Jonathan Chait has the vapors:
The ugliest, most illiberal political ad of the year may be this one, from Kentucky Democrat Jack Conway.
No, he's not talking about the millions of ads by GOP candidates and Rove's outfit, or even reprehensible ads from Democrats like this one from WV's Joe Manchin. He's talking about this ad from Jack Conway mocking Rand Paul's Aqua Buddha:
I can see why Chait and other progressives might be a bit upset, as the ad attacks Rand Paul for his irreligious beliefs.
Personally, I see nothing wrong with it. Voters are less concerned with issues than values when casting their ballots, and for many voters, religion speaks to the candidate's values. I may not like it, but it's a democracy, and the notion that the source of a candidate's values are off-limits is patently absurd.
Sure, that means that as an atheist I would never get elected in Mississippi or Alabama or Kentucky, but so what? No one has a right to electoral office, and in a democracy, you have to sell yourself to the voters. In many places, religion is part of the package.
But this "controversy" is particularly stupid for one big reason -- Conway didn't inject religion into this race, Rand Paul did:
I'm a Christian. We go to the Presbyterian Church. My wife’s a Deacon there and we’ve gone there ever since we came to town. I see that Christianity and values is the basis of our society. . . . 98% of us won’t murder people, won’t steal, won’t break the law and it helps a society to have that religious underpinning. You still need to have the laws but I think it helps to have a people who believe in law and order and who have a moral compass or a moral basis for their day to day life.
If you're going to start the "holier-than-thou" bullshit, then you absolutely make religion a valid issue in the campaign. Remember, it was Rand Paul that tried to gin up the outrage machine when Conway said the word "hell" during his Fancy Farm picnic earlier this year. To criticize Conway for pushing back aggressively is not only wrong-headed, it's also self-defeating.
Particularly since the ad has drawn blood. Paul refused to shake Conway's hand after their last debate, and he's now threatening to pull out of their last debate.
Paul knows he's in trouble, on the defensive from the one-two punch of his $2,000 Medicare deductible debacle and his college irreligiousness. He's flailing, lashing out, and in a tied race, it could make the difference in the end. Conway needs to push this attack.
(And you can help him do so.)
Update: Paul responds in ad accusing Conway of "bearing false witness", without explaining what part of Conway's ad was false. Of course, none of it was.
Update II: From TPM:
I have a real problem with all the prissy condemnations coming from liberal commentators about Conway's ad on Rand Paul's youthful playing with contempt for Christianity. People are acting as if it is some kind of political sin to point out to ordinary Kentucky voters the kind of stuff about Paul's extremist libertarian views that everyone in the punditry already knows. This does not amount to saying that Christian belief is a "requirement for public office" as one site huffs. It is a matter of letting regular voters who themselves care deeply about Christian belief know that Paul is basically playing them. No different really than letting folks who care about Social Security and Medicare know that Paul is playing them.
One reason that Dems do not seem to be able to play hardball -- in a viciously hardball political world -- is that Dems often lack conviction or the will to be eloquently honest (for example, on taxes). But an equal problem is that when someone does play hardball, the rest of the prissy liberal Mugwumps tut-tut them about it.
I say, go for it, Jack Conway. Does anyone doubt that Paul and his supporters would have used similar publicly documented material against Conway (or even less material)?
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