Friday, May 29, 2009

Politics of attack ads

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.


paulsstuff said...

The problem with what you state here is that every media outlet in the country puts out stories like Harper launches attack ads, or Harper goes dirty to smear Ignatieff.

Funny that is. Liberal ads are decscribed as Ignatieff to run ads on Conservative record.

Old School Liberal said...

You get the sense that he relishes rolling in the mud. Too many years in opposition perhaps. Too many insecurities with so many basic core principles abandoned, so much sniping from real conservatives as well as Liberals, with fewer and fewer people fawning at his chessmaster brilliance and actually daring to speak up.

Kind of reminds you of someone, no?

wilson said...

That surprised me too. But if Libs do use the footage of Harper saying 'we have tapes',
will the lingering thought be 'Iffy has said worse, stay tuned'?

Dick Chapman said...

You seem to forget that the Liberals have used negative ads for many years! Also look at the U.S. election where Obama won a huge majority and used nothing but negative ads against Geo Bush!
Obviously they work!!

Gerry Nicholls said...


I agree that negative ads work; I used to write them for a living.

But as I said in my posting, they still have a stigma about them.

That's why it's rare for a politician to openly endorse such ads.