"Barack Obama has made his mistakes as a politician and as a president," says Frank Rich at New York, "but here is one thing he indisputably did right: Pummel Mitt Romney with a volley of attack ads once Romney sewed up the Republican nomination." Republicans and some Democratic allies have admonished Obama for attacking Bain Capital, the private equity firm Romney founded, citing some pseudo-mythic era when American politics were supposedly more wholesome. But the fact of the matter is that negative campaigning is a rich American tradition — and a vital component of the democratic process itself. Here, an excerpt:
Given the anemic employment numbers and the pack of billionaire GOP sugar daddies smelling blood after their Wisconsin victory, a reboot of hope and change would truly be the re-election campaign's most self-destructive option. Obama is embarking on one of the roughest political races in memory, not a nostalgia tour. He is facing an opponent with a proven record of successful carpet-bombing attacks, as Gingrich and Rick Santorum can attest. ...
The president, any president, should go negative early, often, and without apology if the goal is victory. The notion that negative campaigning is some toxic modern aberration in American democracy is bogus. No campaign may ever top the Andrew Jackson–John Quincy Adams race of 1828, in which Jackson was accused of murder, drunkenness, cockfighting, slave-trading, and, most delicious of all, cannibalism. His wife and his mother, for good measure, were branded a bigamist and a whore, respectively. (Jackson won nonetheless.) ...
Romney could yet succeed in "creating a new character for himself" before the Democrats create a frightening one for him. The task for the Obama campaign... is to nuke him first in 60 seconds of gut-wrenching and — dare one say it? — nauseating TV.
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- Why is the Pentagon stuffing caves in Norway full of tanks?
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- 3 horrific inaccuracies in Homeland's depiction of Islamabad
- Syrian women know how to defeat ISIS
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- 5 baffling foreign-language versions of the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air theme song
- The uncomfortable truth in The Giving Tree
- The one thing the New Atheists get right about religion
- 6 things the happiest families all have in common
- The U.S. government is actually trouncing Ebola. When will it get credit?
Subscribe to the Week