DAVID ROSMAN: Political attack ads worthless in making smart decisions

Wednesday, October 13, 2010 | 1:29 p.m. CDT; updated 5:02 p.m. CDT, Thursday, October 14, 2010

I had the opportunity to have breakfast with Kelly Schultz, 2010 candidate for Missouri House District 21. We spoke about the campaign, her positions on hot and cold topics — the usual things you would expect from this type of interview. It was when we turned our conversation to the current political environment that I realized that the American public is being bamboozled.

Schultz’s experience walking door-to-door, like candidates of all political persuasions, is selling herself, her politics and explaining that she is a state candidate, not federal. Why? Because constituents are relating all of the federal issues to the state election. The major source of the confusion? Attack advertisements.

In Schultz’s case, the “attack” radio ads are from her opponent, John Cauthorn. What is most interesting is that the ads are not talking about what is going on in the state or Cauthorn’s politics, but an attempt to attach Schultz to federal issues, not state. Essentially, his and all other attack ads throw mud on the wall to see what sticks. Mud that covers up the real issues.

It is not just the conservative side of the equation. Missouri’s U.S. senate race has been hateful from the start. Roy Blunt started attacking Robin Carnahan before he won the Republican primary. Carnahan’s ads have attacked Blunt from the beginning of her campaign. Both are calling the other a liar, a cheat and un-American. Yet we have no idea where either stands on any issue.

To make matters worse, outside interests have begun their campaigns — perfect examples for any graduate class in propaganda. One in particular makes me shudder.

On Sept. 3, 2010, the National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund endorsed Congressman Roy Blunt’s senate candidacy. Not a problem. A month later, they began to run their television ads. A problem. The normal schmutz is there — spending and debt. Then comes something from out of the blue, something that I thought died years ago. The NRA-PVF is playing the United Nations card.

The advertisement is claiming that the federal government is “Surrendering sovereignty to the United Nations.” This same ad is running in Ohio and Colorado, and will be seen in other states soon. Is this true? Is the United Nations taking over the U.S. and the world?

The references I found came from a number of questionable blog sites, including commentary on by James Simpson. His 2009 column speaks to the United Nations’ COP15 Climate Change Conference. In another conspiracy packed site,, writer Henry Lamb hits other proposed U.N. treaties that require we play nicely with the other children on the planet. The Senate must first approve the treaties. There is nothing even closely related to the United States’ tragic end and transformation to a U.N.-led world government. Not unless, of course, the U.S. is in charge.

Like all attack ads today, there is always some truth in the greater lie to make the lie believable.

State representative Chris Kelly knows that constituent anger has and will continue to overflow, basted with attack ads, “as long as we reward it.” Kelly is proud that in his 11 political campaigns, he has never used a negative campaign advertisement. I hope that Schultz can say the same come January.

Missouri’s citizens are upset and confused, and rightfully so. The recovery is taking too long (we have become a nation wanting instant results). Unemployment is too high. The Afghanistan war has entered its 10th year. One party is screaming, “this needs to be fixed,” while the other is screaming, “No!” Meanwhile, the “outsiders” we elect in November will become “insiders” the moment they are sworn in. Still we vote with blindfolds on.

Screaming, “We need to take our country back,” is only whining. “We need to cut taxes and the deficit” without an action plan is useless. These are complaints and only complaints. No one has an answer. When someone complains about everything without a solution, that person is a pain in the butt. When someone identifies a problem and has a workable solution, that person is a genius.

To paraphrase Shakespeare, attack ads only say, “First thing we do, kill all the politicians.” Then what, genius?

David Rosman is an award-winning editor, writer, professional speaker and college instructor in communications, ethics, business and politics. You can read more of David’s commentaries at and New York Journal of Books.


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Ray Shapiro October 13, 2010 | 1:47 p.m.

("Then what, genius?")

Hire Donald Trump.
If he does a lousy job, he's fired.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro October 13, 2010 | 1:57 p.m.

Obama: Let's Give Up American Nukes:
How do candidates from the Dem Party feel about doing that?

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro October 13, 2010 | 2:54 p.m.

The mayoral candidate I supported, Sid Sullivan, was sitting in front of a microphone at our local radio station, recording his campaign ads. His "image consultant" raised the idea of a negative/ attacking ad at his opponents. He was told that he had nothing to lose as so much money was behind McDavid and Wade.
He refused to go in that direction.
He didn't win the election but he didn't lose his integrity in the process.
I now respect him more than I respect myself.
However, in the realm of politics:
("Do negative campaign ads work?")

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith October 13, 2010 | 3:08 p.m.

Where is there a "smart decision" when we are faced with "Little Miss Muffet" versus "The Frog Prince" in the U.S. Senate race? Of course the campaign has been negative. What else could it have been?

This state has at least 5.5 million residents. Are we to believe the two major political parties couldn't come up with better candidates than those two?

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro October 13, 2010 | 3:38 p.m.
(Report Comment)
John Schultz October 13, 2010 | 3:39 p.m.

David, I believe the United Nations reference is to a small arms treaty that Hillary Clinton has signed on to in some way and said the US Senate will ratify. I have not been following the issue very closely and don't have much details beyond that.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro October 13, 2010 | 5:37 p.m.

@John Schultz:
I can't believe it. I am so blessed. The President of the United States wants to meet me.
He just sent me an email saying that we can meet somewhere in back at Vegas. And all he wants is three bucks.
Do you think I should give him the three bucks? Decisions are so hard to make.
Anyway, it's amazing. I got two invites today. One from the President of the United States and the other from that new salesman in town from the BBB.
I must be special.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith October 14, 2010 | 4:37 a.m.

@ Ray Shapiro:

Thanks for the URL reference (Blunt vs. Carnahan). I don't think I'd describe Carnahan in quite those disgusting terms, but what is it with this "dynasty" thing? "My name is 'Carnahan' and therefore I'm destined for high public office." ("My name is 'Kennedy' and therefore I'm destined for high public office." Etc.)

One of the more humorous aspects of Missouri politics is that while Rolla, Missouri probably hasn't reached 20,000 it is family home to both the Carnahans and the Steelmans. Now THERE'S a broad political spectrum!

(Report Comment)
Jim Jones October 14, 2010 | 1:19 p.m.

David, I know you are a smart man because you always say what I was just thinking. BUT, even you should know the answer to 'OK, you shoot all the politicians, then what?" The answer is simple - "All the politicians would be gone and everything would be fine!"

All kidding aside, I have long held to the concept that I vote for no one who runs negative ads. It is making it a LOT harder to find anyone to vote for though!

(Report Comment)

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