New Mexico has been a battlefield state in past presidential elections, most recently in 2000 and 2004, but Obama carried it easily both times, and of late it has been trending blue. So much so that until very recently it was considered safe for Clinton this time around, which meant that neither side was paying us much attention.
That’s changed in the last couple of weeks. All of a sudden, it is thought that the Land of Enchantment is in play, and we’re seeing campaign commercials for both sides daily, often hourly. All summer our airwaves were blessedly free of those, but now one can’t escape them. Some of them are positive ads, about the wonderful things the candidates is going to do for us… but the vast majority are negative, attacking the opponent. Sadly, that seems to have become the default setting for politics in this 21st century of ours.
Watching them, however, a very huge and basic difference struck me.
The Trump commercials are all fairly standard political attack ads. You’ve seen a thousand like them. Find some bad pictures of the opponent, in this case Hillary, pictures that make them look ugly or angry or crazed (easily done, there are thousands of uattering pictures of any public figure floating around these days). If they are not bad enough, put them up in black & white, which always seems to make them worse. Juxtapose them with negative imagery, maybe some out of context headlines. Use a faceless narrator’s voice over the pictures telling us that the candidate is corrupt or a liar or “too extreme.” The latest Trump ad manages to add Anthony Weiner, who is called “Pervert Anthony Weiner.” The blatant name-calling — flinging around words like ‘pervert’ and ‘crooked’ — is not something we have often seen before in American politics, unless you go back to the 18th and 19th centuries; that’s Trump’s own original ugly contribution to lowering the tenor of political discourse. The rest, however, is Attack Ad 101.
What’s notable here is that the whole thing is accusation. It’s one side calling the other side names. If any political positions are presented, they are usually distorted. Smith says Jones is corrupt. Jones says Smith is a liar. Smith says Jones voted for something unpopular. Jones says Smith favors something vile. Trump’s ads against Hillary tick every box here. They are made of assertion, innuendo, and name-calling, but there’s no substance to them.
Clinton’s ads are something else. Very different, and — to my mind — much more truthful. The star of all the Clinton ads in Donald J. Trump. There are no deliberately unflattering photographs, however. Nothing in black and white. Just video clips, full color, professional footage from news cameras at his rallies, interviews, television appearances. There’s no name-calling either. Clinton doesn’t need to label Trump as “crooked” or “a liar” or link him with “perverts.” Clinton’s ads just show Trump being Trump.
So what we have here is not Smith claiming that Jones said terrible things. What we have is actual footage of Jones saying and doing those things. No one has to accuse Trump of anything, he has laid it all out there in public for the world to see.
Yes, he mocked a disabled reporter. There he is, doing it.
Yes, he told Billy Bush he liked to kiss women without their consent and grab them by their pussies. There he is, boasting about it. When you’re a star, you can do anything.
No need to accuse Trump of going into the dressing rooms of Miss Universe and Miss Teen USA pagaents when the contestants were changing so he could see them naked. There’s Trump himself, telling Howard Stern about it.
Yes, he said women should be punished for having abortions. There he is, telling Chris Matthews. His own words, his own face.
Yes, he said he wants to ban all Muslims from entering the US. Here, see the clip.
Yes, he’s in favor of Japan and Saudi Arabia and South Korea having nukes, here’s the clip where he says so.
And on and on and on and on. The Gold Star family, the bad hombres, Judge Curiel, the Miss Universe contestant… his own speeches, his own tweets, his own words.
The usual pattern in election is that Smith says Jones said something terrible, and Jones denies it. Not so here. Hillary does not need to use the sort of hoary attack ads that Trump is using. She only needs to present him as he is, and let his own words condemn them.
And they do.
In my lifetime, there has never been a presidential candidate more unfit to lead this nation.
You don’t need to like Hillary. You don’t need to listen to what Hillary says about Trump, or what I say about Trump. You just need to listen to Trump. If you can do that, and still consider voting for him… well…
Pappy Bush lost an election by looking at his watch. Michael Dukakis lost an election by riding around in a tank. Howard Dean lost an election by giving a yeeeehah scream. Trivial things. Insignificant things. Trump, on the other hand, has said the vilest things any presidential candidate has said since George Wallace, and he’s rising in the polls.
He has boasted that he could shoot someone dead on Fifth Avenue and still not lose any votes. I am beginning to think he was right.