An earlier post mentioned Andrew Kaczynski, a college student who posts video clips of current presidential candidates. He is part of a bigger story. A few years ago, Newt Gingrich and Nancy Pelosi appeared in a spot ad about climate change. Gingrich now regrets it, as The New York Times reports:
He has good reason to fret. Scenes from that 2008 public service announcement appear in no fewer than four television advertisements now running in Iowa and can be found in numerous videos on the Web, all made by rival Republican presidential campaigns and outside political groups that are trying to sink Mr. Gingrich’s candidacy.
It is the attack-ad technique of choice for the 2012 election: anything you have said or done on film will be held against you. And its prevalence has helped make the Republican primary campaign a ferociously negative contest. Nowhere is that more obvious than in Iowa, where commercials that portray candidates in an unflattering light now account for two-thirds of the money spent on advertising for the caucuses.
Turning the candidates’ own words against them is, of course, one of the older tricks in the political playbook. But today more than ever, when a candidate’s every kaffeeklatsch, rope-line handshake and editorial board interview is captured on camera, there is a wealth of material. With news outlets like C-Span digitizing their video archives and making them available online, old footage is easy to come by. Anyone with an Internet connection and the patience to conduct a lengthy Google search can be an opposition researcher. And the willingness of some campaigns not only to employ old film but to rip it out of context seems to be greater than ever.