COMMENTARY | Jon Stewart says that Republicans are going to have to play a bit more hardball with their political messaging if they expect to unseat the incumbent president in November, so he and his crew at “The Daily Show” created an attack ad pushing back against the latest Obama campaign smear on Mitt Romney. The Stewart attack ad was simple : Blame the Obama administration for the deaths of three-quarters of the “Golden Girls” and save Betty White from becoming his next victim.
During a segment (“Democalypse 2012 – Dog Days Edition” ) dedicated to the pro-Obama Super PAC Priorities USA attack ad against presumptive Republican nominee for his supposed closure of a business that preceded the death of one of the plant’s employees’ wives, Stewart lambasted the Romney campaign and Romney’s Super PAC supporters for their weak response to an ad that effectively called their candidate a “murderer.”
The Obama campaign ad in question, “Understands, ” has taken fire for its insinuation that a woman’s death was somehow connected to the shutdown of a business by Bain Capital, Romney’s old firm. The woman’s husband, Joe Soptic, had worked at the business and had lost his pension and health care benefits when he lost his job. The woman died shortly after the business closed. The video ad was undoubtedly meant to cast a shadow over Romney’s association with Bain Capital and their heartlessness, the death of Soptic’s wife reflected as perhaps an unintended consequence. Except that it wasn’t. It was an unfortunate coincidence. Soptic’s wife died of cancer.
Stewart pointed out that the Republicans and other anti-Obama factions had cried foul and said that the ad was a desperate maneuver on Obama’s part. Stewart was astonished that the party that had perfected political attack ads could produce such an ineffectual defense and rebuttal. So he showed them how they should go about retaliating.
Apparently the Republicans needed help. So Stewart showed them how to strike back, indicating that insinuation works both ways.
In Stewart’s video, the narrator points out that three of the stars of the hit NBC Television sitcom “Golden Girls” had passed away — Estelle Geddy, Bea Arthur, and Rue McClanahan — during the first term of the Obama administration. Pointing out that Obama promised change, the only change seen thus far was the loss of “75 percent of our ‘Golden Girls’ and one ‘Designing Woman [sic].'” (A picture of “Designing Women” star Dixie Carter appears.)
There then follows a photo of the last remaining member of the “Golden Girls” cast, Betty White, caught in mid-scream, a clip showing her telling someone she’s “scared to death,” and a final picture of White standing with President Obama, looking up at him with her hands pressed together in a praying position.
The narrator says, “Don’t let him finish the job…” The last photo is captioned by “Paid For By Americans In Favor Of Keeping Betty White Alive.” A lengthy disclaimer is rattled off by the narrator that informs viewers that Betty White had nothing to do with the making of or the content of the video.
All in all, it’s an amusing piece that reveals how easy it is to insinuate certain things when given a set of incomplete factors that may or may not have anything to do with the subject or issue being attacked in the finished ad. And it provides perspective.
Mitt Romney is no more a murderer or in any way involved in the death of Soptic’s wife than President Obama has had anything to do with the deaths of four of America’s most beloved television actresses.
Besides, Romney wasn’t head of Bain Capital at the time Soptic lost his job, according to his camp.
Of course, this hasn’t stopped the Romney campaign from dabbling in a bit of falseness itself. They released an ad (“Right Choice” ) this past week that insisted that an Obama administration memo made it easier for people to remain on welfare and not look for work, granting states waivers in order to do so. Politifact rated the claim a “pants on fire” (the worst rating in its fact-check truth-o-meter) falsehood due to its misleading nature and omitting that later in the memo the administration noted that provisions on work programs and time limitations would remain in effect.
At least with “The Daily Show” ad one can see the humor, albeit darkly. With the Romney and Obama attack ads, they’re just dark.
And the election is still more than two and a half months away.