President Obama's re-election campaign doesn't officially kick off until this weekend, but it's already up with its fourth ad of the 2012 season. (Watch the latest clip below.) The Obama ads have steadily progressed from "positive messaging for Obama" to fiercely attacking GOP challenger Mitt Romney, with the newest footage accusing Romney of shipping jobs overseas while parking cash in his Swiss bank account, says Chris Cillizza at The Washington Post. And let's be honest: From this point on, "Obama shouldn't run any more positive ads." Negative ads work, especially when deployed by incumbents — just ask Sen. John Kerry, the 2004 Democratic nominee — and this is Obama's best shot to define Romney. Have we really come to a point where attack ads are the norm, and positive ads are "a waste of time"?
Obama's negative ads will backfire: This year's "campaign-as-warfare" ethos may seem sensible inside the Obama and Romney bunkers, says David Brooks in The New York Times, "but it's probably bad sociology and terrible psychology, given the general disgust with conventional politics." Relentlessly negative ads will rile up partisans, but Obama would win over more swing voters if he'd "play to his personal popularity and run an American Idol campaign — likability, balance, safety, and talent."
"Warfare or courtship in 2012?"
But only fools disarm unilaterally: Given the choice, I'm sure Obama would opt for "a let-us-reason-together roundtable campaign," says P.M. Carpenter at his blog. But we're in a period of "absolutely barbaric politics," and his options are to fight or get trampled by a deep-pocketed, "implacable, warfaring foe." Believing otherwise only makes sense to "a Beltway commentator of the first rank — balanced, impartial, and insanely evenhanded, to the death."
"How wretched is our wretchedly black valley"
The shallowness is even worse than the negativity: Look, this certainly isn't the first election season "to feature ponderous hand-wringers, including yours truly," opining for kinder, more honest politics, says Ruth Marcus at The Washington Post. But what's really galling about today's political debate is the lack of substance. Dog jokes, the "un-illuminating new slogan, 'Forward,'" and blasting Romney's Swiss bank accounts? We need to know, in detail, how each candidate will deal with the dire times we face. Sadly, "Obama and Romney are campaigning to win," not govern.
"Obama and Romney's shallow campaigns"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- China's leader is telling the People's Liberation Army to prepare for war
- How to save money: 12 great personal finance tips
- How I lost all my money
- The religious right isn't retreating — it's reforming
- Why Pakistan won't hunt down the terrorists within its borders
- How academia's liberal bias is killing social science
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- 10 things you need to know today: December 22, 2014
- Diagnosing the Home Alone burglars' injuries: A professional weighs in
- A brief history of the Christmas present
Subscribe to the Week