Friday, October 15, 2004

Advice For The Amoral

If you're going to try to pull off a slimy election trick, you need to do it right.

Say, for example, that you want to accuse your Democratic opponent of distributing hideous flyers that make fun of developmental disabilities. You could have one operative sneak a stack of the flyers into Democratic headquarters, and then send another operative in to "find" them and start an enormous public outcry. Instant media frenzy! Big embarrassment for your opponent!

Sounds simple, right? But, well, okay. I don't want to sound like I think I know more than you do, just because I have a Ph.D. and all, but trust me, this is important: in order for the trick to work, when your second guy goes in to "find" the nasty fliers, they have to still be there.

Looks like the Tennessee congressional campaign of Republican Dave Dahl missed out on that one crucial requirement.
"Someone brought them in and they left. I looked at them and said, 'This is not something we need in here. This goes in the trash,' " she said. "Well, here comes a man up and raising Cain and Mr. (David) Reynolds (the other volunteer) told him they were out in the trash. He went and picked it out of the trash and said, 'Well, this is going in the paper.' "
Both Dahl's campaign and the Traditional Values Coalition insisted that their information about the flyer came from a guy who apparently knows nothing about it.

As Nick Confessore points out, even without the stupid mistakes, nothing about the story passes the smell test.
Think about the phrasing of the flyer. Who on earth is it supposed to convince? People who were planning to vote for Bush but, on reflection, decide they won't want anyone thinking they're a retard? Please. The point of the flyer is to tick off and motivate Bush supporters, while dismaying and demotivating Fitzhugh's supporters and also making it hard for him to win ticket-splitters.
Yeah, we all know one or two really stupid fringe liberals who might make a flyer like this and post it online. But Dahl and the TVC claim that the Dems happily distributed the flyer from their central headquarters for two weeks. In what universe of real people who are paid money for their political expertise would that actually happen?

Update: Kieran writes about this issue at Crooked Timber, in a post that is superior to mine for two reasons: (1) it is much, much shorter, and (2) it refers to "the old pig-fucker strategy."