Posted by Brad @ 3:27 pm on October 18th 2010

Dumbest F’ing Political Controversy of the Month

Goes to Jack Conway and Democratic talking heads for deciding, in the waning days of a pivotal campaign, to have the Kentucky Senate race turn on the issue of whether or not Rand Paul pulling a prank on a member of his undergraduate swim team while at Baylor that entailed having her bow down to Aqua Buddha disqualifies him forevermore as a Christian or not.

To which I say:

What’s particularly jarring is not just that Jack Conway would make that strategic choice, but that guys like Josh Marshall are making the issue about whether or not Democrats have the testicular fortitude to go on the attack. To which I reply:

I don’t think anybody is saying that politicians should not go on the offensive. But Jack Conway, at least in significant sections of the debate and that ad, is not attacking or defending based on, say, ideas or issues. He’s doing it based on religious identity politics. He’s telling voters they shouldn’t vote for Rand Paul because his Christianity is suspect. In any another context, I’d suspect you might consider that an obnoxious meme to push. Of course, if a Democrat does it, the Republican deserves it…but you’re still validating the meme. I mean, listen to yourself. You’re taking seriously the idea that voters should (or will) take seriously the idea that Rand Paul’s stated religion is a hoax because of the Aqua Buddha thing and the fact that he likes Ayn Rand.

And really, if you’re spending an inordinate amount of time in the closing weeks of the campaign against RAND PAUL taking the spotlight off ideas and issues, and onto a bizarre prank he may have pulled in college, I don’t think anybody would argue that that’s a a move coming from, or exuding, a position of strength. It comes off as it is being characterized as it is…kind of dumb and pretty desperate. It’s weak at best and, at worst, it’s validating the same campaign milieu that, say, “Obama is a secret muslim” comes from.

And, if anything, giving Rand Paul cover (for his ideas and issues, and any subsequent disengagement from the Conway camp or the press), and the high road.

But, in that response, I actually OVER-estimated Marshall and his audience. Apparently, they really DO think that the Aqua Buddha incident proves Rand Paul isn’t a Christian. At least that’s what this followup post implies.

To which I reply:

Between the reader email and your comment about Paul being a “total fraud [on this issue]”, am I to understand that some of you guys honestly believe that the Aqua Buddha incident is proof that Rand Paul is not, in fact, a Christian?

Really? That seems to me either just bizarre, or maybe some of you guys need to step outside of the circus tent of horserace coverage for a minute and regain a little perspective.

If the bar of proof required to determine whether to take someone at their word as a Christian is so high that it can be immediately broken solely by a prank he pulled on a member of the swim team as an undergraduate at Baylor – that strikes me as blinkered on a level at least on par with saying Obama is not a Christian because he went to a muslim school as a kid.

But as to efficacy (which nobody seems to care about), who in their right mind thinks, as satisfying as they may find it on some juvenile level, that sucking up the debate, the ads, and now 99% of campaign coverage in the Kentucky Senate race with the issue of Aqua Buddha does any kind of strategic service to the Conway campaign? I mean, you can get in a decently interesting, if purely academic debate, on the whole “high ground or sink to their level” issue which comes up every single damn cycle, but it strikes me as a little academic here. Going “on the offense” is not good OR bad—it depends enitirely on whether that offense works to your advantage or not, or whether, in the zero sum gain sense of it, doing so is to your benefit or not. And even those strident emails don’t seem to care or even consider whether the attack works or not – they’re just happy its mean. Well, ladi-da I guess.

I mean seriously, congratulate yourself on “playing hardball” all you want, but if that entails having campaigns turn on witchcraft and Aqua Buddha and the like, I think you’ve at some point listed dangerous close to Distractionville.

Gives me an excuse to dust off an old favorite blog post series, at least.


  1. Man, they just don’t get it. Do. Not. Get. It.

    This whole “a root problem with Democrats is they don’t stand up for…” thing seems to be trotted out every time a Democrat runs a stupid and mean negative ad. The defense is “Well, Republicans run stupid and mean ads! But Democrats are too smart and moral to lie, so we don’t! But we should!”

    It is, very often, a dumb conversation to have, for a variety of reasons. But it’s particularly dumb here, because lost entirely in the (already-dumb) conversation is whether the ad is good or not based on whether it will aid Conway in the election. Nobody seems to care. “It’s mean! Yay!”

    One would think that the inherent efficacy, not the inherent negativity, would be the germane thing. Nope.

    Comment by Brad — 10/18/2010 @ 4:39 pm

  2. Based on the scurrying for the exits by Conway’s political allies, I’d say the internal polling on this tactic is not good.

    Comment by Rojas — 10/19/2010 @ 11:57 am

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