Wow, am I scared now!

I have to take a break from the current debate with reader Eric long enough to say something about McCain’s latest ad. It uses the utterly silly notion that Obama opposition researchers are wolves, out to get their helpless prey (the woman who describes herself as a pit bull). Not only is that a pretty bizarre idea, it hearkens back to something that happened four years ago.

Before we get there, I think it’s important to note that once upon a time, I viewed John McCain as a man I could disagree with, but a man I could respect. He was, in a nutshell, an old-school conservative, someone with whom it was possible to disagree on details but who at least seemed to be on the same side as the rest of us when it came to civility and the basics of democracy. That has changed during this campaign, because McCain embraced and employed Steve Schmidt, a Karl Rove protege, to help manage his campaign.

The style of politics that Rove has inflicted upon our nation is reprehensible. Over and over, he does the same thing: attack opponents strengths rather than their weaknesses, and win through destroying the reputation of opponents so thoroughly that no option remains except voting for the Republican. It’s ugly and amoral, from cross-fading Max Cleland with Osama bin Laden to what he did in 2000: Rove was reputedly behind the floating of rumors in South Carolina that McCain’s adopted Bangladeshi daughter was in fact his black love child. The story goes that McCain refused to even speak with Rove after that for a very long time.

But hey, that was then, before winning became more important. Now McCain has embraced exactly what brought him down in 2000. His famed "straight talk" has apparently devolved to doing whatever Steve Schmidt directs.

And the ad? Well, Republicans of the Rovian variety know that a major key to sowing doubt about their opponents is tapping into the reptilian part of the brain, the part that controls fear reactions and seems to be the vestige of our earliest ancestors. How do you tap into that kind of primal fear? Well, how about with primal "enemies" who’ve been with us for thousands of years? How about with wolves?

Remember the Bush anti-Kerry ad in 2004 that portrayed terrorists as wolves?

Is the new McCain ad made from the outtake wolf footage from 2004, or did they travel to Alaska for fresh wolf footage?

If John McCain, famed straight talker, man of integrity, is going after our reptilian minds so we’ll be afraid and vote Republican, well, all I can say is sayonara to the respect I used to hold for him back in 2000.

It’s disgusting to me that political sparring has fallen to such unbelievable lows. It almost certainly would not be possible without the rise of television as the medium of "debate" in politics. Images tap into emotions, not logic. And this is a bald attempt to tap into the emotion of fear.

Well, there are no days when I’m so afraid I’d vote for someone who tried to scare me into giving them my vote.

James Heflin

Author: James Heflin

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