Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The latest from the Republican slugfest in South Carolina — Ron Paul attacks his opponents for being dishonest, corrupt, and insufficiently right-wing

At one point in David Weigel's running commentary on Monday night's Republican debate in South Carolina (The Massacre in Myrtle Beach: Live Thread) he offers this passing comment:
Sort of forgotten in the media's hazy coverage of Paul is that he runs, by miles, the most negative, record-based attacks of any campaign.
That jibes with other things I have read. And my impression is that most of these attack ads go out under Ron Paul's own name (commendably enough), rather than getting outsourced to allegedly 'independent' SuperPacs.

Weigel also offers, as an example, a new ad released by the Ron Paul campaign, which features direct and un-subtle attacks on Newt Gingrich ("Serial Hypocrite"), Rick Santorum ("Counterfeit Conservative"), and Mitt Romney ("Flip-Flopper" and father of ObamaCare):

According to this attack ad, Gingrich & Santorum & & Romney share "One Vision: More Big Government, More Mandates, Less Freedom".

This ad is interesting at a number of levels. Of course, given the character of the Republican primary electorate in South Carolina, most of the candidates are competing with each other to stand out as the most radical-right candidate in the race. (Romney, by contrast, just wants to convince Republican voters that he is reliably right-wing and also the most "electable" candidate to send up against Obama.) But they represent somewhat different strands and shadings of reactionary politics. So it is informative to see the specific grounds that this Ron Paul ad uses to pin the "counterfeit conservative" label on each of the other candidates. They illustrate some of the hot-button issues in current Republican politics, or at least the ones that Ron Paul and his campaign want to emphasize right now.

Most of the themes highlighted here are unsurprising. But it is intriguing that this ad attacks Rick Santorum not only for being insufficiently anti-union (a blemish on Santorum's pro-plutocratic purity that's not surprising for a politician whose political career started out in western Pennsylvania) but also, believe it or not, for being insufficiently hard-line against abortion. Santorum, let us not forget, is a candidate who has outspokenly condemned not only abortion but even contraception.

More generally, this ad helps to bring out the extent to which an obsessive jihad against Planned Parenthood has become a central theme in right-wing political discourse. Many of the attacks against Romney by his Republican opponents have emphasized that RomneyCare in Massachusetts not only paid Planned Parenthood for medical services but (horrors!) allowed a Planned Parenthood representative to sit on a state advisory panel. This Ron Paul ad doesn't even bother to spell that out in Romney's case, but instead charges that even Rick Santorum "funded Planned Parenthood" (double horrors!).

=> Ron Paul does not, in fact, have a "real plan to cut a trillion dollars year one and to balance the budget in three"—and, of course, any attempt to do anything along these lines in the middle of a recession would be economically catastrophic. But not all of his claims about his opponents are inaccurate or unfair. What a crew!

—Jeff Weintraub