Priorities USA Action, a so-called super PAC helmed by Barack Obama's former political intimates, reached a new low in campaigning when it began airing its latest commercial in presidential swing states. The anti-Mitt Romney campaign commercial focuses on a former steel worker named Joe Soptic and indirectly accuses the former Massachusetts governor of being responsible for the death of Soptic's wife from cancer.
The charge by implication, if true, would be devastating. Soptic worked for a steel company taken over by Bain Capital, the firm Romney founded. The plant where Soptic worked was eventually shut down, he lost his health insurance as a result and, the ad suggests, was forced to watch impotently as his wife contracted and then died from cancer.
"When Mitt Romney closed the plant I lost my healthcare, and my family lost their healthcare," Soptic says in the ad. "A short time after that, my wife became ill. I don't know how long she was sick and I think maybe she didn't say anything because she knew we couldn't afford the insurance."
It is a hit so far below the belt that the people who put the ad together would have to reach up to touch bottom. It's not that it's incendiary; it's just plain wrong.
The spot leaves out a lot, so much so that if people knew the full story it would change dramatically their perception of the issue. Romney was gone from Bain by the time the plant was shut down and Soptic's wife had her own health insurance which she received from her own job.
Politics is, after a fashion, a game of sharp elbows. People should expect to have to throw hard punches and to have hard punches thrown against them. But there is a profound difference between tough ads that draw contrasts on issues, even if those issues are not considered by certain elites to be relevant to the campaign, and outrageous falsehoods. There are those who, for example, still point to the use of ads about William Horton and the Massachusetts prison furlough program as an example of a dirty trick when in reality it was a faithful exposition of a program Gov. Michael Dukakis defended while in office and as a presidential candidate regardless of the way it was abused. Whatever one's opinion about it, the facts of the case are indisputable: Horton, a convicted murderer serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole, received—if memory serves—close to a dozen furloughs before escaping to Maryland where he raped a woman and assaulted her male companion, likely with the intention of doing him grievous injury. And Dukakis repeatedly refused to acknowledge that this was a problem or to apologize to the couple that had been victimized.
This is far different than the latest pro-Obama spot, which is long on emotion and short on facts. What the new ad does tell us, however, is that the Democrats have become so desperate that they are willing to construct a campaign based on half truths as well as out right lies in order to try and hold on to power.