Jonathan Chait

The Truly Best Ad Ever

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This political spot, for New Orleans coroner, is getting a lot of hype as the best ad ever:

It's funny, but in truth it's nowhere close. The best ad ever was in an election for property value assessor in Floyd County, Kentucky. I wrote about it in TNR in 2002. I couldn't find the video on the web. (If anybody can, please email it to me.) You'll have to rely on my description, which can't do justice to the video but does provide a sense of how dada it is:

If you're one of the civic delinquents who hasn't followed this race, here's what happened: The incumbent, Connie Hancock, aired an attack ad maintaining that her opponent has been "arrested or charged fifty-six times for violating the law," including DUI, criminal trespassing, felony assault, and terroristic threatening. "In a drunken brawl," the ad further charges, he "bit a man's ear completely off." As if this charge needs more dramatization, it is followed by a high-pitched scream--the sound, we presume, of a man whose ear has just been bitten completely off.

How do you respond to a volley like this? Hancock's adversary, David May, begins his rejoinder by downplaying the charges. "Sure, when I was young"--May is now 27--"I did a few things I'd like to think I'd handle different. My opponent said I was arrested for DUI. That's completely untrue," he tells the camera. When you've been accused of committing 56 criminal acts, including cannibalism, it might seem like a fairly damning admission to deny only one (relatively innocuous) charge. But a cardinal rule of politics holds that you should never stay on the defensive. So May immediately segues into a brutal counter-offensive. "Why would Connie Hancock falsely attack me?" he asks. "She suspected this tape"--and here May holds up a videotape--"would surface. It's X-rated and shows just how little she values her reputation and wedding vows." At this point the ad cuts to a bedroom scene featuring a smiling, half- naked woman, strongly resembling Hancock, sitting on a bed as a man who may or may not be her husband approaches. Abruptly the video ends, and we are left with an image of May smiling and waving.

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