The best part about being in Vegas for a few days (aside from the 107-degree heat, which is just awesome…I think my pancreas melted this afternoon) is that I actually get to see some campaign ads. Texas having been marked down for Bush a long time ago (an out-of-date assumption in my book, given our Hispanic population—but that’s another post) we really only get campaign ads when they’re part of a national buy, and since I mainly watch Bravo and the Style Channel, I have to go out of state to see any good TV spots. This is a shame because, as a law student with the soul of an advertising copywriter (and the portfolio of an advertising copywriter, the degree of an advertising copywriter…and, let’s face it, the legal knowledge and skill of an advertising copywriter), I take a special sort of joy in watching what the policom outfits churn out for election season. It’s never good from a creative standpoint, and it’s usually misleading from a factual standpoint, but that doesn’t mean it’s not perfect from a popcorn-munching, hand-me-my-Fanta, who-stole-the-last-Bon-Bon standpoint.
This week, Kerry is being hammered for his shoddy attendance record in the Senate. The Bush ad claims that during the campaign, Kerry has missed nearly two-thirds of all Senate votes. This seemed a bit extreme to me, so I did a small amount of research and found that the ads are, well, totally correct: Kerry has been present for almost exactly 33% of Senate votes for the current session.
This is, of course, one of the problems of running for president as a senator. While President Bush has often cited the fact that he can still get a lot of work done outside of Washington, he benefits from the fact that nobody is ever taking formal attendance in the Oval Office. So, in order for Kerry to keep up with Bush on the campaign trail, he has to play a bit of hooky once in awhile. Big deal, right? Surely everybody does it during an election year, don’t they?
Hoping to confirm that, I asked the age-old question: What Would Bob Dole Do? I figured that he must have been similarly absent during the 1996 campaign, seeing as how he was older than Kerry and would have had trouble making it back and forth to Washington as frequently. But Viagra Bob surprised me. I didn’t check every single vote (after looking thru all of Kerry’s, my mouse finger started to cramp), but a thorough day-by-day spot check suggests that Dole was present for virtually every vote in 1996, up until June when he gave up his seat. What a guy. Of course, he lost that election; maybe if he’d ditched a few more votes that spring he could have pulled off a victory. But either way, his diligence eliminated the chance of a favorable comparison for Kerry.
Basically, this sort of attack is irrefutable for Kerry. The common sense answer is “Well, I was campaigning.” But since it’s a definite no-no for candidates to admit that they’re also politicians, that’s not really an option. It’s the equivalent of asking him “Yes or No: Do you still have sex with chickens?” He’s screwed either way.
The only real solution is to go negative in return, to attack Bush’s relaxed work ethic and show him partying it up at fundraisers. But the Democrats won’t do that, because it wouldn’t be polite. Instead, they’ll continue to run single-shot ads of a pasty-looking Kerry talking about national security, all the while letting Rove & Co. beat Kerry over the head with his own war record and smack him around with silly ideas about a gas tax that he floated twenty years ago.