Monday October 1, 2012

October has arrived, arguably the most beautiful month of the year as the leaves adopt a range of spectacular colors. Every four years, however, October turns ugly under an onslaught of negative political ads from the presidential race on down to races for Congress. Here in the Berkshires we have already been subjected to a barrage of insipid ads on Albany television stations related to a New York state congressional race we can't even vote in.

It is only going to get worse over the next five weeks. Perhaps the most intrusive form of political advertising is the so-called "robocall," in which dinners and pleasant evenings are disrupted by a recorded message seeking funds for a candidate and/or trashing his or her opponent. With the closely matched and increasingly ugly Massachusetts Senate race between Republican incumbent Scott Brown and Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren possibly playing a part in control of the Senate, Bay Staters will be afflicted with a numbing ad assault, including robocalls of dubious accuracy.

Crossroads GPS, the deep-pocketed political advocacy group run by former George W. Bush political wizard Karl Rove, has begun a robocalling campaign against Ms. Warren in which, according to a Boston Globe reporter who received one of the calls, it is implied that Ms. Warren oversaw the Wall Street bailout, an almost comical falsehood. Ms. Warren, who served on a congressional oversight committee that monitored the program, actually opposed the bailout. The calls also repeat a falsehood seen in anti-Obama ads asserting that the president will cut $700 billion in Medicare funding to the elderly as part of Obamacare. This claim has been regularly debunked by fact-checkers but is still being used as a scare tactic. Robocalls are not good sources of election information and the best response upon receiving one is to hang up.

On the subject of Brown and Warren, there has been so much focus on Ms. Warren's claimed Native American heritage, which turned into an unexpected liability for the senator when a few of his frat boy staffers were filmed making tomahawk chops and war whoops, that it would seem there are no real issues available for discussion. There are plenty. Five weeks free of this tired subject will elevate the discourse in the Brown-Warren battle.