Robert Knight

Public figures’ records are fair game in political campaigns. It’s not “mudslinging” unless it’s untrue or employs “derogatory personal slurs” (Living Webster Dictionary).

If you lie or distort the facts so badly that they function as a lie, you’re mudslinging. The current “Joe Soptic” TV ad by Obama supporters claiming that Mitt Romney caused a woman’s cancer death fits that description.

In 1964, Democrats set the bar viciously low with the notorious “Daisy Girl” ad showing a two-year-old adorably counting off daisy petals just before a countdown to a nuclear blast, which ends in a mushroom cloud. The grim narrator urges people to “vote for President Johnson on Nov. 3. The stakes are too high for you to stay home.”

Although Republican candidate Barry Goldwater is not mentioned, the message is clear: Goldwater’s “extremism” would blow up the world. If anything, Goldwater was a dove compared to the man who plunged America headlong into the Vietnam War, but the ad scared enough people to contribute significantly to LBJ’s landslide.

The same kind of creative minds that gave us the “Daisy Girl” are back at it, so fasten your seat belts. When Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan (the now-presumptive GOP vice presidential nominee) presented his case for budget reform in 2011, Democrats produced a TV ad featuring a Ryan lookalike pushing a confused old woman in a wheelchair off a cliff as the narrator falsely accuses Republicans of wanting to completely privatize Medicare. With “America the Beautiful” eerily playing, you actually see her dumped off and falling.

Just when you thought that kind of smear couldn’t be topped, a liberal PAC headed by former White House spokesman Bill Burton unveiled the ad last week accusing Mitt Romney of causing a woman to die of cancer.

Joe Soptic, a lifetime Democrat and union member who had been laid off by GST Steel, owned at the time by Bain Capital, stares into the camera and tells how his wife died of cancer after Bain laid him off. He blames Mitt Romney. If you didn’t know the facts, you might be itching to take Mr. Romney out into an alley and work him over, or worse.

Following an uproar, the White House denied any knowledge of the ad, or even of Mr. Soptic’s story, according to Politico. Those prevarications unraveled when it turned out that Mr. Soptic had told the story during an Obama campaign conference call led by Deputy Campaign Manager Stephanie Cutter in May, and even had starred in an Obama campaign ad, also in May.

Robert Knight

Robert Knight is an author, senior fellow for the American Civil Rights Union and a frequent contributor to Townhall.