Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Ad Hominem

There’s been a lot of discussion in the last couple of days as to whether or not Jack Conway, the Democrat running for the Senate against Rand Paul in Kentucky, went over the line by running a political ad that brings up Mr. Paul’s thirty-year-old college hazing rituals. I’ve seen the ad, and, as Adam Serwer points out, compared to some of the other spots that are running around the country and here in Florida on behalf of both sides of the races, I’d say it is pretty much in line with what’s out there. (That said, all bets are off as to this election being anywhere close to what qualifies as “normal.”)

The other take on this story is that the ad doesn’t talk about the issues that really matter; unemployment, the deficit, education, and the things that the Senate will have to deal with in the coming months and years, nor does it point out the vulnerabilities of having a modern-day Rand Paul in the Senate; he’s got enough weaknesses as a candidate in 2010, so why bring up what he did back in the 1980’s when he was in college? (And, by the way, would you want to run on what you were like when you were in college? Hmm?)

That said, I think in one respect this ad will work for Mr. Conway. I used to live near Kentucky — across the Ohio River — and I spent a lot of time in Western Kentucky. It’s a beautiful place and the people there are, by and large, very close to their faith and have made it integral in their lives. Running a spot that attacks someone for their hypocrisy about religion and questions their sincerity may be risky in some quarters, but it does carry weight in a state where people take their faith very seriously.

Oh, and if the situation were reversed and it was Mr. Conway’s college hijinks that were on the table, do you really think the GOP would have any doubts about running this kind of ad? Didn’t think so.