On the eve of this PA primary, which Hillary must really win by an impressive margin in order to have a fighting chance, both she and Obama have released new commercials attacking each other. As regular readers know, I, seemingly alone among the pundits, have not been all that impressed with the level of nastiness in this campaign so far--I mean, compared to 1988 or 1964, it's like watching two private school kids thumb their noses at each other--but now the ads are catching up to the glories of "Daisy" in '64, to the horror of "Revolving Door" and the sheer breathless hilarity of "Tank" in '88.
Hillary's new "Kitchen" ad has the makings of a classic. She brings in images from the Great Depression, World War II, 9/11, the current recession, the Iraq war and ends by quoting Harry Truman: "If you can't stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen." (Politicians on the losing side of things almost always turn to Truman because of his 1948 comeback victory against Thomas E. Dewey. Doesn't matter if they're Democrat or Republican--George H.W. Bush claimed Truman would have "voted Republican" were he alive in that 1992 Bush-Clinton contest.)
I always say about attack ads, one, they work, despite what people claim when asked if they like them. And two, the more gratuitously absurd they are--and "Kitchen" is pretty absurd--the better they work. Tying these unrelated images together is completely ridiculous, as is tossing in a hackneyed line from a president who was often ineffectual and despised by his own party ("To Err is Truman" was a favorite line of the time). And, of course, Hillary's time in the White House was not, after all, as president.
Obama's response is a pallid ad called "He Has What It Takes," which is far too short in the visceral, gut-level image department to have any effect--it bores from the beginning, with Obama nattering on about how we are "one people, united." A nice message, but, in nice vs. nasty, nasty always wins out.