Kennedy needs to refine attack or be blindsided later--posted by Tony Garcia on 7/05/2006
Attack ads are fine with me...as long as they are truthful. Attack ads are a good strategy...as long as the attacking premise logically leads to the conclusion.
This year's Senate race will see plenty of attack ads. I have no problem with that. The problem I am starting to see develop is the lack of honesty in the ads. Kennedy's campaign surrogates (they are not officially a part of Kennedy's campaign) started on the offensive long ago. Some of them have lost touch with logic and objectivity long ago. The rest hopefully will see the err of their ways and correct the issues soon.
Amy Klobuchar is the District Attorney in Hennepin County. Crime has gone through the roof in Minneapolis lately. Now, what do these two have as the connection? From the Kennedy surrogates and campaign the line is that since crime is going through the roof and Klobuchar is the D.A. she is responsible. Well, that is not exactly true.
The more honest attack would be if the crime is being perpetrated by repeat offenders. More specifically if there was a failure to prosecute these people and they committed more crimes. THAT would be the honest attack ad. The link between the problem and the candidate would be true.
As it is protrayed right now the attacks would be more relevant for the Mayor's race in Minneapolis or for the Sherrif's race in Hennepin County.
Now why is this important? Because the responses from the Klobuchar camp, if done in the midst of the campaigns, would be devastating. What if the Klobuchar incarceration rate was tops in the state? The link that the Kennedy surrogates have been making would vanish and the attacks would be seen as a negative against the Kennedy supporters.
Your rhetoric must have the link between cause and effect or it loses its impact upon direct refutation.
The other problem I see with this line of attack is that Klobuchar is the HENNEPIN COUNTY D.A. Yes, Minneapolis is a large part of that job. But what is the record outside of the dreaded city? The refutation would be even more devastating is as follows.
Klobuchar embraces the faulty link between crime rates and the D.A. and uses stats in other areas of the county to show her effectiveness thus showing the problem in Minneapolis is elsewhere and more complex than her "opponent is able to understand". This is what we would call in debate a turn. In this case taking an attack and making it into a positive for the target and a negative for attacker.
A similar turn is the classic 1984 quip from Ronald Reagan. Walter Mondale and the media were making Reagan's advanced age an issue. Reagan disarmed the topic with the humorous and effective turn, "I refuse to let my opponent's inexperience be a campaign issue."
When a campaign engages in attacks they need to be certain that the premise logically flows to the conclusion. Otherwise they are setting the stage for devastating rhetorical turns...they may not matter to the partisans but the undecideds and moderates will be affected.
My advice to the Kennedy surrogates: stop trying to tie crime committed to Klobuchar. Tie the failure to prosecute to Klobuchar. Tie the rest of the county to Klobuchar. Make the attack honest and true or risk devastating responses. And do so soon before it is too late to swing the rudder in a different direction.