TIME Ideas: The Case for Negative Campaign Ads

  TIME IDEAS
The Case for Negative Campaign Ads

Negative advertising can raise legitimate questions about candidates and are actually good for democracy

It’s quite popular to condemn negative advertising. It’s a great applause line on the stump.

Newark Mayor Corey Booker recently got front-page headlines by condemning Obama’s ads about Romney and Bain Capital — until he had to take his comments back because, I would guess, the Republicans were using them as attack lines against the President. President Obama defended his negative ads, saying they are about Romney’s character and fair game. Romney started his own negative ads, though he quickly repudiated a proposed negative campaign against Obama that would have focused on the controversial Rev. Jeremiah Wright. And everyone condemned it, though it appears it was never even made and certainly never ran. That’s the first time I’ve seen just thinking about running negative ads condemned.

It was Johnson who ran the Daisy ad against Goldwater in 1964, but it’s the Republicans who popularized negative ads by using them broadly under Lee Atwater. To be fair, both sides use them now, but usually Republicans take the hit for being more negative. In 1996, we ran mostly negative or comparative ads for President Clinton while Bob Dole ran mostly positive ads, but 2-to-1 voters thought we were positive and the Republicans negative. We began all our negative ads with the phrase “Another negative ad from the Republicans…”

So I’ll say something unpopular. Negative ads are by and large good for our democracy. And when they are not — when they overreach unfairly, they boomerang and the people who ran them take a well-deserved hit. But when they focus us on something important — like who would make a better commander in chief, who would fix the economy or when they bring up past events that need a real vetting — they do a service. They don’t let politicians off the hook and hold them accountable for their past actions.

Read the full article at TIME Ideas

Mark Penn on MSNBC’s Hardball: Who’s Winning the Debt Fight? [VIDEO]

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Democratic Strategist Mark Penn explains which base has been strengthened by the debt battle.

Watch the video at MSNBC.com

Time Magazine: Mark Penn on The Pessimism Index

By MARK PENN
Published June 30, 2011

Just 10 years into a new century, more than two-thirds of the country sees the past decade as a period of decline for the U.S., according to a new TIME/Aspen Ideas Festival poll that probed Americans on the decade since the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001. Osama bin Laden is dead and al-Qaeda seriously weakened, but the impact of the 9/11 attacks and the decisions that followed have, in the view of most Americans, put the U.S. in a tailspin that the country has been unable to shake during two administrations and almost 10 years of trying.

The poll confirms that the country is going through one of its longest sustained periods of unhappiness and pessimism ever. Today’s teenagers hardly remember a time before 9/11, the war on terrorism, the war in Iraq and constant economic upheaval. Baby boomers, the generation known for continuous reinvention, are filled with worry and doubt about their future and the future of their children.

It is hard to overstate what a fundamental change this represents. A country long celebrated for its optimism amid adversity is having trouble finding the pluck and the spirit that have seen it through everything from world wars to nuclear threats to space races. The U.S. usually bounces back after a few years of difficulty, such as the Vietnam War, Watergate or recessions. After two or three years of anxiety and worry, the electorate normally returns to its innate optimism. Yet the forces now aligned against the American people seem much more formidable to those we surveyed; the poll uncovered the kinds of attitudes we saw among Europeans during the decade after World War II.

Read the full article at Time.com

Mark Penn on the 2012 Presidential Election [VIDEO]

Mark Penn talks about the outlook for President Barack Obama’s reelection campaign and potential for new Republican candidates on Bloomberg Television’s “InBusiness with Margaret Brennan.”

View the video at Bloomberg.com

GQ Magazine: Mark Penn on How Obama Can Lose

The chief adviser to Hillary and Bill understands a thing or two about winning, losing, and Obama. Here he explains to GQ’s Lisa DePaulo how Obama could still end up out of a job next fall.

1. He Takes Another Big Risk—and Flops
“Obviously, he took the biggest risk of his presidency with the Osama operation. He took a huge risk and it completely paid off. He was right. But watch out now for the over-confidence that comes with success. Don’t try this again with Mullah Omar, the head of the Taliban. It’s a common thing for presidents to do, particularly on the basis of a risky success. They think, “Well, that went great, let’s try something like that again.” The next risky mission could end up being a disaster that will be very difficult for his presidency to recover from. I sometimes think Bush got into Iraq because the original Afghanistan mission seemed to go so easily. It was won in two weeks, with very few troops involved. I think that led to a notion that he could have equally quick success in Iraq. Instead he wound up with something that defined the rest of his presidency. See, presidents often have two modes. One is: ‘Hunker down, we gotta be careful.’ And the other is: ‘Things are great, don’t worry about it.’ It’s when they get in that second mode that mistakes happen.”

2. He Thumps His Chest Too Much About Bin Laden
“He’s already mentioning it in speeches, and he has to stop. Never ever put the Osama mission in political terms. People are going to want him to put this in ads. Don’t. Everybody knows he did a great job! This was a different kind of thing for sure, but after impeachment was over, Joe Lockhart had this great phrase: ‘We’re in a gloat-free zone.’ The president’s gotta stay in a gloat-free zone.”

Read the full article at GQ.com

Arthur W. Page Society: Advising the CEO and The King’s Speech

By MARK PENN
Published April 19, 2011

While The King’s Speech was a great movie, it was also a great example of how to advise a CEO or other important leader. As the story unfolds, Lionel Logue, the King’s speech therapist, goes from the unwanted outsider to the trusted adviser through a process that dates back to Joseph and the Pharaoh. The relationship is based on trust, respect, a proven process, evidence-based advice and confidence. These are the same essential elements of advising a CEO, and all of them are illustrated as the movie unfolds.

Lionel teaches the King a few lessons in humility and self-respect. However, he also teaches all of us who get a chance to advise influential people just how to form that special relationship. The movie also underscores that just as important as having good advice is being able to deliver it in way that those you advise can hear it and use it.

Tony Blair said to me one day when planning out his third re-election campaign – “I feel like I am standing in front of a locked door without a key.” The point of that process was to help him find the key to his most difficult problem. And that is what Lionel did – he did not solve the King’s problem; rather, he helped the King find the fortitude within himself to overcome the obstacles standing in his way.

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Mark Penn on Bloomberg Television: The Outlook for Obama’s Speech on Deficit Reduction [VIDEO]

Mark Penn, chief executive officer of Burson-Marsteller and former senior adviser to President Bill Clinton, talks about the outlook for President Barack Obama’s speech Wednesday where he is expected to announced long-term proposals for cutting the federal deficit and a timeline for reaching them. Penn speaks with Margaret Brennan on Bloomberg Television’s “InBusiness.”

Watch the video at Bloomberg.com

The Huffington Post: The Odds on Obama

By MARK PENN
Published April 5, 2011

Only two Democrats in the last 90 years have been reelected to a second term — Franklin Roosevelt and Bill Clinton. The rest of the Democrats have seen their presidencies cut short, and so the historical odds of Obama winning a second term are at first glance not encouraging. But I do believe President Obama can overcome those odds and win reelection if he takes the right road. Standing in his way are high unemployment numbers that are coming down, trillion dollar deficits, low approval ratings, and a public that still sees the country squarely on the wrong track.

The announcement of his candidacy for president on Monday suggests he is going to take a very different approach to reelection than the one we took in 1996. Perhaps the first principle we had was that Bill Clinton was a president first, a candidate second, if at all. In fact, we never really had an announcement at all because the very idea of the campaign was to have none — to keep the president out of politics and above the fray.

Read the Full Article at the Huffington Post

The Huffington Post: State of the Union: Constitutional Amendment on Internet Freedom

By MARK PENN
Published March 2, 2011

It’s time we added the first 21st Century amendment to the Constitution — an amendment that parallels the First Amendment but explicitly prohibits the government from ever shutting down the Internet. Freedom of the Internet in today’s world is just as important as freedom of the press, religion or speech.

As revolutions spread around the world questioning dictator after dictator, it is clear that the Internet has been the same kind of catalyst that a free press has been in past democratic revolutions — it has given people an easy way to share their experiences, a tool for organizing, and served to publish atrocities in cases where the press was blocked.

Read the Full Article at the Huffington Post

Mark Penn on MSNBC’s Hardball: Is the Tea Party a threat to the GOP? [VIDEO]

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Democratic strategist Mark Penn and GOP strategist John Feehry debate whether the GOP is afraid of the Tea Party heading into the new Congressional session and the 2012 presidential season.

Watch the video at MSNBC.com

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