Top 5: Worst Political Attack Ads
Warning: put on some old clothes before reading this article, because you won’t help but feel a bit dirty after you’re done. The special brand of campaign mud slinging known as the attack ad is the bluntest weapon in the arsenal of those politicians willing to trade their decency for public office . Attack ads in election campaigns have become commonplace, and have been occuring for at least half a century. So forget for a moment about McCain’s Ayers and Keating, here are 5 of the worst political attack ads ever.
Number 5: Demon Eyes
Straightforward enough: my opponent is the devil himself.
This ad was put forward by the Conservative party of Britain in the run up to the 1997 election campaign, and was heavily criticized by the British Advertising Standards Authority.
Tony Blair said of the ad at the time: “It is nasty, it is vicious, it is negative. It is all the things that you would expect from the Conservative party.”
Number 4: The Chretien Attack Ad
The Conservative party was already trailing in the polls in the 1993 Canadian federal election when Tory strategists threw a hail mary pass that was way off target.
The ad used footage that seemed to make fun of Liberal hopeful Jean Chretien’s facial deformity, caused by a case of Bell’s palsy. Interspersed between the images were comments by actors posing as Canadians, questioning “Is this a prime minister?”
Is this a prime minister? Yes, and a three term one at that.
Number 3: The Swift Boat Veterans For Truth (series)
The “Swift Boat Veterans For Truth”(SBVT) was a group of Vietnam swift boat veterans and prisoners of war that formed during the 2004 presidential election campaign expressly to oppose John Kerry’s bid for the presidency.
The group ran four separate attack ads that criticized Senator Kerry for allegedly distorting facts about war crimes commited in Vietnam when he testified before a congressional subcommitee upon returning from his tour as a swift boat captain.
The group could only claim one member who had actually served on Kerry’s boat. Senator John McCain, a Bush supporter, Vietnam veteran and former POW condemned the SBVT ad series as “dishonest and dishonorable” and “very, very wrong”.
Number 2:”Weekend Passes”
The brainchild of Republican strategist Lee Atwater, “Weekend Passes” played on the state Furlough Program that the Massachusetts governor and Democratic hopeful Michael Dukakis had supported during his tenure. The ad specifically brought attention to the case of Willie Horton, a man who left on weekend furlough and raped a woman twice, stabbed and beat her fiance, and stole a car. Dukakis still continued to argue that the program was 99% effective.
But for that 1%….
Number 1: “Daisy Girl”
This grandaddy of attack ads also remains one of the most controversial. “Daisy Girl” aired only once on NBC is September of 1964, yet it still was considered and important factor in Lyndon Johnson’s landslide defeat of Barry Goldwater in the race for the presidency.
The ad opens with a young girl in a field counting the petals she pulls from a flower. As she reaches the number 9, a man with a southwestern accent reminiscent of Goldwater’s , begins a countdown. The camera zooms in on the girl’s eyes as she looks off into the distance, and within the reflection of her pupil, we see a mushroom cloud forming.
The ad was meant to play off of some careless remarks that Goldwater had made about using nuclear weapons in Vietnam, and it effectively blew up Goldwater’s campaign.
BONUS: Carly Fiorina’s Demon Sheep Ad
So what the heck is going on here? Fiorina is insinuating that Fiscal Conservatives are sheep and that her opponent is a sheep in wolves clothing? Aside from symbolism that is as difficult to comprehend as a David Lynch film (so are true fiscal conservatives sheep? and are we supposed to think that is a good thing?), this 3 minutes and 21 seconds is as dense as a Dostoyevsky novel. After being numbed by over 3 minutes of facts about how Tom Campbell is not a fiscal conservative, we then see that this bad ass may not only be a wolf in disguise, but a wolf in disguise with friggin laser beam eyes. Word is that the citizens of Tokyo ran for cover after seeing this ad.
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