenuous about being more particular -- obfuscating the more important issue perhaps, but not disingenuous.

I should probably know more about Jack Abramoff than I do. I thought he had connections to both parties, for instance. Is he truly just a "Republican lobbyist"?

By the way, I'm off on vacation for the next 10 days, so don't take my silence as willful disinclination to engage.

8/16/2005 1:25 PM  
Blogger Jonah B. Gelbach said...

my quote:

one can write from a
particular point of view (i prefer that to "partisan"


your rejoinder:

From that, I assumed that you didn't need to balance Democratic criticism with Republican-bashing.

first, naral is not a subsidiary of the dem party, so i'm not sure what you mean by "Democratic criticsm". second, loyalty to my positions pretty much dictates (with some rare exceptions that i'll be happy to note as they occur) opposition to the republican party and its tactics. on the off chance that the gop changes either, i'll be happy to update.

How is it not gratuitous to link to Swift Boat Veterans for Truth when you are talking about a NARAL ad?

i thought linking to the swift boat liars rather effectively made the point of just how unreasonable and dishonest the particular quote in question was. i suppose i could have found some instance of a minor lie and linked to that, but then of course some defensive conservative might come along and say i'd trivialized naral's dishonesty. take it as a tribute to my opposition to the ad's language that i chose one of the most disgusting and indefensible recent examples of rightwing lying as the contrast, peter.


I should probably know more about Jack Abramoff than I do. I thought he had connections to both parties, for instance. Is he truly just a "Republican lobbyist"?


first, he is most certainly a republiican, and he is most certainly a lobbyist. i'd be surprised if he had no democratic connections. but then, that's not really the point. if you want to know more about jolly jack, try reading some of the posts on him over at TPM, which has chronicled many of his exploits.

have a great vacation

8/16/2005 1:38 PM  
Blogger Jonah B. Gelbach said...

peter

one more for the record. my statement that you quote here

I guess I thought you were "non-partisan" when you said "you may find this difficult to believe, but one can write from a
particular point of view (i prefer that to "partisan"---though you
still don't seem to realize that my loyalties are more to positions
than parties)


most certainly does not say that i am non-partisan! it says that i didn't think the word "partisan" was really the issue in the context of that quote....which was true then, is often true in other contexts, and is in any event hardly the same as saying that i consider myself non-partisan!

8/16/2005 2:41 PM  

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