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C'mon, Get Nasty

Enough already with the presidential candidates' touchy-feely, heartwarming campaign ads. Let's see 'em go for the jugular.

March 01, 2000|MARTIN MILLER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

There's been a lot of talk this presidential campaign about negative ads: Who promised not to go negative? Who broke that pledge? Who said, "No, I didn't, you did"? Who replied, "I know you are, but what am I?"?

I applaud this kind of national dialogue. And now that the candidates are campaigning in our fair state I want to make a personal plea for them to rise above the politics of pandering, of expediency, and of the lowest common denominator. I want them to pledge to renounce--once and for all--positive political ads.

If I see one more candidate in some soft-lit and staged moment with a kid, a senior citizen or a pet, I'm jumping on the next raft for Cuba. Politicians who make positive ads about themselves tell the voters nothing, except about their ability to fantasize. Negative ads, on the other hand, tell us everything about their ability to dish out and take abuse--which is what being president is all about.

In the coming weeks and months, I want to see more negativity. I want this presidential campaign to be indistinguishable from a World Wrestling Federation "Smackdown!" (The WWF has recently introduced women into the mix, and if the political wives want to jump in the ring with the boys, bring them on.)

But with all the cuddly political ads running these days, many candidates are probably at a loss where to begin attacking their opponents. Here are a few suggestions. (By the way, you won't find Alan Keyes on this list because, not to be negative or anything, he doesn't stand a chance in hell.)

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Bashing Bradley

Bill Bradley's profited from his sports background, but it's also his Achilles' heel. Opponents can neutralize the endorsement of NBA star Michael Jordan by throwing a few other choice athletes into the lineup.

Imagine this 30-second spot. "Hi, I'm Marty McSorley of the NHL's Boston Bruins. You may know me best for using my hockey stick to crack another player in the head when his back was turned. You don't make it to the big leagues by being a nice guy. I've always admired Bill Bradley's competitiveness and sense of fair play. That's why I'm voting Bradley for president. He'll do a bang-up job."

If McSorley is unavailable, try Tonya Harding. Just substitute "hubcap" for "hockey stick" in the script.

Republican opponents could easily exploit the athlete angle as well and pound away at the Democratic stereotype of wasting taxpayer money. Try this one on: "Hi, my name is Pete Rose. I like to gamble and so does Bill Bradley--with your tax dollars. But with my insider tips, Bill's a sure-fire winner. Seriously, we'll all be able to retire like kings with the money Bill rakes in. We can't lose. Bradley is the best bet for president."

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Whacking Bush

The Texas governor has had a good ride on daddy's name and wealth. But here's where George W. Bush's ride gets bumpy.

To warm up, launch a nationwide television campaign in support of a new constitutional amendment that would prohibit a person from being president if his father was.

Next, hire a bunch of history nuts to re-create a battle scene between the colonists and the redcoats. Show the British wiping out the American rebels, and have one redcoat turn to the camera and say: "All hail King George II." Or produce a mock TV show called "Who Wants to Elect a Multi-Millionaire?"

Finally, broadcast a mugshot of Bush, but through the miracle of modern technology, substitute in a live mouth. Have the mouth say: "Read my lips--don't ask me any questions about what I did before I was 23. No, wait, 25. No, 31. Hold it, is there egg on my face? 37. After that is fine. Well, just to be safe, let's say an even 50."

Save the attack ads; they may come in handy when younger bro Jeb makes a bid for the White House someday.

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Goring Gore

You have to be careful. Al Gore is so famously boring that attacking him could backfire. Negative ads could inadvertently make the vice president seem edgy. It's like two negatives coming together to create a positive.

To avoid this, keep Gore surrounded by positive charges. Run ads showing him shaking hands with Barney, Mr. Rogers or one of the larger muppets. Voice-overs for the ads could say something like "Al Gore, a really, really nice guy." Everyone will get the message, if they're still awake.

Probably the most effective anti-Gore ad would be to simply broadcast any of his speeches--unedited. Ten seconds of that and your average viewer will be begging to watch C-SPAN2 instead.

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McMauling McCain

The good senator is from Arizona, the same state as Barry Goldwater. The 1964 Republican nominee's campaign was sunk by LBJ's infamous "Daisy" ad, which implied that Goldwater was trigger-happy with nukes.

Enter John McCain, who, as his campaign likes to remind everyone, was imprisoned in a North Vietnamese prison camp. Take that footage and replace it with this narration.

"John McCain spent five years in the infamous Hanoi Hilton. Let's just say they didn't have room service."

Cut to an actor who resembles McCain being thrown to the cell floor by sadistic guards. The McCain double rises to his knees and places his elbows on his mangy cot. He starts to pray.

"Please, let me be president someday. Please, oh, please, let me be president."

Back to the voice-over: "He was beaten and tortured. Now, he's got his finger on the button. You figure it out."

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Martin Miller can be reached at martin.miller@latimes.com.

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