Ads from Rep. Alan Grayson calling his opponent, former state Senate Majority Leader Daniel Webster, “Taliban Dan” and a draft-dodger during the Vietnam War, have angered the conservative blogosphere and raised a question among liberal bloggers about whether it’s OK to use scorched-earth tactics against an opponent.
Factcheck.org ruled that Grayson’s two attack ads against his opponent were false and said that he “lowered the bar even further.” Falsely attacking his opponent for dodging the Vietnam War draft echoed attacks on John Kerry in 2004 by Swift Boat Veterans for Truth (which produced the verb, “swift-boating”).
In the past, liberals have rallied around Rep. Grayson as the only person who will stand up to conservative Republicans. Evidence of this is apparent in his huge fundraising numbers — $500,000 in August alone and $3.5 million total.
Some liberal bloggers noted that there was a double standard at play. Digby’s Hullabaloo blog wrote that these kind of tactics were OK for Republicans to use but not for Democrats: “At this point in the United States it is permissible for Republicans to attack Democrats as treasonous, Godless/Muslim socialists and compare them to Hitler and Stalin but Democrats are only allowed to attack Republicans for their differences in policy.”
Paul Waldman at TAPPED echoed the criticism: “And it does seem that [Grayson] tends to get tut-tutted from places like the Politico for precisely that reason, while lots of similar stuff from Republicans get ignored.”
Other liberals disagreed and argued that by editing the clip of Webster saying exactly the opposite of what he said, Grayson was doing exactly what Andrew Breitbart did to Shirley Sherrod. “The problem is that, as far as the quotes about his wife are concerned, Webster is being smeared, Shirley Sherrod style,” wrote Adam Serwer on The Washington Post’s blog The Plum Line.
Conservatives were livid. Erick Erickson of RedState one-upped Grayson and called him the “American Stalin.” He wrote that while the phrase sounded hyperbolic, “it is no different than what Alan Grayson, in extremist, hyperbolic lies, is doing to his opponent Daniel Webster.” Ed Morrissey at HotAir cited a poll showing Grayson behind by 7 points as retribution, “Justice, in this case, would be Alan Grayson falling 27 points behind Dan Webster after the smears that the Democrat from Florida has conducted in his desperate bid to cling to power.”
The poll Morrissey refers to is one conducted by Susquehanna Polling and Research. “Poll: Obama, Dems, poised to lose Grayson house seat,” reads the headline of Sunshine State News in its story on the poll’s results. However, it’s important to note that Susquehanna Polling and Research is a Republican outfit. According to its website, Susquehanna “is a leading survey research and political polling firm for both candidates for public office (GOP only), as well as numerous corporate clients including trade associations, public relations firms and the media.”
So the results of one GOP-leaning poll hardly mean the race is signed, sealed, and delivered for Webster — Nate Silver, of The New York Times’ FiveThirtyEight blog, gives a more down-to-earth chance of Webster winning at 52 percent.
Grayson went on MSNBC — where he appears frequently — to defend the ad Tuesday:
Luke Johnson reports on Florida for The American Independent.