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Brilliant, Tough Liberal 527: Do You Really Want That Crazed Ol' POW Near the Button?

4:06 PM, Sep 15, 2008 • By MARY KATHARINE HAM
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In 2008, it is not that the left does not fight hard enough to win elections that is the problem. It's that it continually chooses to fight on the wrong ground. If there's a political Little Round Top in sight, they will charge right up it under the brave leadership of Daily Kos and liberal 527s, only to run belly-first into the bayonet of American common sense.

Case in point, today's utterly counterproductive ad released by Brave New PAC and Democracy for America, which has already been decried by the McCain campaign and was pegged by one Republican observer weeks ago as a "nightmare" for Obama.

Transcript:

Fellow McCain POW Philip Butler: "The prisoner of war experience is not a good prerequisite for president of the United States... He was known as a very volatile guy and he would blow up and go like a Roman candle. John McCain is not someone I would like to see with his finger near the red button."

It's a simultaneously unconvincing and disrespectful line of attack on McCain, and the only place it has found purchase until now is on the wacko right and left, mostly on the Internet, until Brave New PAC started buying ad space. The ad will now quickly make the leap to television, and Obama will have to spend three days denouncing, renouncing, distancing, repeat, while McCain talks about his service.

Liberal bloggers will undoubtedly scratch their heads and wonder why trashing McCain's Vietnam service doesn't work out for them the way "trashing" Kerry's did for the Swift Boat Vets, concluding against all odds and mostly without the aid of hallucinogenics, that it was the notoriously right-wing corporate media that did them in.

They will ignore the fact that the Swift Boat ads worked for several reasons, and those reasons did not include the stupidity of American voters or the complicity of the American media.The Swift Boat Vets made an impact because Kerry demonstrably lied about being in Cambodia, talked about throwing away medals, testified about war crimes his fellow vets refused to admit even when tortured, and spent a tad too much time with Jane Fonda. For many, Kerry's actions were not those of a courageous warrior turned valiant anti-war protestor. Instead, they symbolized the betrayal many Vietnam vets experienced in the wake of an unpopular war.

There was an "Okie from Muskogee" constituency for those ads, a silent majority that had been itching to speak, and it resided in the states Bush needed to win. The Brave New PAC ad only attacks without first identifying a constituency or a larger message that would touch it.

Contrast its style and substance with this Swift Boat ad, "They Served," and see why the latter worked and this one won't: