Political moral high ground — does it even exist?

Mark it down in the history books: this is the day I agreed with George W. Bush. He is absolutely right that ads run by 527 groups (a loophole in the tax law) are against the intention of the 2002 McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Law. If only he were holding up the ideals of a noble law and not just watching his own back…

Now these 527s do run some pretty cool ads. MoveOn.org has had some particularly poignant ones, and America Coming Together (ACT) currently has an awesome one of Will Ferrell reprising his hysterical Bush impression (check it out at whitehousewest.com – definitely worth the bandwidth). Of course, I mostly find these agreeable because I’m a liberal and nine of the top 10 527s are left leaning. But for the most part, they’re not airing unadulterated lies.

The only reason any attention is being paid to Bush’s bitching about the new soft money is because of one of those rare conservative 527 groups: Swift Boat Veterans for Bush…I mean Truth! That bastion of fair journalism known as cable news brought this actually little aired ad into the public consciousness, and when I heard these allegations against Senator Kerry’s war record, I knew I had to investigate. I found just what I was looking for in factcheck.org – almost the entire account was refuted. But since I checked that, I’ve been getting email updates almost daily further showing what a completely false smear job these “patriots” were trying to do on Kerry.

It’s interesting to see Bush slyly bash The Media Fund/ACT/MoveOn in the context of calling for an end to this specific ad against Kerry (which he never actually does). But it’s hardly surprising. Kerry has run a grand total of three ads that could even be seen as negative while running with George Bush as his primary opponent and they were all responding to the aforementioned Swift Boat ad. In fact, one of them is simply footage of John McCain chastising then Gov. Bush in the 2000 primary campaign for similar attacks against his Vietnam record!

So it’s predictable that Bush would come out hard against groups like these. They’re the only ones running ads against him! I’ve been looking for one for quite a while, and I really can’t remember ever seeing an ad for Bush rather than against Kerry. But, you know, what else could he do? What record does he have to run on?

Bush is right that we need soft money completely out of our system. That’s one thing that could return accountability to politics. But there’s something that needs to go much more urgently, and that’s negativity.

Patrick Gibbons can be contacted at p.gibbons@umiami.edu.