First, I’d like to compliment Brian at Iowa Voice for his post on this issue , which I think is pretty definitive. Only one minor quibble I have with it: a few people are attacking Fox beyond discussing how misleading the ad was, the merits of his argument, etc, but the vast majority are not. So on the whole, Brian is right on that point.
I’d also like to expand on a few things to what he said, namely that the left is engaging in underhanded tactics we by now are all too familiar with and sick of right here at election time in an attempt to gain more traction in the polls, and I’d like to note them in this post. There are many, but here are the primary tactics:
The first one: Playing the “absolute moral authority” card, which translates into: you can’t attack what Cindy Sheehan, the Jersey Girls, Michael J. Fox, etc say because of who they are: a mother who lost her son in Iraq, women who lost their husbands on 9-11, and an actor who is waging the fight of his life against a debilitating disease, and if you do attack what they say then you are “attacking an Iraq war mother who lost her son!!!!”, “being mean to women who lost their husbands on 9-11!!!”, and “beating up on a sick man!!!!” This tactic is designed for one purpose: to make the person arguing against the anointed “victims'” position(s) feel so guilty for supposedly being so mean-spirited and insensitive against the grieving, the less fortunate, the sick that they’ll shut up and cease arguing their case, which sometimes translates effectively into shutting down and cutting off the debate, which further translates into “the left is correct on this issue by default.” I find this tactic the most abhorent of them all, because the left has long fancied themselves as champions of free speech, open debate, and tolerance of all opinions, yet they engage in this very tactic routinely in order to cut people off at the knees. I admit, it’s been effective far too often, but I hope the tide is changing with this latest attempt. Now, they don’t actually come out and SAY you can’t criticize what the “victim” is saying, but they imply it with every word and action.
A side layer to this tactic is the attempt at playing on people’s emotions. Americans are most sympathetic to people they view as sympathetic or underdogs, people like grieving Iraq war mothers and 9-11 wives, and visibly sick and disabled people. We see someone who is sick, or sad, and we want to reach out and help them in any way possible. Tugging at the heartstrings of the American people is a hallmark of the Democratic strategy to win over voters and demonize opponents.
The second one: Avoiding the issue they are too afraid to discuss the merits of by sidetracking the issue onto something else. Case in point: making this whole debate regarding the Fox ad about Rush Limbaugh rather than whether or not Fox’s ad was misleading, and rather than debating the merits or lack thereof of embryonic stem cell research. They’d rather do this, rather than focus on whether the ad was misleading or not, because apparently it’s easier to take aim at a popular, controversial conservative radio talk show host than it is to defend a misleading ad.
The third one: The fear factor. Once again, we see Democrats trotting out the fear card they so routinely accuse Republicans of using, when in fact Republicans are light years behind Democrats in this department. This year, the fear card has two themes, the first of which is “if you don’t vote for me, protectors of child predators will still be in control of Congress” (re: Foley) and the second one is “if you don’t vote for me, sick people won’t be cured in the coming years because Republicans oppose cures for the sick” (re: stem cell research). This tactic is often used in conjunction with the first tactic I mentioned, in order to play on people’s fears (commonly known as demagoguery – how fitting that the word starts with DEM).
The fourth one: Mislabelling the issue as being about “stem cell research” in general, without specifying that the controvery surrounds embryonic stem cell research, not other forms of stem cell research. Saying someone “does not support stem cell research” is misleading, because casual followers of the issue whose sole knowledge of stem cell research (in general) is that it “has the potential to cure people” may not know that there are different forms of stem cell research out there, and that most people who oppose embryonic stem cell research approve of other kinds of stem cell research in hopes that it will provide cures for the sick. The champions of “free speech” and “open debate” are really champions of controlled debates where contrary facts, specific terms, and other information that is necessary and vital to form an informed opinion on an issue are regarded as irrelevant to “the cause.”
All of the above are shameless, devious, manipulative, and disingenuous attempts by the left to win over voters. They can’t win on the merits of their position on an issue in and of itself, so they have to either a) stifle discussion about it, b) sidetrack it with meaningless discussions that don’t directly address the issue, c) scare people into believing they are victims or can be victims that only Democrats can rescue, and/or d) confuse the issue by deliberately distorting or omitting facts that may be contrary to what they’re advocating.
I spent a lot of my time today debating about the Fox ad with friends of mine at a forum I used to frequent before the blog really started picking up steam. I wanted to get out there and see (and debate) what was being said about it by a variety of people, both left and right, beyond the blogosphere. I found a mixture of people saying that it was ok to debate Fox on the merits of the issue and others who got flaming mad because someone dared criticize the “victim” (MJF). Then this evening I perused some lefty blogs before coming here and got boiling mad at what I saw. As expected, the absolute moral authority and fear cards were being thrown out there with wild abandon like sophomores shooting spitballs onto a high school bathroom wall, and Rush Limbaugh was made the focal point  of this issue, as if debating about what Rush Limbaugh said and did is going to resolve the disagreement over embryonic stem cell research.
I’m issuing a call to verbal arms: Conservatives have got to start STANDING UP to this deliberate stifling of the debate and quit letting the left set the tone and shape of it by forcing us to back off. Conservatives will never win new hearts and minds based on the merits of our ideas if we 1) continue to be too embarassed to talk about the more controversial issues because we’re worried about being portrayed as heartless and evil and 2) allow the left’s misreprensentations and in some cases outright lies about those controversial issues go unanswered because of that worry.
Our ideas are viable and sound. The only way to prevent other people from knowing that is if we allow the left continue to define the parameters of the debate. Stand up, be strong, wave the conservative banner proudly, and most importantly: we need to stand our ground. Because if we don’t, the left will continue to win in the court of public opinion on complicated and important issues like embryotic stem cell research and we can’t, and should not, let that happen.
- Washington Post writes about Rush’s statements on MJ Fox ad, but doesn’t note that he apologized “bigly” for his remarks later in the show (Update: They added the info that he had “backed away” in an updated version of the story) 
- MJ Fox records another ad, this one for Michael Steele’s opponent Ben Cardin (Update: Cardin actually opposed stem cell research) 
- Missouri’s Jim Talent: Your typical heartless and cruel conservative 
- Peggy Noonan on the left’s peculiar version of â€˜the right to dissent’ 
- Harry Reid: Major-league *edited* (re: stem cell research issue)