First, I'm a supporter of Barack Obama's presidential campaign and a delegate to my county convention on his behalf. Having said that, though, I feel like my take on the democratic nominees' TV ads over the past three days is not biased, but objective. As objective as a sentient being can be, I suppose.1
Consider the following from CNN.com:
Hillary Clinton’s campaign unveiled an ad Wednesday that took aim at Barack Obama for turning down an offer to debate her in Wisconsin before the state’s February 19 primary, tying the decision to his stands on other issues.
Obama’s campaign struck back the next day with a spot that responded to Clinton’s, calling the original ad an instance of "the same old politics of phony charges and false attacks."
Today, Clinton’s campaign debuted ‘Deserves,’ a response to what it called “false attacks” in the Obama spot.
"Barack Obama still won't agree to debate in Wisconsin,” says the announcer in the 30-second ad, which will also air in Wisconsin. “And now he's hiding behind false attack ads.”
I quote an old Letterman schtick: "My head feel like it wanna bus' open!" Even in hide-n-seek, which is predicated on people hiding while one non-hiding person seeks, the term "hider" and the act of "hiding" are spoken as insults. I imagine in national politics, the rules remain largely unchanged.
Wednesday: Clinton Ad
Thursday: Obama Response Ad
Now, I may have missed the day in high-school civics when Mrs. Martha Smith taught us that a political ad which claims your opponent is ducking a debate with you is not an attack, especially when that same opponent is renowned as a modern-day political Orpheus who packs arenas with rock-band sized crowds, but the first ad seems particularly "negative." Consider: Obama and Clinton have already participated in 18 debates, and they have agreed to two additional debates. Thus, it seems more than a bit disingenuous to suggest he's hiding from her.
Of course, both of their motives for the not-to-be Wisconsin debate are political. Her campaign is not raising money like Obama's (it seems that Obama has the star power that the Clinton's typically enjoy), so another debate gives her another one-and-a-half hours of free airtime. Obama is leading Clinton in the Wisconsin polls, has debated or will debate her 20 times, so he, I imagine, is less-likely to do anything that might diminish his lead. No one can blame either of them (except it's curious that Clinton would use her resources to go negative, as she presumably wants to debate "policy" if such a debate would take place).
As for countering Obama's ad with a charge of "false attack ads," Clinton's campaign seems equal parts absurd and desperate. Clinton was the first to go negative as they campaigned in South Carolina, and now that she has authorized this ad, Obama played immediately into her hands: Instead of headlines that account for Obama's juggernaut since Super Tuesday, we are reading the name Clinton.
1This photo, however, is not unbiased.