Won't someone please think of the attack ads?
Lt. Gov. Lucy Baxley repeatedly has assailed Gov. Bob Riley's record on the campaign trail in recent week, so I thought her side would be first out of the attack gate. But Riley surprised me Wednesday by firing the first televised salvo of what looks to be a vigorous attack ad season. The spot stays true to the template, complete with scoffing references to U.S. Sens. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., and John Kerry, D-Mass., and a derogatory mention of the word liberal, on average, every 4.3 seconds.
Baxley replied with a reminder of Riley's failed $1.2 billion tax plan: "Being called liberal by someone who proposed the largest tax increase in Alabama history is like being called fat by a hog." It should be noted here that Baxley voted for the package in 2003, but that was before a few more years of demonization finished their efforts to obliterate the memory that the plan actually would have reduced most people's tax burdens, so the prevailing meme must carry the rhetorical day.
The saddest part of the mudslinging is that both candidates have the ideas and ability to run positive, constructive campaigns if they choose. Riley's turn toward negative campaigning is particularly baffling and unfortunate, considering that he's way ahead in the polls and that, in all likelihood, he could coast to victory simply by relying on a pretty good record as governor.
But that's a risk Riley couldn't afford to take. After all, if he were able to win a statewide race with a purely upbeat campaign, other politicians might start getting the idea that they could, too. Just think of all the starving attack ads that would cause.