Future GOP leaders may see this year's attack ads as their "Civil Rights Act" moment, when they lost every minority voter in America for a generation.
Tactics like this one and the one mentioned above could easily backfire. The Roves and the Attwaters of the GOP have been feeding their attack dogs under the table for decades. But as these ads show, they won't be able to control them in 2008 if Obama is the Democratic candidate. Attacking a minority presidential candidate without alienating every minority group in our increasingly multiethnic country requires a scalpel. These guys carry bludgeons. They don't have much finesse.
The trick for Democrats may be to not overreact. This is a change election and these tactics are anything but. It will take great confidence to stare down such opponents without becoming like them -- confidence the White House of Bush clearly hasn't shown in dealing with suspected terrorists. Democrats have to show integrity and strength in responding firmly, but also strength of character in not responding in kind. We may have to hold fire until our opponents begin to collapse under withering public outcry and plummeting poll numbers. With the GOP flogging the GWOT for all they're worth, it may look a bit "Gandhi" to frustrated activists itching for a fight, and to nervous pols anxious about looking tough for November.
But standing in the middle of the ring and drawing more blood than our opponents doesn't win elections. Winning over the crowd does. Americans are sick of the "fear and smear" politics of the last decade. If they are seeking a better alternative -- if enough are, that's the catch -- we have to show them we are it. Accentuate our positives, illuminate (but not flog) their negatives, and let the stark contrast speak for itself.
Let's hope it doesn't get much more stark than this.