Twitter tells me that I should be outraged by Texas Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis’ latest attack ad, but I just can’t muster it.
Many on the right and some on the left have reacted with horror to Davis’ latest campaign ad, which centers around a three decades old crippling accident her Republican opponent, Greg Abbott, suffered. Honing in on a picture of a wheelchair, a voice intones: “A tree fell on Greg Abbott. He sued and got millions. Since then he spent his career working against other victims.”
The ad essentially calls Abbott a hypocrite, giving details of how he supposedly worked against victims of similar life-altering tragedies during his time as Texas attorney general.
Maybe Davis’ allegations are true. Maybe they aren’t. I don’t know. I haven’t been following the Texas gubernatorial race all that closely, mainly because Abbott looks like he is going to cruise to an easy victory. But the ad is hardly out-of-bounds, much less “disgusting,” as Abbott’s campaign called it.
For starters, questions of character matter. If Abbott is a hypocrite, it’s relevant. Instead of whining about how mean the ad supposedly is, Abbott’s campaign should refute the allegations.
But what most of the punditocracy seem to be enraged by is how the ad opens with a picture of a wheelchair, as if to remind voters that Abbott is handicapped. But Abbott hasn’t exactly been hiding the fact he uses a wheelchair, a la Franklin Roosevelt. In fact, Abbott featured his wheelchair in an ad about his dogged determination to recover after his tragic accident.
Given the fact that Abbott himself has highlighted his infirmity, a nondescript picture of a wheelchair at the beginning of an ad hardly seems like some brilliant subliminal scheme to undercut Abbott’s campaign.
And if that is what Davis and her ad team intended, well, then that’s just another reason Texans should vote against her — not on moral grounds, but because such a strategy would prove she is too dumb for the job.
This is hardly the first time the political world has gone inappropriately apoplectic over an ad. Remember the supposedly racist 2006 campaign ad against Harold Ford Jr. when he was running for Senate in Tennessee? I tried to be outraged about the ad at the time, but despite my best efforts, I was never able to locate the racism in it, unlike the crack team of racism decoders at MSNBC.
I can only imagine what the media reaction would have been if John McCain aired an ad tying Barack Obama to his long-time pastor Jeremiah Wright during the 2008 presidential campaign, as some McCain campaign strategists wanted to do. McCain refused to give the ad the go-ahead, believing for some bewildering reason such an ad would have been inappropriate. It wouldn’t have been.
The only thing potentially offensive about the latest Wendy Davis ad is if it is proven to be full of lies. All the other criticisms that have so far been flung against it amount to a whole lot of nothing.
I have little sympathy for Davis’ liberal politics. But the political firestorm that has erupted over her latest ad is more than a little bit silly.