I was kind of surprised when Prime Minister Stephen Harper got up in the House of Commons recently and taunted the Liberals about having "tapes" to use against Michael Ignatieff.
The implication, of course, was that he had lots of clips of Ignatieff saying politically embarrassing things which would form the basis of election attack ads.
What surprises me is not that the Tories have such tapes. That's normal. All political parties scour the media seeking ammo to use against their opponents. Journalists do it too. When I worked at the National Citizens Coalition reporters would call me up to see if I had any video of Harper giving speeches. (We didn't.)
What does surprise me, however, is that Harper would associate himself in anyway with attack ads. It was an unusual move.
After all, since these sort of "negative" ads have a stigma most political leaders don't want to be linked to them. That's why they let the "war room" and the spin doctors handle all that stuff.
Or better yet, they seek Third Party allies to run attack ads on their behalf. The famous "Swift Boat" ads attacking Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry in 2004, for instance, were not party ads.
The Republicans enjoyed the benefit of these effective ads without suffering any backlash.
Harper, on the other hand, has now linked himself publically to his party's attack ads -- which ironically might provide a tape for Liberal attack ads.