Sometimes Bad Is Good


I'm not sure how much the attacks on Howard Dean's criticism of Medicare had to do with his third-place showing in Iowa. On the one hand, polling data indicate that health care was a major issue for caucus participants. On the other hand, Dick Gephardt, the main candidate trying to portray Dean as a menace to Medicare, did so badly that he dropped out of the race.

Gephardt's attack ad did have an impact on me, however: It made me like Dean more. "How much do you really know about Howard Dean?" the announcer asked. "Did you know Howard Dean called Medicare 'one of the worst federal programs ever'?" Hmm, I thought, maybe that Dean is not as bad as I thought.

It's tempting to view negative ads as the best source of reasons to vote for the people they attack: He wants to slash entitlement spending! He's against gun control! He said the Department of Education should be abolished!

Unfortunately, the guy is never as good as the attack ads make him out to be.