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Sound bites with teeth

It didn't take long after the invention of television for some political mind to dream up the on-air attack ad. Here are five that exemplify the usual tactics -- authoritative voice-overs, emotional music, provocative accusations -- with aplomb. (The five can be viewed at the website of the Museum of the Moving Image, http://livingroomcandidate.movingimage.us/index.php.)

April 23, 2006

"Give Me

a Week"

(1960)

For:

John F. Kennedy

Against:

Richard Nixon

An incredulous, almost sarcastic voice-over asks whether anyone could really believe GOP claims that Nixon had any governing experience. The ad features a quote from Republican President Eisenhower, who, when asked what major ideas of Nixon's he had adopted, answers: "If you give me a week, I might think of one, I don't remember."

*

"Daisy"

(1964)

For:

Lyndon B. Johnson

Against:

Barry Goldwater

As a little girl is picking daisies, the screen goes dark and a mushroom cloud appears. In his own voice-over, Johnson suggests -- he does not mention Goldwater by name -- that a vote for his opponent is a vote for nuclear war.

*

"Toy Soldiers"

(1972)

For:

Richard Nixon

Against:

George McGovern

As military drums beat solemnly, a hand brushes aside neatly arranged toy soldiers, planes and naval ships into graceless heaps while a voice-over describes military cuts proposed by McGovern (who served as a bomber pilot in World War II). When the ad cuts to Nixon, the music changes to "Hail to the Chief" and a real soldier replaces the toy ones.

*

"Willie Horton"

(1988)

For:

George H.W. Bush

Against:

Michael Dukakis

A voice-over contrasts Bush's anti-crime tactics with Dukakis' "weekend passes," saying they give convicted murderers -- such as Willie Horton -- the chance to roam free and commit more crimes.

*

"Whichever Way the Wind Blows"

(2004)

For:

George W. Bush

Against:

John Kerry

Kerry windsurfs in shorts and a T-shirt to the music of "Blue Danube" while a voice-over lists his reputed flip-flops on issues and declares that he votes whichever way the wind blows.

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