The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary -

oo ex­treme for Vir­ginia.” That’s what mil­lions of dol­lars’ worth of Demo­crat cam­paign ads say about Repub­li­can gu­ber­na­to­rial nom­i­nee Ken Cuc­cinelli and the rest of the GOP ticket in Tues­day’s off-year elec­tion.

When they’re not wag­ing a “war on women,” the das­tardly Repub­li­cans are kick­ing or­phans into the snow, steal­ing ap­ples from lunch boxes, push­ing old peo­ple off cliffs and paus­ing only long enough to have wild Tea Par­ties.

This is only a slight ex­ag­ger­a­tion of the Democrats’ cam­paign ads. Faced with a pub­lic that is con­nect­ing the dots be­tween the Oba­macare dis­as­ter and its en­ablers, the Democrats’ cam­paign team fur­ther down the food chain is reach­ing deep into its bag of fear.

Do both sides do it? Of course. Fly­ers and cam­paign ads for Repub­li­can and Demo­cratic can­di­dates fea­ture un­flat­ter­ing pho­tos of their op­po­nents and grim pre­dic­tions of a hope­less fu­ture if the aw­ful op­po­nent is elected.

In this game, Democrats clearly have the ad­van­tage. They love a good fight, and they’re skilled in the art of name-call­ing. Re­mem­ber when Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Harry Reid called peace­ful Tea Party pro­test­ers “evil-mon­gers” while giv­ing a pass to the van­dal­heavy Oc­cupy crowd?

The GOP’s idea of a good de­fense is the pro­tec­tive crouch. Can­di­dates fend off re­porters by ced­ing moral ground and try­ing to ap­pear harm­less. The well-fed es­tab­lish­ment con­sul­tants tell them that this will at­tract the elu­sive “in­de­pen­dent” vot­ers. It doesn’t. It just de­presses the GOP base, as it did in 2008 and 2012. The ex­cep­tion might be in a union-heavy, Demo­cratic state, such as New Jersey. The dan­ger is that GOP strate­gists may draw the wrong lessons for the rest of the coun­try if Gov. Chris Christie wins big in his re­elec­tion race on Tues­day.

The de­fen­sive crouch — which Mr. Christie of­ten ad­mirably avoids, but to which he re­verts on so­cial is­sues — has been the GOP de­fault for so long that many Repub­li­cans were scan­dal­ized by Sen. Ted Cruz. Dur­ing his marathon floor speech for de­fund­ing Oba­macare, the Texas se­na­tor in­cin­er­ated the hand­ful of Democrats who tried to trap him. We are so ac­cus­tomed to Repub­li­cans putting the car in re­verse that it was brac­ing to see Mr. Cruz in­stead put the pedal to the metal and run over his op­po­nents, in gen­tle­manly fash­ion, with in­con­ve­nient truths.

Un­til very late in the Vir­ginia gov­er­nor’s cam­paign, Ken Cuc­cinelli seemed to be fol­low­ing the strat­egy that doomed John McCain and Mitt Rom­ney, among oth­ers, which is al­low­ing the false charge of ex­trem­ism to go largely un­chal­lenged.

Mr. Cuc­cinelli is a prin­ci­pled con­ser­va­tive and an ef­fec­tive at­tor­ney gen­eral re­spected by many of his peers across the coun­try. The steady stream of “ex­trem­ist” at­tack ads from his op­po­nent, Terry McAuliffe, how­ever, may well per­suade enough Vir­gini­ans that Mr. Cuc­cinelli is “dan­ger­ous.” Who, though, are the real ex­trem­ists?

Does want­ing to place ev­ery sin­gle Amer­i­can un­der so­cial­ized gov­ern­ment health care make you a “mod­er­ate?” Does op­pos­ing this make you an “ex­trem­ist?”

How about op­pos­ing tax in­creases? Is that “ex­treme?” Or fa­vor­ing voter photo-ID laws? We’re told that en­act­ing such laws is not only “ex­treme,” but “racist.” How about be­liev­ing that mar­riage is the union of a man and a woman? Too “ex­treme” for Vir­ginia?

Ever since the GOP-con­trolled Vir­ginia Gen­eral As­sem­bly in 2012 passed a law re­quir­ing abor­tion­ists to give women ul­tra­sound imaging be­fore an abor­tion, Democrats have had a field day ac­cus­ing Repub­li­cans of be­ing “ex­trem­ists” who want to force women to have “transvagi­nal ul­tra­sounds.” The Democrats and lib­eral Repub­li­cans are fine, of course, with “transvagi­nal abor­tions.”

One TV ad for Demo­crat at­tor­ney gen­eral can­di­date Mark Her­ring fea­tures a woman not­ing that as a state se­na­tor, Repub­li­can Mark Oben­shain backed the ul­tra­sound bill. Then she quotes var­i­ous au­thor­i­ties call­ing the re­quire­ment “in­tru­sive,” “med­i­cally un­nec­es­sary,” “med­i­cal rape,” and “grotesque.” She fin­ishes with: “Mark Oben­shain, a real threat to Vir­ginia women.”

The ad leaves the im­pres­sion that if Mr. Oben­shain is elected, Vir­ginia women will be chased down the street by brute squads wield­ing vagi­nal probes. It’s very ef­fec­tive un­til you stop to think. What’s more “ex­treme” or “in­tru­sive? Let­ting women see what’s go­ing on in their wombs, or hav­ing an abor­tion­ist reach in to tear a baby apart? One ac­tion is di­ag­nos­tic, while the other’s spe­cific pur­pose is to take a hu­man life. And yet one is “ex­treme,” and the other is about “women’s health.”

As we learned in 2012, when the Obama cam­paign, con­fronted with the truth, con­tin­ued to run an ad falsely charg­ing Mr. Rom­ney with caus­ing a woman to die of can­cer, that truth is a lux­ury, not a ne­ces­sity. If truth helps to elect the can­di­date, fine. But if a lie works bet­ter — and there are lots of ways to lie — go for it. The me­dia won’t be the least bit cu­ri­ous.

The an­ti­dote is to put the liars on the de­fen­sive by ex­pos­ing the lies, and de­fend­ing your own po­si­tions with unapolo­getic clar­ity.

Con­ser­va­tive GOP can­di­dates found their in­ner pit bull in 2010, run­ning against Oba­macare and achiev­ing a his­toric elec­toral vic­tory. In 2012, they seemed to for­get that les­son. It didn’t help that the In­ter­nal Rev­enue Ser­vice was treat­ing the Tea Party groups like Chicago shop own­ers who won’t “play ball for the team.”

With Oba­macare pain spread­ing, the only thing for Repub­li­cans to fear is fear it­self. That and re­vert­ing to form.

Robert Knight is a se­nior fel­low for the Amer­i­can Civil Rights Union and a colum­nist for The Wash­ing­ton Times.

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