The Attack Ad on Laffey: Just Plain Lame, Stupid & Condescending

This ProJo article and Marc’s and Andrew’s earlier postings (here, here, here) talk about the attack ad on U.S. Senate candidate Steve Laffey by the National Republican Senatorial Committee and Laffey’s response.
Here is an excerpt about the ad from the ProJo article:

Yesterday the exchange escalated with the GOP committee’s broadcast of the 30-second attack on Laffey. As an announcer asks, “Have you seen this guy Steve Laffey?” the ad shows an image from Laffey’s own kickoff ad of last month. The voice says that the “same Steve Laffey” who criticized oil companies once “ran a company selling oil industry stocks on Wall Street. Profiting from offshore oil drilling. The oil companies made a fortune. Steve Laffey made a fortune.”
As the spot returns to the clip of Laffey pledging to “stand up to special interests,” a graphic technique drips “oil” over the screen, including Laffey’s image. The announcer concludes, “Slick. Steve Laffey. Laughing all the way to the bank.”

Well the NRSC must think that we Rhode Islanders are all a bunch of stupid yahoos to run such a lame and condescending ad.
Steve Laffey previously was President of Morgan Keegan. As a securities firm, Morgan Keegan offered investment banking services for many segments of the American economy – including the energy industry. Which is why the following was said:

Laffey’s spokeswoman, Robin Muksian-Schutt, said it’s true that his company worked on stocks from the oil industry — and many other industries as well.
But she said Laffey’s company worked on transactions from many industries — not just oil. “That was his job,” she said.

To drill down on the sheer stupidity of the ad’s argument, consider these questions: Is the NRSC saying it doesn’t accept the important market-making role of investment banking firms in the American economy? Do they want to return us to the days when investment deals had limited distribution and were typically only offered to wealthy people with the right personal connections? Why is the NRSC ridiculing the important role banks play in allocating investment capital that creates jobs in all segments of the American economy and for Americans at all economic levels?
And in response to all this, Senator Chafee said:

Chafee said in an interview yesterday that, although he had nothing to do with it, the ad aired by Dole’s committee is a “legitimate” jab at Laffey’s “hypocrisy.”

So we have a lame, stupid and condescending attack ad that holds no substantive meaning to anyone with a rudimentary understanding of the banking industry and/or an appreciation for the role investment banking firms play in allocating capital across a free-enterprise capitalist economy. And we have a Senator who wants to convince us that lame, stupid commentaries should be taken seriously by his constituents. How condescending.
Another example of how Senator Chafee is so impressive.
And we don’t need a bunch of outsiders talking down to the people of Rhode Island.

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18 years ago

Can’t believe (well yeah I can) so many of you completely miss (or don’t want to see) the VERY effective point the NRSC ad was making.
Laffey’s first big ad campaign, out awfully early since the election is a year away, is very negative since it attacks both political parties and targets certain industries.
But Laffey’s big pontificating and finger pointing bluster loses it’s edge when Laffey’s own company (therefore Laffey himself) made lots of money dealing with the very industry he’s now demonizing because he’s running for the Senate.
That ad was short, sweet and to the point and I don’t believe Linc Chafee’s name is ever mentioned even once.
It was purely a slapdown of Laffey and a very effective one.
Laffey comes across as just another changing his stripes politician who say anything to get elected.
People DON’T like that!!

Donald B. Hawthorne
Donald B. Hawthorne
18 years ago

Tim: Your argument fails to persuade because – among other things – you begin it with the “can’t believe so many of you…” comment that implies some of us are marching forward in some mindless drone-like fashion. You obviously are not paying close enough attention to some of the ongoing arguments on this blogsite. First, the content of the RSNC ad was ridiculous to anyone with one iota of knowledge about the economics of a banking firm. The ad will only possibly be effective with people who are ignorant of the world of finance. Now, if you want to defend ads that attempt to play off people’s lack of information and ignorance…it certainly is your right. But don’t ever confuse that kind of ad with contributing to an informed public debate or being persuasive to even the modestly informed voter. Second, some of us have previously taken Laffey to task for some of his comments, including these words: “Laffey’s speech contains words that no informed or business savvy person would say – unless he was pandering for votes. That possibility is most disappointing because it suggests opportunism – not principled behavior – is driving the Laffey campaign.” So much for being a one-sided mindless drone. Follow two links in that posting to further postings on the drug and energy industries and why I disagree with Laffey’s comments about those industries. Third, Senator Chafee has also been appropriately criticized for his support of the pork-laden highway bill. There was simply no justification for supporting that ridiculous bill. The problem with the RSNC ad is that it is symptomatic of much of what is wrong in politics these days – politicians and their active supporters have trouble telling the truth. Therefore, some of us believe that the best way to contribute positively… Read more »

18 years ago

I agree there has been some soul searching on this blog regarding this populist anti-corporate streak that suddenly attends Laffey now that he is campaigning beyond Cranston. However, Insofar as the ad is concerned, I can only say that he asked for it. Of course the ad displays no understanding of how the financial industry works, but Laffey’s ads and statements display no understanding of how the oil industry [or the pharmaceutical industry] works. Laffey started this spiral into stupidity, sadly because my experience to this point has been that although he could be sensational on issues, he could back himself up with substance. This is a marked departure from the quality of argumentation I have seen on his part over time. Hard to say if this is campaign strategists taking the race away from him already or what. From a macro perspective it looks like he is already announcing victory in the primary and taking aim at the Democrats by co-opting their anti-corporate stance. IT is packaged in the anti-government rhetoric of objecting to subsidies – but what he is objecting to in these recent public exchanges is not subsidy (he hasn’t named one regarding pharmaceutical or oil)but profit. It is possible that this is also an appeal to Rockefellar Republicans like my dad who predominately vote Republican to provide back pressure against Democratic hegemony but who hold a Rooseveltian [pick one] view of corporate malfeasance as somehow on par with or worse than the problems of big government. Laffey is already abandoning the theme that got him where he is – that government is the problem — a big mistake in my opinion as it is one of few circumstances that has made Linc look more palatable in the last 6 years. Chafee has been one of the… Read more »

18 years ago

I also want to compliment Brian on his breakdown of the issues. I suppose that the only thing I would add is, that Laffey is currently in Week 4 of his campaign for Senate. His specific positions on a variety of issues will become clearer as time progresses, so don’t give up quite yet.
Although I am a Laffey supporter, and I am fully knowing that Mayor Laffey is not perfect (haven’t met the perfect candidate yet), I would absolutely recommend against blindly following anyone if you are uncomfortable or unclear how he might address certain issues that you deeply care about. Healthcare is a major concern of mine; so are high gas prices, and so many other things. That being said, as I have previously stated, “don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”
Much of the problem with government in Rhode Island boils down to four things: voter apathy, outright ignorance, expecting too much from government, and more importantly, expecting too little from our leaders. Being an informed voter is not a bad thing!

18 years ago

it is always nice to be complimented, mostly because it is nice to be read in the first place. Sorry to those who authored those brief compliments that my brief response exploded once again. I take Andrew’s point about bringing in independents into the primary, but honestly I think the primary with just the normal contingent of Republican voters is Laffey’s to lose. IF you want to bring in independents while promoting lower taxes, I have no problem with that. But bringing them in with ‘Viox in every pot’ and ‘free gas for everyone’. This is FDR redux. If he really believes the oil and pharmaceutical industries are 5th columns in America, he is not someone I can vote for. I hope he doesn’t believe that. I’m not writing him off in my own perspective or the macor one, but I neither do I think it augers well. Demagoguing against industries that have undergirded the American way of life, leisure and longevity because they have made money doing it is not a way to attract independent voters while not alienating your base. It is one thing if your base is huge, but I argue he can ill afford to alienate many in that 20,000 who were already on his side, even if it is in the pursuit of independents. It is not that I expect to agree with Steve all the time, or to find the perfect politician. But to come out as a virtual anti-capitalist is not some subtle difference for me. Noticed Will is concerned about the high price of gas. I am not. Environmentalists have been wanting to tax the crap out of gas for years and I (along with many others with more economic credentials after their names) have said let the market price gas, not… Read more »

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