Not for the first time, Mark and I disagree.
Here’s the analogy that comes to mind. No one likes having to use bombs in war. Forget the garbage about “smart bombs”: they kill people. Lots of them. They kill innocent people. Lots of them.
But if the other side is bombing the hell out of me, I’m not going to sit there wringing my hands about collateral damage. That doesn’t mean I’d try to kill civilians; anything but. I’d take precautions.
And that is exactly what Conway did for the most part:
1. Most importantly, the ad is true as far as anyone can tell. Even more importantly, Paul had never denied it. He just says that it comes from blogs, or the gutter, or wherever — the classic non-denial denial.
2. The ad’s text does not insult a religion: in fact, it criticizes Paul for insulting a religion. Think to yourself: isn’t it quite disgusting what Paul and his fraternity brothers did? Maybe he should have a right to insult a religion: that hardly makes it a qualification to be a Senator.
3. Mark doesn’t seem to believe that the issue about tying a woman up was important for Conway, but it figures pretty heavily in the ad. That’s a clean and to my mind quite important hit.
4. As Markos points out, in this Senate campaign Rand Paul started the whole thing about who is Christianer than thou. That’s an important precaution: you don’t start the slime.
Okay: I don’t like the big images of Buddha (Buddhism had nothing to do with this) and the flute music in the background. That was off base. But to call it the “ugliest, most illiberal political ad of the year”, as Jon Chait does? Please. It wouldn’t even make it on the Top 100 of conservative outrages in this election cycle alone.
Still, if that’s all there was to it, I’d probably feel the same way that Mark does (although by Kleimanian standards “sucks dead dogs” is pretty mild).
But that’s not all there is to it.
For the last 30 years, the Republican Party has decided to make religion a test for political office. It has impugned every progressive’s religion (or lack of religion), and has turned evangelical Christianity into the Republican Party at prayer. It has encouraged, funded, and nurtured religious bigotry throughout the United States. It has poisoned Christianty — and is now doing its best to poison Judaism — into becoming pawns of right-wing agitprop.
And now, it is just shocked, shocked, that one of its candidates, who is cynically playing religion for votes, is confronted with his own actual record. After spewing for months that Barack Obama is a secret Muslim, or a Nazi, or a Muslim Nazi, it suddenly is getting on its high horse about an ad. It has spent decades falsely running down the character of its opponents; most infamously, when Karl Rove ran a whisper campaign saying that a judge famous for helping abused children was a pedophile. And now it complains when it gets a taste of its own medicine, except that in this case, the medicine is truthful.
Sorry. No sympathy here. The only way to get these guys to stop is to throw it in their faces whenever there is an opportunity to do so. Conway’s sin — the big Buddha and the flute music, and not the gravamen of the ad itself — pales in comparison to Paul’s and the GOP’s sins.
Deterrence is not pretty. It may not even be moral. But sometimes it’s necessary. This is one of those times.
Maybe Conway’s statement should read: “I apologize to all Buddhists by in any way associating them with Rand Paul.”