The Republican Governors Association "goes there" with my absolute least-favorite attack ad topic of all time: criticizing criminal defense attorneys for their work representing clients. In a new spot, the RGA lambastes Democratic state Sen. Vincent Sheheen, who is running to unseat Gov. Nikki Haley in South Carolina, as "trial lawyer" who "made money off criminals" and "got a sex offender out of jail time."
I'm never one for Marquess of Queensberry rules when it comes to campaign trail fights. Politics is messy, after all. But these kinds of ads are a direct assault on the very notion of an adversarial system of justice, one of the foundations of our democracy. Making criminal defense seem like a scuzzy, dishonorable, fiendish line of work will just lead to fewer (and worse) criminal defense attorneys, which is the last thing we need.
The RGA obviously doesn't give a damn about that, though, and this kind of attack, sadly, may very well have been poll-tested as effective. Similar slurs, for instance, derailed Debo Adegbile's nomination to head up the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division. Then again, this is the same gang that brought us the absurd Schauer/shower ads in Michigan that criticized a Democrat for supporting laws passed by Republicans, so perhaps not. We can only hope.