The Senate race in Illinois is shaping up to be one of the most watched elections this year. An important Republican seat is going up for grabs, and with the Illinois Republicans in complete disarray from scandal the Democratic primary winner, Barack Obama, looks like he is in great shape.
However, his Republican opponent, Wilmette's very own Jack "please seal my divorce records, please" Ryan, is going to put up a fight. After recently polling 16% behind Obama, he has hired media consultant Scott Howell to change the tone of his campaign. I had no idea why that would have been a big deal, until I just read that Howell was the one of the main guys behind the attack ad against Senator Max Cleland, who went on to lose the seat in 2002.
If you remember, the Republicans went on the offensive in 2002, with Bush going to all the big battleground states to lend a helping hand. Back then Iraq was full of people who wanted to embrace America, and you couldn't walk 5 steps without running into a mobile-train WMD lab – and the Republicans were going to bring freedom to the region. As such, even though the country was in a deep recession, the campaigns went to issues of 'national security.'
In what has turned out to be one of the most cynical attack ads ever, Howell and co. put images of Hussein and Osama Bin Laden before an image of Senator Cleland, questioning whether or not he wanted national security (see image on the left).
This ad is, of course, horrid. First, Cleland had lost both legs and an arm while fighting for America in Vietnam – so if he hasn't suffered enough to prove himself to America I don't know who has (presumably he didn't get the chance to leave 6 months early for business school). Second, even if he was to the left of Ralph Nader, to compare him to Bin Laden is beyond offensive on it's face. And third, he had been an author on the Homeland Security bill, and voted for Bush's tax cuts AND the Iraq war, making him not all that liberal of a liberal.
So if Cleland, who has more or less supported Bush's policies, can get compared to Bin Laden in TV ads, I'm really curious as to whom Obama, a pretty liberal African-American from the South Side, will get compared to when the ads start rolling.
In order to start the ball rolling, I've created a small ad below for the Ryan campaign to start using against Obama, in the style of the above Cleland ad. Mr. Howell, if you are reading, you can use it free of charge.