The Upside of the Racist Hoekstra Ad

In this era of nasty political rhetoric and advertising, the public will draw the line at something brazenly racist.

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The ad was so cringe-inducing, so over-the-top offensive, that one could be forgiven for assuming that the Super Bowl-timespot political ad by GOP Senate candidate Pete Hoekstra was some sort of Onion News Network spoof. But no, it was real—the Chinese-American actress affecting a terribly insulting Asian accent to thank Michigan Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow for borrowing money from China and spending it here.

"Your economy get very weak," the bicycle-riding female actress said in the ad. "Ours get very good. We take your jobs." The ad referred to Stabenow as "Debbie SpendItNow."

Where to start? How is it possible that Hoekstra himself could not see how racist the ad was? And "Debbie SpendItNow"? That's what hiring a professional ad-maker will get you? A fourth-grader could have come up with a better play on words.

[Read Peter Fenn: Rick Santorum Scores Humorous Hit On Romney With New 'Rombo' Ad]

Then again, the ad-maker was none other than Fred Davis, the mastermind of the hands-down worst political ads of the 2010 campaign season. Davis was behind the "I am Not a Witch" ad for Delaware GOP Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell, killing whatever hope the deeply flawed candidate ever had of achieving any kind of credibility. At least it spawned a hilarious Saturday Night Live sketch. And Davis also takes credit for the "Demon Sheep" ad on behalf of California GOP Senate candidate Carly Fiorina. The scene with the scary, blazing red eyes of the sheep in the ad is best enjoyed with friends and a few beers. But it didn't help the candidate.

There's an upside to the Hoekstra story. Stabenow shot up in the polls after the ad ran. That may or may not hold, and conservatives certainly have legitimate grounds to question whether Stabenow deserves another term. But the boost in the polls suggests that even in this era of nasty and grossly misleading political rhetoric and advertising, the public will draw the line at something so brazenly racist.

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And the actress who played the role in the commercial, Lisa Chan, has apologized, saying in a statement:

I am deeply sorry for any pain that the character I portrayed brought to my communities. As a recent college grad who has spent time working to improve communities and empower those without a voice, this role is not in any way representative of who I am. It was absolutely a mistake on my part and one that, over time, I hope can be forgiven. I feel horrible about my participation and I am determined to resolve my actions.

She's young and deserves some sympathy, as it's tough to make it as an actor. Hoekstra should know better. And if he and others are fretting about the very slowing dropping unemployment rate? There's a bright spot there too. Apparently, no matter how incompetent or tone-deaf you are as a political adviser or campaign ad producer, there will always be a job for you.

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