Tuesday, February 22, 2005

What's worse than execrable?
Let's ponder the word "execrable." It comes from the came root as "excrement" and therefore means "poop-like" or "poopy" (insert your own favorite Anglo-Saxon synonym for "poop" if you prefer). Comparing someone, something, or some behavior to poop should be about as low as we can go. What do we call people whose behavior falls lower than that?

Taking its cues from the success of last year's Swift boat veterans' campaign in the presidential race, a conservative lobbying organization has hired some of the same consultants to orchestrate attacks on one of President Bush's toughest opponents in the battle to overhaul Social Security.

The lobbying group, USA Next, which has poured millions of dollars into Republican policy battles, now says it plans to spend as much as $10 million on commercials and other tactics assailing AARP, the powerhouse lobby opposing the private investment accounts at the center of Mr. Bush's plan.

"They are the boulder in the middle of the highway to personal savings accounts," said Charlie Jarvis, president of USA Next and former deputy under secretary of the interior in the Reagan and first Bush administrations. "We will be the dynamite that removes them."

This much of the story has been well reported in Left Blogistan so far. Sure the Swifties were pretty repulsive in an election, but how bad can a genuine policy debate get? This bad:
Over the headline: "The REAL AARP Agenda", the ad has, on the left, a picture of a soldier in desert fatigues with a big 'X' crossing him out and on the right a picture of two men (in tuxes and obviously just married) kissing each other. The gay newlyweds have a big green check mark over them.

Atrios and others have copies of the ad. It's even more disgusting to look at than the description lets on. So far, the ad has been spotted on the American Spectator website. Clicking through on the ad takes you to the USA Next website where no attempt is made to connect the AARP with failure to support the troops or advocating gay marriage. The ad is nothing more than a cheap smear with no basis. However, the very boldness of the lie makes it very likely that the mainstream press will repeat it with the justification that the charge itself is news.

What is the point of such an easily exposed lie? Any rumor, no matter how unlikely is bound to find a few believers and staking out a completely outrageous position like this makes it easier to push a slightly less outrageous, but still false position. In this case, while most people won't believe those two specific claims, they will have the seeds of a "liberal AARP" idea planted in their minds. The press, now dominated by a "he said, she said" style of reporting, will link the AARP and USA Next together in their reporting.

Any student of recent political tactics will notice that this is a classic Karl Rove style dirty trick (though it is unlikely that we will be able to prove a link until long after the fact). Rove campaigns are always marked by attack groups going deep into the mud and saying things far more vile than Rove's client could utter in public. These groups carefully maintain their independence and thereby provide deniability for Rove's client. Five out of the 31 paragraphs in the New York Times article are quotes from USA Next officials distancing themselves from the White House. But Rove's client always profits from these groups. Some of the mud sticks, some doubts are planted, and any time or energy the AARP spends defending themselves from USA Next is time not spent opposing the will of Bush.

Too bad the AARP lost so much of its credibility and alienated so many of its friends supporting the administration's prescription drug con. They could use both of them about now.

UPDATE: Josh Marshall reports that USA Next has already pulled the ad. Fortunately, Josh and others have saved screen shots of the offending piece.

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