For groundbreaking special effects, the TV ad by Rep. James Rogan
(R-Glendale) attacking state Sen. Adam Schiff (D-Glendale) on HMO reform
is definitely the one to catch. The commercial juxtaposes grainy images
of suitcases filled with cash and hands greedily accepting wads of green
with statements that Schiff's reform plan would raise premiums and
benefit trial lawyers.
Given that Schiff has never been accused of accepting suitcases filled
with cash, the ad sets a new standard for negative campaigning. No one
can accuse Rogan's people of actually lying. They're just showing
pictures. What's shown can be anything -- images of prostitutes on street
corners, junkies shooting up in the park, alien invaders taking over the
White House -- so long as the pictures have no relation to the voiceovers
that accompany them. Pure, inspired brilliance.
If you're looking for high comedy, check out the news release sent to
local newspapers by the Schiff camp, alleging Rogan recently campaigned
on an extremist, racist Web site. Asked why the release claimed Rogan's
appearance on the site was a recent event when, in fact, it happened well
over a year ago, Schiff's people responded with a Clintonesque "Oops."
But what really elevates the release to the level of comedy is the
fact that, even a year ago, the allegation was unfounded. Yes, Rogan
appeared on the site, but it wasn't a hate site. Although the public
forum section of the site would occasionally be hit by people posting
racist diatribes, those postings were routinely deleted by the Web hosts,
who warned against such behavior.
The News-Press reports on these candidate attacks because they're news
-- if not because of the allegations contained in them, then because the
public needs to know the depths to which politicians will sink to get
And if the truth be known, we simply love these kinds of stories.
For starters, it's just too entertaining to watch Schiff and Rogan try
to explain why their hit pieces don't violate a civility pledge the
candidates signed a few weeks ago. One's accusing his opponent of being a
racist and the other's accusing his opponent of taking bribes, but both
insist they're maintaining the spirit of the pledge. It's like watching a
JPL scientist trying to explain the physics of a Jackie Chan film: "and
that's why Jackie emerges from the plate-glass window with the whiskey
glass still balanced on his head."
As we watch the Rogan-Schiff media war heat up, it may be a good idea
to take a cue from a Beatles song: "Turn off your mind, sit down and
Pass the popcorn, and enjoy the show.